If you haven’t heard of Itch.io, then let me first start with this quick intro. itch.io is a site that hosts indie games. Do they sell indie games? Sometimes. Do they have free ones? Yes, mostly. But even the free ones make money. That may sound a bit confusing, but it’s really not. itch.io uses one of the most fully-realized and open-ended forms of the newish philosophy of “pay-what-you-want” available today, and it works tremendously.
This is how it works: if you are a game developer who wants to put out a game for the world to play on itch.io, you have a few options. You can list the game as completely free without even an option to donate. Or you can list it as “pay-what-you-want” and set the minimum price to zero, giving the option to the player how much they would like to give to the developer. Or you can set a minimum price above zero, while allowing the player to tack on an extra amount if they feel like it.
This by itself gives great flexibility to the players, and especially the developers, but it goes even further. The relationship between the developer and itch.io is a form of PWYW as well. With their system called Open Revenue Sharing, the developer gets to decide what percent of her profits goes to itch.io, which is set at a default of 10%, but can be set all the way to zero if the developer happens to be that kind of person. Isn’t that neat?
But how successful is their system?
Oh, you. Always worrying about success this and success that. Well I’ll tell you! According to this blog post released by itch.io’s creator, leafo, since itch.io’s launch just over two years ago, it now has over 15,000 projects for download. And considering it had less than 7,000 in November, the library has more than doubled in the last 6 months.
So now let’s talk about money. 44% of games on itch.io accept payment, and the other 56% don’t. Also, 89% of games are offered as free. So by my calculation, that means that 11% of the games have a minimum charge, 33% of them are free games that accept payment as an option, and 56% of them are free games that do not accept any payment. Not sure why they didn’t do the simple math like I did and combine these two pie charts, but here they are.
But even these “free” games are bringing in money from the donations of kind and conscientious gamers. According to the same post, the mean amount given in return for a game with no minimum price on itch.io is $3.67. Not bad! But what’s even more amazing is that considering you can add onto the price of even games with minimum purchase prices, the mean amount added on is $3.68—almost the exact same amount given to free games. That’s some consistent altruism there, though leafo suspects it has something to do with the arrangement of donate buttons on both types of games being identical.
And get this, about 30% of users donate some amount of money on each download. I’d say that’s pretty good. So let’s take a look at how much itch.io is doling out to the devs each month:
They have now payed out almost $400,000 to developers to date. And though the blog post stops short of announcing the average percent that developers opt to share with itch.io, and the related statistic which is how much does itch.io themselves make, but that’s up to the big itch to release if and when they want to.
[edit: I tried to do some guesstimate math on how much they make and ended up doing it ass backward so I gave that racket up. Sorry!]
Again, here’s the original blog post this article is based on.