Recently, I was told that another indie game marketplace has recently popped up called itch.io. I was actually speaking to Jesse Ceranowicz, who said that itch.io had become his replacement for Indievania, which was great for giving developers 100% of the sales, but lacked the support it needed. Here’s what Jesse had to say about it:
“itch.io addresses virtually all of the issues I had with Indievania and is being actively developed. It took me less than five minutes to post my games there, compared to probably an hour or so when using Indievania. It also took another five days for my content to be manually approved for Indievania. itch.io automatically approves content, and you can start selling right away.”
Naturally, I had to investigate, and what better way to do so than talking to the developer of itch.io, also a game developer, Leaf Corcoran. Before we get onto the interview, I’d encourage you to check out the FAQ on itch.io, as well as having a look at the kinds of stores that itch.io has already provided for some developers. It seems that the store is easy-to-use, flexible, provides reliable feedback and appears to be well-maintained, at first glance.
It’s not doing anything revolutionary as such, but if itch.io can keep hold of those principles, then it could become a pretty neat little store for any game developer to use if they’d like. Notice the featured games spot at the bottom too. I hope to see that spot moved nearer the top of the page so it’s more prominent and for further curation and promotion like that to occur if the service grows in popularity.
Anyway, let’s see what Leaf has to be say about itch.io himself.
Indie Statik: What is your intention with itch.io?
Leaf Corcoran: itch.io’s grand plan is to be the most flexible indie game marketplace and hosting site. There are two key parts to itch.io – the “pay-what-you-want” model and the ability for a developer to publish their game instantly, no matter who they are.
A “pay-what-you-want” model is interesting because there are so many developers out there that create some interesting game idea and upload it somewhere with no intention of ever selling it. It’s just about sharing some cool idea. One of the neat things with itch.io is that it lets you set a minimum price of 0, meaning people can download the game for free, but if the person who downloaded it really likes it, then they can send money directly to the developer. Now the developer is not only distributing their game, but they also have the opportunity to make money. Of course, it’s also possible to set the minimum price to any other value, while still reaping the benefits of generous gamers who pay above the minimum.
The ability to publish instantly is also very important. Right now, when you think of an indie game marketplace, Steam Greenlight is probably the first thing that comes to mind. High-profile indie games typically have no trouble making it through the vetting process, but there are so many more lesser-known developers that are really going to struggle getting published. itch.io removes all barriers, letting a game developer create an account and start selling immediately.
Statik: What does itch.io offer?
LC: itch.io’s central feature is the ability to create highly customizable game pages. When I look at other marketplaces or game hosting sites, I always see a bunch of junk before I see the game. There are logos, ads, assorted widgets and other things that detract from what should be the most important part – the game. With itch.io, the game’s page contains only the game; there is no itch.io branding or interface, aside from a tiny link on the bottom of the page. Developers pick the colors, upload screenshots, edit the layout, add videos and provide the game files.
itch.io provides a reliable place to host games. We support two classes of games – downloadable games and web games. For downloadable games, content is served off of high-speed servers with high availability. Downloads and views are tracked and aggregated into nice graphs. For web games, itch.io currently supports Flash and Unity games, where games are embedded directly into the page.
itch.io also makes it really easy to set up a payment gateway. For buyers, the processes is streamlined. A game can be purchased and downloaded without having to worry about making an account.
Either PayPal or Amazon Payments can be used to collect money. When a sale is made, the developer is paid immediately. This is all done through email; the person buying a game doesn’t have to worry about creating an account.
I’ve seen a lot of other marketplaces force developers to hit a minimum value before being paid. I didn’t like that. Sometimes, these minimum values are so large that you might never get paid if you’re making a low-profile game. Therefore, itch.io pays as soon as a sale completes.
Lastly, if a developer already has a website for a game, they can use the itch.io API to embed a buy button into the page. It will take a person through the checkout flow inside of a pop-up. The developer gets secure downloads and payments without having to use a different page to sell their game.
Statik: What’s in store for the future of itch.io?
LC: I recently added the support to embed web games. I’d like to expand on that by supporting (in addition to Unity and Flash) Java and HTML5. Additionally, in the near future, we’ll see the ability to have a demo version of a game embedded that leads to a paid downloadable version.
I want to create more sophisticated embeddable widgets so people can embed itch.io games into other pages as easily as possible, making sharing games on blogs and social networks much more visual than just a plain link.
Right now, accounts are catered towards developers. It would be nice to to build “gamer” profiles, where users can collect favorite games and keep track of any purchases.
I have plans to make it really easy to run promotions by scheduling sales. For example, you could run your own equivalent of a Steam summer sale. Additionally, there will be price tiers, letting developers set price thresholds that would unlock more downloadable content. This would be great for offering bonuses, like soundtracks or extra levels, for those that pay a little more.
And lastly, I want to really make the game page editor shine. Right now, it’s pretty straightforward, but without writing CSS, it’s difficult to do advanced customizations. I’ll also be adding some nice pre-set themes that can be used as well.
Statik: Why should more developers be using itch.io?
LC: There are two classifications of developers out there – those that want to sell their game and those who just want to distribute.
For those that want to give their game away, itch.io gives them free hosting on a customizable page with no ads or distractions, while collecting detailed statistics about views and downloads. There’s a lot of things a developer might forget if they were creating their own page manually, like remembering to install analytics or making sure they have enough bandwidth to survive a traffic spike. itch.io takes care of all these things, so game developers can focus on the presentation of their game instead.
For those who want to sell their game, in addition to the aforementioned benefits, itch.io lets them create a paywall in front of their content with no hassle. Doing something like this manually is time-consuming, so it’s nice to be able to just type in a price and be ready to go.