For many, the time and cost that goes into making a game, as well as the complete process from programming to sound design, means that solo game development is beyond our reach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t earn money for your work. Selling game assets on online stores such as the Unity Store, Unreal Store, or websites like Gumtree has become increasingly popular, especially as games become more complicated. Everyone from solo developers who don’t have a certain skillset to major companies who want to save time and money hiring someone to do it is looking towards assets or asset packs that can help them with their development.
So the question becomes, is selling game assets on online stores a realistic thing to aim for? Can you make a living from doing this, perhaps helping you fund your own indie development in the process? Is it worth your time setting these up and selling them? You might already be making art assets, for example, for practice in your spare time, perhaps you could make some money doing so in the process.
Can You Make A Living Selling Game Assets On Online Stores?
There are certainly people out there who do manage to make a living selling game assets on online stores, so the market is there. However, that alone is not proof that it is a reasonable expectation. A top sports star might make millions, but that’s not something that everyone can do.
Thankfully, while there are companies that specialize in preparing and selling these game assets, there are no major players that are dominant and therefore it is possible to make your way as an indie developer. The downside is that it has a relatively low barrier to entry and the incentive of getting paid for work you are already doing means there is a lot of competition, making it hard to attract attention to your work. You will need to find something unique that people need but are not catered for, or you will have to bring something to the table that others have not, be it quality or creativity.
How Much Can You Realistically Expect To Earn Selling Game Assets On Online Stores?
There are a lot of variables that go into how much you can expect to earn. The number of assets you have for sale will probably be the biggest factor. The more you have the more you can sell, and if someone likes one asset, they might be another of yours, especially if it is a similar product. However, it’s not just a numbers game, quality and your ability to get it shown in front of your audience through things like being featured or having sales will be massive contributing factors. You could have 1000 assets of various sized 3D cubes, and you will not earn a penny, but have a whole suite of high-quality characters, all rigged and animated to use out of the box, and you might find you get a lot of interest.
But we’re here for numbers, how much can you really earn. Whilst these are anecdotal forum posts and as such unconfirmed, they don’t seem completely unreasonable for a high-end earner. Reddit user /u/MindStudios does a great breakdown of how his base fighting game template earned them $10,000 in a month. Quora user Stefan Persson who also sells assets mentions that you can expect to make anywhere between $0 and $20,000 a month depending on how you do and what you are selling.
Due to the fact that these are the outliers, the ones that have done exceptionally well and are thus talking about how well they have done, this is unlikely to be a reasonable goal for the average person. However, it does give us a good ballpark for what you can expect to achieve. If you manage to do fairly well then it is realistic that you could earn enough to live from selling game assets on online stores.
Which Assets Sell Best?
As you might expect not all assets are created equal. Some, like programmed game systems or art assets, might do especially well because they are not only skilled tasks, they fill gaps in people’s expertise and help speed up the process of working. A programmer, for example, might be limited to only the most basic looking art as that is all they are capable of, but the use of assets can elevate that without them needing to go through the whole process of learning how to create game art or spending money hiring someone to do it.
Other areas, unfortunately, suffer. One stand out is sound design and music. Already an area that is massively overlooked in games, due to the fact that most game developers do not consider it until near the end of the development cycle, many games simply will not make it to the stage where people are downloading music for their games. Compare that to something like MindStudios’ fighting game template mentioned above, which needs to be one of the very first things added in the development cycle so the rest of the game can be built around it, and you can see why one does better on average than the other. Assets that come earlier in the development cycle are more likely to sell more simply due to how many projects are started but not seen through to completion.
Another thing to consider is how unique an asset is. It would be quite jarring for a player to hear the same song in 10 different games they’ve played, or see the same main character in 3 different games that are not in any way related. On the other hand, a fighting game template can have any combination of art applied to it and with some small tweaks, it would be fairly indistinguishable for most players. Assets that can be customized or are not easily distinguishable across games will sell better as games are less likely to look similar to others.
Which Stores Are Best To Sell On?
There’s no right place to sell your assets, but some might work better than others. Some people find that they will host their own website to sell their assets, this is particularly common for tools or plug-ins. This might work great for these assets, but might not be as great when trying to sell another type of asset, like a 3D model, as users are less likely to google a very specific asset and more likely to head to a store page that has a large variety of assets, such as Turbosquid.
Often the best place to sell assets is on the game engine’s own storefront, this allows you to appear in front of the potential buyers without them having to leave their program of choice. It also allows you to build the assets specifically for that user. A good example of this would be adding animations and an animation tree that works out of the box in the game engine of choice to a character download, making it much more appealing to potential buyers. The downside to engine-specific stores is that you will only get sales from people using that engine. The user base is big enough for Unreal Engine and Unity for it not to be a big issue, but if you wish to target both user bases, you may have to custom build the asset for both.
The alternative would be to use a store that isn’t tied to a specific program. The aforementioned Turbosquid or Artstation are good examples of stores designed to sell artwork directly to the customer. These sites specialize in their own areas, so finding the right one for your asset will be key. Other online marketplaces like Gumroad are also popular, although they may not be the first places that people looking for a specific asset might search, you can use other strategies, such as giving away something for free to gain access to a list of email addresses of potential customers who you can then email about other products that they might pay for.
How Big Of A Cut Does Each Marketplace Take?
Each marketplace will take a cut of any sale, this allows them to host and run the store. But not everyone takes the same cut and so it is an important thing to look at that and consider if you are really looking at turning this into a living. If you just plan to see a few for some pocket money then it might not be such an issue, but when earning larger amounts like those mentioned above, it could make the difference between hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Here are some of the biggest stores, always make sure to check the commission that any site takes before you sell through it.
Marketplace Marketplace Cut Unreal Marketplace 12% Unity Asset Store 30% Artstation 5% – 12% Gumroad 2.9% – 9%
What Do I Need To Make My Asset Stand Out?
To make your asset stand out among the crowd, you need to do more than just sell your asset. You need to think about what the customer will need to make the asset work and offer them that as well. Do you have a really good 3D gun model? If someone is thinking of buying that model there’s a good chance that they are not an artist, perhaps they are a programmer, and are looking for other people to do the art for them.
So what else do they need? Chances are they aren’t an animator either, so add some basic animations. Move parts of the gun as it shoots as it ejects bullet casings. Add hands and a reload animation that works right out of the box, but also one where it will be easy to swap the hands out with ones that match their main character. That means someone can download your gun and plug it straight into their game to get it to work with minimal effort. This idea, in particular, is a strong one, as it also ticks the box for being something that someone will download early in development, and as such people are more likely to buy it. A gun can be downloaded as soon as the developer has loaded up the FPS template and will often be one of the first things someone looks for.
Focus On The Customer, Not The Asset
Ultimately, what you have to think about is what someone might need, rather than something you want to make. You could create a character you really like and attempt to sell it, you might even get a sale or two, but you’re not likely to get much traction if any at all. You need to start with a problem that you are solving for these potential buyers. This can be that they need a character, but perhaps they don’t need the half-pirate, half-mad scientist dog as it won’t fit their game. Making something such as a soldier, or a generic alien or monster is more likely to fill the gap that people are looking for. It may not be as exciting to make, but if you want sales you need to target what people need.
How To Market Your Assets
Having a high-quality asset will generate some sales naturally, but often you will need to work to get your assets in front of people, particularly if you are solving a problem that they might not even realize they have, or that they don’t realize they can simply buy a solution for. This could be done with traditional advertising but there are also other ways to go about it. Game development communities are very active and have high engagement, getting involved with these and talking about your products in a way that isn’t simply trying to sell it to people, can go a long way.
Other things you could do to drive some traffic is to consider writing an article for websites such as 80.lv. If you have something to contribute to an area of your specialty, even if it’s just a breakdown of how you work, you can do a write-up and show some of your work which can also drive some traffic. Doing it this way you can get some free advertising whilst contributing to the discussion, which will be much better received than trying to shill your wares directly.