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Indievania doesn't want your dirty, stinkin' money, but its indie devs might


Indie-game developer Lee Vermeulen began Indievania with a dream, a dog and a 9 percent rate for hosting indie games -- now his dream is coming true, the 9 percent rate has transformed to 0 percent and the dog has mutated into a dashing young prince (OK, maybe we lied about the dog). Just as magical though, Indievania doesn't keep any of the money developers charge for their games, which is exactly how Vermeulen wanted his site to operate.

"The original plan for Indievania was always to take 0 percent commission; that's the reason I started developing it," Vermeulen told Joystiq. "I wanted it to be a completely developer-focused marketplace. The beta version of the site was initially released with a 9% commission because we weren't sure the costs to run the site -- bandwidth, maintenance -- but after launching that we decided the costs were low enough to go back to our original plan."

Indievania now hosts dozens of indie titles, DRM-free and cross-platform, including high-profile titles such as 2011's Dream Build Play winner Blocks that Matter and Vermeulen's indie gem Capsized. Developers set their own prices and retain complete control over their games, able to build packs with other devs and change their rates at will, with all money streaming directly into their own PayPal accounts -- in case all these numbers and words have been confusing, Indievania devs keep 100 percent of the profit.

"The focus of Indievania is to have customers buy straight from developers and support them, players want to support artists and help fund development," Vermeulen said. "So we want to leave as little trace as possible -- no downloadable client, very quick purchases, DRM-free and payment goes directly to the developer's merchant account and never passes through us."

As an indie developer with Alientrap, Vermeulen knew what other devs might find annoying, insulting or unfair about existing hosting sites.

"The motivation came after selling Capsized on a number of distribution sites and getting emails from new sites and startups. They were all asking for 30 percent commission and basically took control entirely of how the games were sold and locked them in -- I felt there needed to be an alternative that developers could use to sell games directly to customers and keep total control," Vermeulen said.

'I felt there needed to be an alternative that developers could use to sell games directly to customers and keep total control.'

"We released Capsized mainly on Steam and were really happy with how it was released and dealing with Valve," he said. "But when we wanted to give customers an alternative option we ended up having a few bad experiences, and that was primarily the reason for starting Indievania. Not as a competitor to Steam or Desura, but as an open platform for games to sell that are cross platform, or in development, or for customers who don't want to install a DRM client."

Indievania is still in beta right now, but its developer-friendly deals are already bringing success to indie darlings and Vermeulen himself, who said the site isn't at any risk of being shut down because of money issues.

"The costs of the site are very low and we really aren't concerned about quarterly profits, investors, parent companies or anything like that like other sites. I'll be pretty happy if the site can pay for itself," Vermeulen said. "The site is supported by optional donations at the end of checkouts, both to developers and us, and from current sales it looks like that will be enough to pay for things."

Not that Indievania is about the money, anyway.

"I think being a indie developer made it so we knew what we wanted in a site like this, and what we could improve having seen the merchant side of other sites. I really just felt that a site like this was needed from a developers point of view," Vermeulen said.

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