Monday, November 29, 2021

A Peek Behind the Curtain

I put Crisis on Christmas on on 25 Dec 2019 for free, where it has since been downloaded 375 times. On 15 Dec 2020 I significantly revamped the material and, as an experiment, changed it to PWYW. (Although as before, an unmonitored free download was always linked from here, after some early complaints about getting downloads from itch to work.) Since then, 11 people have opted to pay a total of $31 (which warms my heart).

From 5 March to 31 March this year (2021), Crisis on Christmas was part of the Independent Troika Creator Bundle. I do not know how much information it is appropriate to share about the numbers behind that, but it contributes $8.88 of revenue. These sales are accounted for as a separate product by itch.

As easy as it is to put things on itch, getting your money back out can be complicated. You will have to choose one of two payment modes: direct or payouts. In direct mode the money goes straight to you, but you are responsible for record-keeping, taxes, chargebacks, etc. In payout mode itch handles all of the overhead. Itch recommends payout mode, and I use payout mode, and despite the complications, I would still also recommend it.

Upon selecting payout mode, you will need to complete a one-time tax interview process (it's just an online form) and identity check. This costs $3, which appears as a debit on your itch account (not as an up-front cost).

Seven days after a payment is completed, it becomes available to you as a payout. Payouts are delivered either through PayPal or Payoneer (I use PayPal and so cannot comment on Payoneer). PayPal takes a fee from the payout, which in the US appears to be a flat $0.25. (The "payout fee" is distinct from the payment processor fee, which I think is the fee charged for the initial purchase.) I think this may have changed between my first and second payouts, as the fee is not present on the first one.

While requesting payouts less frequently will minimize these fees, leaving earnings in your itch account for longer than a year will result in itch charging a monthly 10% maintenance fee on the balance. However, at least when I started writing this, it is not possible to initiate a payout on an amount less than $5. This meant I awkwardly had $3-4 sitting in my account for a long time, and because of the seasonal (and low-volume) nature of my project, could not access it.

Because I hadn't requested any payouts during the 2020 tax year, I didn't receive any tax documents for it. Itch did not automatically withhold any taxes for me, so I expect I will have to pay taxes on what remains this year. Given the US dedication to the worst possible tax system, I have no idea what that may come to, but I'll estimate local tax at 5% (arbitrarily) and federal tax at 20% of the remainder (also arbitrarily). Since both these numbers are entirely made up, I don't think the error introduced by calling it 25% is significant.

Itch lets you configure what percentage of revenue you want to share with them for their services. The default is 10% of gross revenue, which sounded fine to me, so I left it.

We can also consider the other costs of the project: a font a liked a lot ($10), and an old Dover clipart book, purchased c. 2000 (maybe $4?). If we don't value my time at all (my friend insists this is what makes a "real game developer"), that's $14.

$39.88gross revenue
-$4.65payment processor fees
-$3.97itch revenue share
-$3.00identity verification
-$0.25payout fee
-$7taxes (estimated)

As bit of fun, I have no regrets about the project, and I remain unreasonably proud of it. There's a lot I could have done to try maximizing profits that just doesn't appeal to me, so this is not a perfect look into "the business," but I hope a little light on such an intricate and hidden part of the hobby might be instructive to others.

Best wishes to you and yours going into this holiday season, and if you haven't had a chance, I'd love for you to check out Crisis on Christmas. If you like it, maybe even leave a tip

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