Do 2D games still sell well? Assume it has nice visuals and good game-play.

I want to make games and want to start with 2D, but I am a bit hesitant, I have more than 8 years experience with 3D applications like Maya and other software, but not games. I'd like to know if it's worth the time investment to make 2D games.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If the gameplay is good, then yes. This question is pretty broad and doesn't show a lot of research effort. You haven't specified a platform(s), and that's probably the main factor - there are lots of 2D games on handheld devices, for example. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Aug 30 '13 at 19:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just regarding releases in the last month I can think of Spelunky, Papers Please and Dive Kick that got released and all made somewhere between decent to very good sales. \$\endgroup\$ – PeterT Aug 30 '13 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Were you living under a rock? Google Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Where is my Water, Plants vs Zombies to start with. \$\endgroup\$ – Den Aug 30 '13 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are plenty of 2D games that sell, although "well" is up to interpretation. If you mean enough sales to generate a decent income for its makers, then very few indie titles, let alone 2D titles, manage that. I wonder if the downvotes are actually because some people don't "like" the question. \$\endgroup\$ – congusbongus Aug 30 '13 at 23:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isometric RPGs sell really well. I hate first-person 3D CRPGs but I gobble up the over head isometric type. Sadly there are no true 2D RPGs these days, nothing like the Infinity Engine but the general style's still alive and well. There are lots of kickstarted isometric CRPGs coming up; Shadowrun Returns was just released in fact. \$\endgroup\$ – Andon M. Coleman Aug 31 '13 at 1:47

Yes they do.

A few years ago a little game called Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out which sold really well and it had downloadable content that had to be paid for. Also, there is a HUGE fanbase of fight games (think Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Street-Fighter, etc) that all love 2D. There are 3D fighters (Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive plus others) that provide whole different mechanics.

Then there are indie games. Check out "Thomas Was Alone", "Rogue Legacy", "Super Meat Boy", and "Don't Starve" just to name a few. Basically take a look at almost any game that has ever been in a "Humble Indie Bundle" (NOTE: they do have non indie bundles as well)

Then there are casual games like anything made by Zynga.

If you do a bit of research you will find that what makes a game "successful" and "revenue generating" isn't whether it's 3D or 2D, it's whether it's a good game with good, unique game-play elements.

That being said, in my opinion if you're out to make a game to make money, chances are you won't. Great games are made as a labor or love. I HIGHLY recommend watching "Indie Game: The Movie" and you will see both successes and failures. And you also see "Fez", which you should check out what happened to that game AFTER you watch the movie.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The mentioned fighting games are all so called "2.5D" titles, but there are real 2D fighting games that also sell good as well (e.g. King of Fighter 13, Persona 4 Arena, BlazBlue). \$\endgroup\$ – Appleshell Aug 30 '13 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @AdamS. While I enjoy fighting games, they aren't my preferred genre so I don't know all the ins and outs. Plus I didn't want to throw too much at them. \$\endgroup\$ – sparks Aug 30 '13 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem @sparks, I just thought it was worth to add as the OP had probably 2D games without 3D models in mind (as he mentioned libGDX). \$\endgroup\$ – Appleshell Aug 30 '13 at 19:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huge Thanks for all answers & guides, sorry for my late, it seems inspiriting for me for OS i chose LibGDX because it support Andoid, win, iOS, Linux & others, for game I should say its a funny style so that not a specific genre, just something kids can have a fun besides matures. and I should say at least I an old video game player since late 80's. \$\endgroup\$ – daniel Aug 30 '13 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ "A wizard is never late, he arrives precisely when he means to." Don't worry about being late. Over on StackOverflow people will regularly pick an answer a day later or so. Some won't even check it for 24 hours since they might not get an answer immediately. \$\endgroup\$ – sparks Aug 30 '13 at 20:55

Now in 2018, there is quite a retro-gaming boom going on. There are some quite well selling games which use 2d graphics. Among the recently leaked number of the top most owned games on Steam are titles like:

  • Terraria (13 Million)
  • Brawlhalla (8.6 Million)
  • The Binding of Isaac (7.1 Million)
  • Castle Crashers (5.5 Million)
  • Stardew Valley (4.9 Million)
  • Starbound (4.3 Million)
  • Undertale (3.5 Million)
  • LIMBO (3.2 Million)
  • ...and many more 2d titles.

Sure, the 2d games are still a small fraction of that list. Most of the best selling games are still AAA titles with state-of-the-art 3d graphics. But the considerable number of 2d games which do great or at least reasonably well compared to their budget proves that 2d games can again be commercially successful.

My personal favorite example as a 90s SEGA kid: Sonic Mania sold more copies than Sonic Generations.

But do not think that this is an easy way to get rich. What you see here is strongly influenced by survivorship bias. What you don't see is the flood of low quality 2d games which come out every day and barely bring in the license fees for the software used to make them. Most are estimated to lose money (See the talk Let's Be Realistic: A Deep Dive into How Games Are Selling on Steam from GDC 2018 for an in-depth analysis). So if you want to make some money in the game industry on a low budget, you need to create a game which plays good, looks good and most of all you need to do some good marketing for it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sidar This answer is from 2013. That was before the big retro game boom of the past 5 years. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jul 16 '18 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I hate how stackexchange works \$\endgroup\$ – Sidar Jul 16 '18 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sidar I used the opportunity and rewrote the answer from scratch to reflect the situation of 2018. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Jul 16 '18 at 16:36

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