Online Income Report 2018 – Year In Review

I’m a professional video game developer and author making a living solely online. Every few months I share a transparent income report which documents my latest earnings and experiences. My goal with these income reports is to inspire others and demonstrate that it’s entirely possible to make a living online doing what you love – for me, that’s creating games!

You can find out more about me or continue reading below…

What I Did This Year

2018 was an intense, overwhelming, and unrelenting year for me. I’ve never been busier and it shows: the last income report I wrote was back in 2017. So it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I was actually planning to get back on track with blogging in 2018, but as you’ll see below it wasn’t long before I had to throw my plans for 2018 out the window – and I’m glad I did.

New Horizons

For many years I have been completely satisfied with my online income. The money I make online pays my bills, affords a few luxuries, and enables a lifestyle where I get to do what I love for a living – designing video games – every single day of my life. I couldn’t ask for more…right?

Sure. Maybe. But could I?

Back in September 2017, I wrote that I was “thinking bigger” and asking myself a question: how big could my business grow if I made a conscious effort to let it? I have never aspired to run a large studio or a company. That’s someone else’s life. But as my business continues to grow, and I spend more time working with talented and amazing people, I’m consciously making decisions that lead down a path towards truly large-scale success. Or at least, I think they will.

The source of this invisible motivation to scale up my business has finally become apparent to me: I’m connecting with the physical human element behind my digital online business.

I now speak with my team on a daily basis, often for hours at a time (mostly in a management role). This human connection is driving me to provide my team with more: higher wages, better job security, and improved flexibility. I want to show them how much I appreciate their long-term commitment to our work together.

And in order for my business to accomodate and sustain these changes, it has to scale up. The bigger my business gets, the more I can give back to my team. I really started to push my limits and explore new horizons in 2018.

So what have I been up to, exactly?

Contract Work

That’s a super boring headline – I know. I can imagine your eyes glazing over. If you were reading this on your phone in bed, you’ve probably just fallen into a deep slumber. You’re welcome.

But it’s true: I spent most of 2018 under contract working for a certain company based somewhere on the planet. Too vague? Unfortunately, I can’t share any specific details about the company or the project itself due to my contractual obligations. This is partially why I decided not to blog my online income in 2018 like I traditionally have in the past. I couldn’t talk about my main source of revenue in a meaningful way while under NDA.

What I can say is that we designed and developed a series of awesome HTML5 games for this client over a 10 month period, spanning from February-December 2018. It was an intense workload for my small team but we managed it effectively.

These games were not the same scale as my regular HTML5 games like Pet Round Up (the only new game I published in 2018). These games were much more complex and far more technically challenging.

This isn’t one of them, but look at those adorable faces:

In fact, they were the largest-scale games I have worked on in over half a decade. And there was a series of them to get through…

We eventually finished and delivered the games to a happy client. I’m thankful that our contract has since been renewed into 2019, and while the contract extension won’t span the entire year, it’ll keep me busy for a while longer.

Balancing Act

I really can’t express how busy I was in 2018, but my attention wasn’t focused entirely on contract work. I’m balancing a variety of projects (games, books, websites) at any given time.

My major project Kingfall was going to be my primary focus for 2018 until I had to shift priorities. Kingfall is an extremely important project to me – the most important game of my career – and it’s such a massive project that it demands a “big picture” approach.

Kingfall is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that I’m building with HTML5 technology, which means it can be played on the web and on mobile phones/tablets without any installation. Thousands of people can play together in a persistent online world.

Kingfall is a project that could potentially make millions of dollars. I actually believe that, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, given the demands of the contract work, Kingfall was not able to be prioritised as heavily as I had originally planned in 2018. The project was still active but progress was mostly orientated around the back-end infrastructure and a new tooling platform. The tooling platform is composed of a series of services/tools intended to make Kingfall’s development faster and easier. We developed some incredible technologies this year.

On the front-end, I made the decision to convert Kingfall into an isometric game – something I’d never imagined for the project until 2018. I’m very happy that this decision was made sooner rather than later.

While Kingfall was a secondary priority in 2018, the contract work that took priority ultimately supports Kingfall. It pays for additional hiring and affords better production standards across the board – it was worth the detour.

This is the “big picture” I was talking about.

All Work, Not Much Play

Despite my extreme workload, I actually enjoyed 2018 as a whole. I loved designing ambitious new games in markets that were relatively new to me and working more closely with my team on a daily basis.

I wasn’t able to take much time off from work, but I snuck in a coastal holiday very early in 2018 before the contract started and another in September followed by a much-needed family visit for my birthday. These were my only proper breaks for the entire year.

I’d like to do more domestic travel around Australia in 2019, perhaps to Melbourne or the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. I don’t have any hope of making the time for an international holiday anytime soon but I’d love to visit New Zealand and Italy in the near-ish future. Hong Kong has fallen off my travel list.

I spent plenty of time playing and studying games in 2018 too. I frequently take notes when I’m playing games, so it kinda counts as work (let me pretend). I’m playing Endless Legend right now and I’m especially looking forward to World of Warcraft Classic launching soon. I never got to play WoW when it first launched back in 2004 (please add your own dialup sound effects here) so I’m excited to be 15 years behind the millions of hardcore WoW fans who will be ganking me in Classic.

Let’s dive into the numbers next!

Platform Overview

Here’s a quick look at how my online platform performed during 2018.

Games

While a majority of my income was derived from contract work this year, my portfolio of HTML5 games was still very popular among publishers, especially the newer high definition (HD) games. I managed to land a $10K+ licensing deal and multiple sales in the $5K+ range in addition to numerous smaller sales. Naturally, since I only added Pet Round Up in 2018, my portfolio is starting to feel slightly dated.

The games I publish were played 9,800,256 times (64,766,377 total) in 2018.

Websites

Ouch. Here’s a statistic that hurts…website traffic was down almost 50% from 2017. This should be no surprise to anyone given that I was basically off the radar in 2018. My product sales were substantially impacted by my lack of blogging and the correlating decline in visitor traffic, and that’s both predictable and totally fine. I have always viewed my product sales as passive income, so I’m just thankful they are still selling and being well received by the (wonderful!) people who are buying them.

My websites were viewed 93,848 times (6,301,353 total) by 47,186 visitors.

Subscribers

Twitter – 24,186 (+2,340¹ ²
Facebook – 2,019 (-49¹ ²
Newsletter – 3,733

Honestly, I had a pretty uneventful year on social media in 2018. I really didn’t have much to say because I was focused on other things. I still gained roughly 200 followers on Twitter per month, but my Facebook followers declined (#deletefacebook was a major trending topic this year, or maybe Facebook removed some bots).

Fun story: even though I still have a business page, I deleted my personal Facebook page this year after a stalker decided to brazenly steal a bunch of my games, slather them with ads, put them on the App Store, claim them as his own, and create a truly bizarre “attack page” on the internet in an attempt to ruin my reputation after I successfully got the games taken down. He tried to use my Facebook profile image on the attack page and ended up posting the wrong person’s photo. He also sent fake messages under my name using a spoofed email and he signed my business emails up to hundreds of spam/adult websites (I’ll give him credit, that was a nice touch and I learned some things).

After checking daily, I bought the attack page domain when it expired and he forgot to renew it, and that was the end of it. But for me this was the last straw with Facebook. I don’t want my friends or family to be harassed because of my personal exposure to millions of people on the internet.

I have years of experience dealing with online harassment and internet behavior at large – they don’t.

In total, I have 29,938 subscribers across various platforms.

Online Income Report

It’s been a good year for me. Here’s an insight into how my online business performed in 2018:

In 2018, I earned a total of $107,312 USD solely online ($535,352 all-time total).

Summary

What a surreal result – 2018 was such an incredible year for my online business and I couldn’t be happier. I consider this my best annual result ever, even though I technically earned more money online in 2016 ($129,241 USD). But exchange rates have shifted heavily since then and my income for 2016 included $30K worth of fundraising for Kingfall which isn’t as impressive as this year’s unadulterated $107,312 USD total ($149,501 Australian Dollars in my local currency).

It’s worth noting that I do not list expenses in my income reports, and my business expenses skyrocketed this year. I hired new people, increased hourly wages, and total hours billed were up substantially. I manage my online business with the mantra “my success is their success” so when business is strong I go out of my way to share the wealth and ensure I’m not the only one benefitting from an uptick in revenue.

When I can afford to be generous, I want that to be reflected across my business.

A major highlight in this income report is that I finally reached my long-standing goal of earning $500,000 USD in all-time online income! I started my game development business in 2012, from incredibly humble beginnings, and I never imagined that I could actually reach my target. Many “big name” independent developers strike gold overnight – this is proof that slow and steady can yield results too, you don’t have to gamble everything and hope to hit the jackpot.

Sales of my HTML5 games (including HTML5 games made under contract) were obviously the dominant factor this year to the point where it’s the only income source worth mentioning. Although I was quite happy with the performance of my Professional Consulting Service too. I’m providing more and more value to my consulting clients and getting better at doing that job.

What’s Next?

In 2019, the balance between contract work and Kingfall will be much better. Kingfall has been allocated substantially increased priority. This should be a big year for Kingfall, with the launch of an extended website, development blog, founders packs, marketing campaign…and hopefully initial alpha testing. I’m delegating more work this year so that I can personally focus on bringing Kingfall back into the fold and back into focus.

I should add a few quick notes about my other projects:

  • A minor update for my book Making Money With HTML5 was published today, refreshing stats/links and adding new content. I’m working on a bigger update that I plan to release later in 2019 (existing customers receive free updates). The book is on sale at a 30% discount.
  • Work on my book Learn To Make Games stalled quite heavily. I deeply wish it hadn’t, because I was so intent on publishing the book in 2018, but much like Kingfall it was difficult to prioritise. As of 2019, it is a high priority again. The book is available to pre-order at a 30% discount.
  • I updated the Mobility Engine to support GameMaker Studio 2. This major update was long-overdue and I’m glad I carved out some time to improve the Mobility Engine with full GMS2 support in 2018. The engine is on sale at a 50% discount.

Following an incredibly fortunate year in 2018, I will be donating 10% of revenue from all of these product sales to charity in 2019.

Please consider making a donation to Mercy For Animals this year.

Thank you so much for reading!

Matthew

A Day In The Life – Professional Game Developer »

  • Rohit says:

    Congratulations on making 2018 a good year, and for hitting your target of $500,000 in online revenue! Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I’m sure it has inspired many to action.

    That’s sad about the stalker.

    Good luck for 2019!

    • True Valhalla says:

      Thanks Rohit, that’s nice of you to say. I hope you have an amazing year too!

  • johnathan says:

    Nice, seriously?

  • Mestru says:

    It’s good to see you around again. Reading your articles and reports is always a time well spent for me. Looking forward to what 2019 brings in terms of new content on blog.

    Cheers

    • True Valhalla says:

      I love this comment, thank you for reading!

  • Zainab Al-Ansari says:

    Good to have you back!

  • Joshua Long says:

    This is amazing seeing that you had a pretty good year! I was worried about progress with the lack of posting and got excited to see an email from you! I hope this year brings you much more success and your love for game-making increases! Congrats Matt!

    • True Valhalla says:

      Thanks Joshua, I hope this supersized income report makes up for the downtime. I really enjoyed writing this one :)

  • mrdarmac says:

    That’s amazin.

  • Jeltsin SH says:

    Your blogs are a motivation for me.
    I would like you to make a blog special about the stalker and that kind of bad experiences that can affect novice developers like me.

    • True Valhalla says:

      Hi Jeltstin – I have avoided talking about the experience for a while, but it’s really not common for novice developers to encounter issues like this. You don’t need to be concerned.

      Focus on your games and keep on improving :)

  • jean says:

    That’s quite an achievement – this year and the previous ones – and I wish to see Kingfall soon (I love isometric games). Congrats!

    There is just one point that is not completely clear to me: when you say you earned $100K, is that your net benefits or is it global gross without the expenses?

  • GameDevSam says:

    I gotta say, although your income is impressive and you’re living the game dev life, that picture of your balcony facing the ocean is definitely super jelly worthy.

    I’m very happy for your continued success, it didn’t come quick or easy, but you don’t give up.

    Also thank you so much for continuing to update Making Money With HTML5 book and giving those updates for free to your customers. I bought the book 2-3 years ago and It really makes me feel like a valued customer.

    Your long term vision and dedication should be a sign to your partners and future customers that you’re someone worth sticking with, you’re the real deal :)

    Here’s hoping for a great 2019 for you and your team!

    • True Valhalla says:

      Hi Sam – thanks for the comments! It’s always good to see familiar names.

      I have a nice apartment view, but not quite that nice: I was actually staying in a hotel on the Gold Coast when I took that picture (the tall building in the earlier Gold Coast photo). It’s an incredible view from the 65th floor.

      Check out this post I wrote called A Day In My Life – Professional Game Developer to find photos of my actual apartment view (from the 38th floor).

  • Mike says:

    Amazing work, glad to see the update! The only suggestion I would make is to donate to charities that support humans over animals. I know they are cute and all, but every dollar counts. Donating even $1 to cancer research, etc. could mean the difference between the literal life and death of a good person.

    I’m not anyone’s moral authority, but I know most people don’t think of the scarcity of money while donating / volunteering. Perhaps if they understood the ramifications of their choice, they might choose differently. I never understood how animal charities exist, so long as there is still human suffering in this world. I think most people who donate to animal and human charities think that if they donate to both types, they are helping both types, and nothing is taken away from the other. But we unfortunately can’t help both without one being deprived.

    Helping animals literally kills humans. 😔

  • Mike says:

    By the way, what blog / comment platform is this, if you don’t mind me asking? It’s really slick and elegant!

  • Dionelou says:

    :D

  • Alex says:

    Great update! I’m also psyched to see you’re supporting MfA and the important work they do #fortheanimals

  • Allan says:

    Awesome report! hadn’t checked you site in months… glad to hear things are still going well. Like others have said, very inspirational!

  • Kevin says:

    Congrats! You’re living the dream! :-) Best of luck in 2019.

  • Makoren says:

    Bit late on this, but love your work! A few months back you inspired me to try my hand at HTML5 development. I love the idea of games that can be played on any device without installation. I’ve gone so far as to study PWAs. I’m also looking forward to Kingfall, since I’m a big fan of MMOs. Can’t wait to try it out.

    Just wanted to share the love. Thanks for posting!

    • True Valhalla says:

      I’m really glad to hear that, working with HTML5 is so rewarding! Feel free to email me if you’d like to chat about anything: [email protected]

  • Adam Matheson says:

    Love your income reports, it’s been a while! 1.) Just curious as to why Hong Kong as fallen off your travel wishlist? 2.) Do you intend to get back to your monthly schedule of income reports or are you OK with posting larger reports like this?

  • Lap202 says:

    Crazy the success you have achieved, starting with a program people used to question as a tool for serious development. I have stepped away from the game maker community so I am not as in tune with the developers on there today, but I have to imagine seeing your success drives others to attempt to live their dream of developing independently for a living.

    I continue to look forward to more and more news on Kingfall. You know I’m a sucker for online games ;)

    I am excited for the continued success of all your endeavors and hope you have a great 2019.

    • True Valhalla says:

      GameMaker itself has come a long way in that time too, we can do so much more with it these days. I can’t wait share to what we have been working on :)

  • Opposing Forces says:

    Welcome back Matt. glad to see things are still working out for you, in a fairly big way too. it’ll be interesting to see what the next 6 years hold for you. it’s been a long road from ROO to now. Congrats man.

  • beef666 says:

    Hey man can’t wait for more blog posts especially concerning the future of web based gaming. Seems like you stumbled onto html5 at the right time, because imo it’s just going to keep getting bigger.

    It seems to me that a lot of talented game devs ignore the prinicples of a fundamental business and get so stuck. Your transparency with your business dealings (talking to publishers, posting detailed earnings breakdowns etc) is unique and appreciated.

    Congratulations on being a successful business owner whose product literally brings joy and entertainment into the world. It’s easy to make money in business, harder to make it ethically. Cheers for being one of the few!

  • Juan says:

    Thanks for continue sharing about your incomes and projects. It’s very inspirational. Don’t stop doing this.
    Around 15 years ago I used to play Tibia, a MMORPG. I liked that game a lot. By that time I decided to learn about programming and wanted to create games in the future. At this time, I am a software engineer but my job is not related directly with games.
    I always had the idea about creating a web game inspired in Tibia. But I didn’t. Kingfall sounds great. I just hope you can finish it soon and it to be very successful.
    Regards.

  • ConstructDude says:

    Well done! You have been super consistent. One of the few people still developing games. I’m in a totally different industry now. Have been for a while. It’s nice over here lol! But I still reminisce about game development.