What I Learned From Making an Itch Bundle

This is a repost of a Medium post I made about two years ago. I haven’t used the account then so I’m removing it but thought I would copy this post. Since then I’ve done a zine and more co-op bundles and this is something I’d like to revisit again.

About a week ago a bundle I helped organize, the Locally Sourced Spring Bundle, was launched. I was inspired by the Indiepocalypse series of indie bundles and was trying to think of a way that something similar could be done for Michigan’s indie game development community through Locally Sourced, a group I co-founded to help promote indie game development in Michigan. The bundle started with a tweet in mid-April asking if people would be interested in submitting tiny games for a collaborative bundle on Itch.io and quite a few developers were interested. Developers had about a month and a half to create small games and by the deadline date we had 13 new tiny tabletop and video games by indie developers in Michigan. Product pages were created for each game by their developers and then I created a co-op bundle containing all of the games on Locally Sourced’s Itch page. The bundle was launched at noon on May 15th.

At this time the bundle has sold 53 copies with an average buy price of $15.56, exceeding the $13 price point of the bundle. According to the anonymous feedback form I sent to the developers, the bundle did as well or better than expected and everyone said they would be interested in doing another one, so I consider the bundle a success. At least one developer released their first game, a few more made their first commercial game, and for some others it was their most commercially successful game on Itch. I feel like a big issue in indie games right now is that developers are pressured to make their games free or Pay What You Want so it was nice to see game developers receive some compensation from their work, even if it wasn’t a ton.

Still, I made a few mistakes and learned a lot during the creation of this bundle. Here’s some of the things I learned and hopefully it will be use of you when you make your own:

1. Itch.io is the best place to do bundles with game developers. It also has huge flaws

I went with Itch.io to create this bundle because there really isn’t another place that’s as developer friendly. The co-op bundle feature allows you to easily create bundles by adding games by other developers and quickly launching it once they approve. It’s still tremendously flawed and created the bundle was a frustrating experience.

Ideally I could create a single product page like the Indiepocalypse bundle, and have equal revenue sharing to everyone who submitted a game. Itch does not allow this. If I wanted to have a single product page, I would have to keep doing paypal payments to each developer so they would get the money they are owed.

To avoid this headache, I figured a co-op bundle would allow them to have the money go directly to them, with the bundle being priced that each developer would receive $1 for each bundle sold, so $13 for a bundle with 13 games. Unfortunately this is not how Itch does sharing for their co-op bundles and I didn’t realize this until the day of.

Itch relies on percentages, so if I have 5 games in a bundle then each developer gets 20%, great! There is no way to divide 100 by 13 with whole numbers. Itch doesn’t allow for numbers like 7.69% so most developers were getting 8% and a few were set to 7%. Because I didn’t want the people at 7% to get paid less or to pay them what they were owed out of my own pocket, I added an old game by me to the bundle so everyone could get 7% and I get 9%, and in a couple of weeks I will Paypal each developer an equal percentage of what I get. So I probably could have just done what Indiepocalypse does and I have one product page and pay everyone later, but I wanted people to start getting paid right away and I figured a co-op page is more transparent, which is important to me when some random goofball on the internet is asking people to make new games and submit them for a weird experiment he’s doing online.

With future bundles I’m going to cap the amount of submissions at 10 people so everyone just gets 10 percent and I won’t have to fight with Itch with weird tricks to make sure people get paid.

2. Having a mix of tabletop and video games helped sales

While I don’t have any real proof of it, I think that having a combination of video game and tabletop rpgs helped sales of the bundle. Pulling people in from different communities allows for a much greater reach and led to the bundle being marketed towards video game and tabletop communities. I would strongly encourage you to work with game developers outside of the medium you create in. You’ll be marketing your game to people who normally wouldn’t see it and there’s so many great people making games in different mediums. Having 13 people from multiple game communities, plus the Locally Sourced social media feeds, all yelling about how you should check out a games bundle turned out to be pretty good for sales.

I also liked including tabletop rpgs because I’m so desperate for people to be exposed to TTRPGs that aren’t D&D.

3. Having it be a bundle focused only on Michigan developers also helped sales

While restricting it to only Michigan people maybe limits the pool of people that can submit a game, I think it greatly improved sales as well. This is all probably pretty obvious info but people were excited to support game developers who were local and it meant I could also post about it on places that normally wouldn’t care, like LinkedIn, and get a couple of sales through there and also discover that one or two people I used to work with are now interested in game design. You really shouldn’t just interact with game developers around you just for your own benefit, but it turns out that spending over a year helping out other local game developers and doing community building in your area means that people are happy to help you out when you need it.

If you live in an area that normally isn’t associated with game development, I would strongly encourage you to do that community building. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

4. Having a lot of new little games for a low price was a successful combination

Last fall I used Locally Sourced to create a bundle of 5 games I loved for $15. It sold a total of 5 copies. The games are great so it’s not the fault of those, but I think the price point was too high for people to see it as an impulse buy and the games were already out for a while so most of the people in the Michigan games community probably already had them. By having a bundle that’s a little cheaper and includes a lot more games that are brand new, seemed a lot more eager to pick this one up, even if the games in the bundle were substantially smaller.

What are other things I would do differently?

Ultimately I think the bundle is a success and I’m already planning on how the next one will go with some changes in mind. I made some mistakes like not being specific and telling everyone to price their to be more expensive than the bundle so people will look at that instead. I don’t think it affected sales of the bundle but I should have been more clear. It also sounds like some of the developers wanted a theme, so I might alternate between a theme and not having one, because there’s also people like me who don’t want one. I’ll also be more clear about how developers can collaborate with others in the discord or even just use the channel for testing or to bounce ideas off each other. Most importantly I want people to have more time. It was meant to be a month for a game jam game that would be the size of something created during a weekend jam, but more time is always appreciated by game developers.

I hope this write-up was useful and it inspires you to start a co-op bundle with other game developers.

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