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Self employed as game developer earnings, registration, tip

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Step 1: Market opportunity as a game developer

Computers and video games, whether on computers, smartphones or any console, are firmly ingrained in everyday life. About every second the German now plays: 34.3 million people are gamers, and this beyond the limits of age and gender. And anyone who thinks that it is mainly a young target is wrong: the average age of gamers has been increasing for years and is now 36.4 years. In particular, the proportion of gamers aged 50 and over is steadily increasing and now forms the largest target group.

More and more gamers on smartphones, but the console is becoming more and more important

Smartphones are still the most popular gaming platform, with a total of 18.6 million people using them to play games. However, a total of 16.7 million people in Germany play consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox – this is where the growth is greatest.
You can find a detailed analysis of the market at gamethe German gaming industry association.

So things are looking good for your game development career – the market is growing and dynamic. However, you should not lose sight of the competitive situation. Game development costs time and money, and in fact, bigger companies with more creatives and programmers dominate the market. No German company is among the market leaders. But that doesn't mean you can't get a hit with smart marketing and a great idea.

Most importantly: a great game idea

To be able to establish itself in the market against tens of thousands of other developers without being able to run large marketing campaigns (because you need a lot of money for that), it is above all a great idea. This also includes the precise definition of the market segment (online, browser, app, console, etc.) and the target group. And that you know your profession.

Phase 2: Career Paths | Game developer training

While there is no protected profession for game developer, there are specialized courses that prepare you for the job in terms of content. You can:

  • Game development, also game engineering or game programming
  • Game design or
  • multimedia computing

study. The Game Development course focuses on development, i.e. the programming and storytelling required. Some universities also have specializations in mobile applications or artificial intelligence.

When studying game design, the focus is on animation and visualization. Storytelling is also part of the course.

Of course, classic courses such as media design, IT or mathematics are also conceivable as a basis. But they prepare you less directly for game developer.

In addition to specialized universities such as

  • Fresenius University of Applied Sciences
  • german pop
  • Multimedia Design University
  • SRH University of Heidelberg
  • SAE Institute GmbH
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there is also the opportunity to study part-time at the Wilhelm Büchner University and the Technical University of Cologne. You can find a great overview of study paths at unique.

There is also training to become an IT specialist with a specialization in game development.

Whatever you decide, besides technical ability, you can and should certainly support with professional experience and first steps in existing companies. Especially since capable people are sought after in this sector.

Phase 3: Costs, funding, grants and calculation

No start-up works without a viable financing concept: that's why there is also a finance section in the business plan in which you break down your potential income and your costs and also show how you want to cover your capital requirements. We show you more about it here: Create a financial plan – Your finances in the business plan | with model

Potential Earnings: What Does a Game Developer Earn?

Lying according to Stepstone Game Developer Salaries between €37,100 and €53,400 per year, or €43,000 on average. Indeed, as a founder, this tells you a little more on the cost side: this is how much you need to invest to attract employees to your company.
In fact, you should take a very close look at how much is paid per download, account, etc. in the division to use a game. They range from free in the App Store (therefore financed with advertising and in-app purchases) to very expensive games of 60 euros and more on consoles. As a rule, quantity makes profit.

THE hourly rate For freelance game developer obviously varies according to needs and experience and is approx. 60-120 euros. Freelance portals not only offer good job opportunities but are also good sources of research for standard hourly rates. Either way, whether you're a freelancer or part of a small team, you should get used to good time management. Whether you offer services in game programming or work on your own projects, to keep the cost factor “hours of work” under control, at project time trackingwhich you can also implement well with a good digital tool.

Attention Game Developers: Federal Prototype Funding Program

In fact, the federal government complained years ago that German companies play no role in developing games internationally and therefore created a funding program for prototype development.

The funding program lists so-called minimum criteria you must meet, and you can receive funding up to 50 percent of the costs.

Details a Federal funding for computer games you can get it on their website.

More grants for game developers

The federal states also support founders and inventors in the development of games, mainly through the media sponsors of the federal states, which also support the production of scripts and films.
You can find a good list at gamethe German industrial association.

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Step 4: Organizational issues to become a freelance game developer

Like any startup, becoming a game developer requires some practical steps. One of the big discussions is whether you should register a business.

Self-Employed as a Game Developer: Freelancer or Trader?

For a long time, software development was basically considered commercial, that is, there was no other choice but to register a business. In 2004 he decided Federal Tax Courtthat programmers may very well be freelancers. Prerequisite: No trivial software is produced. Not only does it sound complicated, in practice this definition is not easy to understand.

Also, your registration as a freelancer is generally not checked by the tax office to see if you meet the requirements or not. Only a subsequent depth test can then show the possible error. So if you want to be sure, you have to request a so-called “binding information” from the tax office – and this tests against very high standards. You will also incur additional costs.

What complicates this: Computer game distribution basically represents a publishing house and is commercial. You cannot do this as a pure freelancer, a so-called “mixed job” would then be called into question. Then you would have self-employment income (i.e. from freelance income) and income from business operations. This constellation can also lead to tax benefits, but you should discuss and verify them very carefully with a tax advisor.

You want to know more about this topic and the advantages and disadvantages of freelancing. Then we recommend the brochure Anything but an entrepreneur? Tips for founders and self-employed in the cultural and creative industries by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

Game developer – business idea and business plan

Every start-up involves a business idea. This can be a game idea, but it could also be a specialized service in the sector or even a serial game idea. You not only need to formulate this idea in an understandable way – it is also part of the business plan – the basis of your entrepreneurial activity. We have summarized for you here how to draw up a business plan, which tools are available and what you need to pay attention to: How to write a business plan: composition, structure, content.

Start a full-time or part-time game developer

You don't necessarily have to start your own business as a game developer in your main job. Under certain circumstances, it is easier to start a business from an employment relationship, giving the project the time it needs in a more relaxed manner. However, you should be careful not to poach in the same water as your employer. Everything you need to know about part-time start-ups – registration, legal aspects and taxes – can be found in our guide Start a part-time job | This is how you start your company along with work, explained in detail.

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The legal form of your company

There are a number of common legal forms for your startup: from UG, to GmbH and even sole proprietorship. You can get an overview here: Basics: What legal form right for my business?

Which legal form is right for you depends on how you founded it. If you want to set up a part-time business, a sole proprietorship may be worthwhile, if you are already a team, then a GbR or UG makes sense. If you can get enough capital to get started, a GmbH is also an option. The simplest and at the same time safest is certainly the UG. Here you have the liability protection as in a GmbH and at the same time you don't need a lot of start-up capital. How to set up a limited liability UG, we will show you in our Starter Pack UG.

The most important technical step: the prototype

As a game developer, your game prototype is the most important tool. The short demo helps you engage both funders and a team towards the common goal and showcase the potential of your idea. A pure graphical demo or a version of the game that features the process but no game design or atmosphere is any less useful. Since enthusiasm for a game is always an emotional decision, you should factor this into your prototype.

Step 5: Publishing | Marketing: Now really start as a game developer

Even if you are excellent at development and programming: without the knowledge of the right publishing and marketing, your game will not be successful.

Publishing involves learning about the different Play Stores (and their often harsh conditions), having an idea of ​​how to gain exposure in those stores, and how to provide good community support and management.

But you have to draw attention to yourself beyond this download platform. Marketing is to be considered here as any product:

  • Which channels are suitable for the target group?
  • How can you stage your product – game – well?

The range is huge: Whether it's a presentation at a gaming convention, a classic Your booth, whether it's videos on TikTok, l 'buying an influencer who promotes your game ooo … find the best way to get your product out there.

Conclusion

Being self-employed as a game developer is exciting and can be promising. However, one should not dream of quick and easy success. The market is controlled by big companies and you have to score with something special. And yet they exist: independent hits and surprise hits.

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