Flash Truth

…about flash gamedev and business

Crisis and Hope

I was browsing around the web, looking at games from other developers. Word on the “street” was that sponsorship and advertising money was wearing thin all over. From what I read here and there seems that crisis is hitting the flash market space.

But like I said, I was browsing around, playing games from other developers. I had some fun and I even took some notes. God! I didn’t take notes about games for a long time.

Suddenly I needed something to relax my eyes and my hand-eye coordination, so I took a look at some user comments on Kongregate and it’s getting better! I remember saying to my monitor like if I was talking to myself “I need to write about this Kongregate shift of user behavior.”

Sorry… getting lost here… crysis and playing games… right! Why the hell am I writing this? You want to know? There are much better games now! This was expected by anyone slightly awake I know, but has anyone noticed that quality is really start to sky rocket?

Kudos to you all flash game developers! Those that are making a difference and raising the bar. You (and hopefully me) will make this market better and stronger, just hang on while this crisis is making it’s damage.

Today I was playing some games… read something about crysis but I have all the reasons to hope for the best. We are doing our part.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | flash games, General | , | Leave a comment

The ‘1’ that rules it all

planet-clock-3dI know I’ve been through this, maybe you have too. How much time does it take to make a game that is good enough to be profitable? This self-discussion that many developers face took a step with Feronato’s Experiment, like I like to call it.

The baseline of the topic is: what is more profitable, a one day game, a one week game or a one month game. I’m sorry to inform you I don’t know, what I’m sure is that the quality of flash games is rising, thus, the value for lower-end games with not that much of content or depth will be lower as time goes by.

Richard Davey commented in this blog that my view on the rate was probably wrong and reading his words I tend to agree with him since I did not take into consideration the possibility of having multiple projects going which would naturally lower the number of hours per project. With this in mind, I’m proposing, not the debunking of the flash development and marketing process but the analysis of the projected value in nowadays and future market. Best way I know is to offer you my own figures.

1 day game…

I only did a 1 day game once and it was a tech demo to show how to use some classes to some other devs. Some developers brag that they have found sponsors for games that fit in this category but I have never seen a game from any. I’m sure there are some polished exceptions, but I find hard to imagine any portal sponsoring or licensing the vast majority of 1 day games, after all, they can find better than that.

To the best of my knowledge, MochiAds with distribution enabled should give some money in the long run and if the developer can make a 1 day game every single week day, he will probably have a constant, although low-end income.

1 week game…

Been there… not exactly a week but less than two weeks. I’ve done it more than once also and my take is that the results depend a lot of the mechanic. Sure, this is true for almost any game, but it’s even more evident with 1 week games. If you have an extraordinary design, mechanic and a unique touch in your game, you can have a winner with a very small amount of time consumed.

I’ve experienced great success with this and grand failure. Both took around 10 days to make.

The great success granted me around $3000. It was a twist on a well known mechanic and I didn’t have any major expectations with it but it turned out to be a exception in terms of 1 week games.

Others have been a failure, best I got was $650. Although I cannot generalize I would say that 1 week games already have a hard time competing for offers and this will only get worse.

1 month games…

…or dare I say 1+ month games? Never did one month games although I’ve started some. All the projects that are supposed to take one month usually get 6 to 8 weeks because I take the time to make it better and better.

This is, in my opinion, the most fascinating thing about projects that are supposed to take more time, I polish and polish and polish again and the games grow, take more time but it is worth it.

The lower figure for a 1 month game was $1500 and it’s an exception, the lower end of the offers for these games. Unlike the 1 week games, 1+ month games are getting higher offers as market matures.


Take your time, make the best game possible. Sometimes we are aiming for the quick sale of a quick game when everyone would be happier with a bigger, better and more polished one.

If you aim for 1 day or 1 week development, be sure you have some extraordinary but keep in mind that sometimes what we think of our games is far exaggerated when compared to what other people think, and more important, to what portals are willing to pay for it.

February 15, 2009 Posted by | General, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My experience with Flash Game License

From time to time something special happens. Something that can change the face of the world, or at least one specific world. Flash Game License changed the way business is made in the flash market. The idea itself is pretty simple, the implementation is pure genius.

It seems everytime I write about FGL, I have something against it. Let it be written that I don’t have anything against FGL, I am a happy FGL user and I am happy to do business there and pay for it.

But the comments on the last post seem to hit a nerve, one that I didn’t want to be hit. Unfortunately I think that will happen more often because FGL has grown bigger and its creators aren’t close to us as they used to be.

It is pointless to say that it is not so, I feel it personally. Each and everyone of them was at a distance of an email or MSN and it was obvious that they did take the time to help. Their presence in the community forums was refreshing, nowadays they usually appear to address some serious question, raise a discussion about a new feature and say how nice CPMStar or Kindisoft is.

Well… I can understand that and I really don’t take the distance as bad as I would with other people. I also understand that there are more things to attend and so on…

The numbers on FGL show growth, more sales and more money, like Chris stated in the last comment, but the hard truth is that it is more difficult to sell a game on FGL and that I personally rely much more on my business skills than on FGL to sell my games and I’m not alone on this. Many developers spoke with me about how less motivated they are because of lack of attention on FGL. These are developers that have done business there and that know nothing about marketing themselves and their games, therefor they will loose in the battle of FGL listings. How many are there that think this way? I don’t know, I can tell you that all the developers that I speak with complaint more or less in these lines. Why isn’t there any public discussion? I don’t know… but I’ll ask them.🙂

So if there are developers that feel this way how are numbers growing? In my opinion, if there are more developers and more games there and the percentage of games that make a sale stands, obviously there’s a growth.

Should I present ideas to help with this? After reading Chris’ answer I really don’t feel like it. FGL creators answers to criticism are starting to look as cliches that I really don’t want to argue with. I agree that they have to protect their business, but the most important asset of FGL are the developers, especially quality developers and it really kills me to see FGL becoming more about quantity than about quality. The advertising in the top right corner only holds because of quantity… more developers, more audience, better advertising. It’s like FGL is for developers what portals are to players. The bigger the better. Am I the only one that finds this contradicts the spirit of helping developers?

What I’m hoping is to see a defensive stance, debunking what I’m writing here with statistics and how good FGL is to developers but what I would like to see is a slight change in this trend even if it’s just a simple gesture of understanding what is going on. That, because I really think that FGL is important, would mean the world to me. At least in terms of flash development.

February 12, 2009 Posted by | General | | 5 Comments

Building up reputation and business

Hi all and I’m deeply sorry for my absence. I hope this post excuses me for not updating Flash Truth as much as I would like.

Several developers that know my not-so-alter-ego have approached me asking “how do you do it?” related to my own flash develop business. I also read the Where’s the cash for flash issue on Gamasutra and although I have two drafts waiting for me to finish writing, I decided that this is good enough info and discussion to bring up immediately.

Without further due, let me answer the “how do you do it?” question: Building up reputation and business, which is, for some weird reason is the title of the post.

Part 1: Building Reputation

No business flourishes without reputation and no reputation exists without networking, so, get to know people. The more people you know, the more people you will have available for a specific need.

If you are reading this, you have access to the best networking tool available: the Internet. Get involved in communities like Newgrounds, Mochi or Flash Game License, to access developers. Be helpful and be smart. As you find people with some sort of need you can help, just help and don’t make a fuss about it. When you need help, ask for it.

What about portals?! Some developers look for (and easily find) huge lists of emails and go on an email galore. Don’t do that, it’s annoying and many portals have asked to have their emails off those lists. Many portals however, have an email or submission form to contact them about sponsorship, take your time, do that, submit the game to them and has they answer, you will have a name, a person, a contact, so a bigger network.

If your game is good you’ll have other portals contacting you for licensing, so more names… network…

Your network will start slow and grow. Do not nag people. Be professional, polite. Sooner than you think, you’ll be emailing portals directly, having a friendly developer to help you out with something strange and so on. And that is reputation!

Part 2: Building Business

Well, if you have your network, you have half of your business. The rest is professionalism and quality, both quite difficult to achieve.

There are some really basic things you can do to raise your professional behavior.

First, no email goes unanswered unless you don’t care about that specific person ever. If what you have to say is not pleasant, make it pleasant, but answer. Be polite, clear and as much as possible, short.

Second, being professional means that you will go through some really annoying stuff with a smile. I’ve read several times that developers don’t accept offers from portals because there’s too much paperwork involved. This kind of behavior shows only one thing: the developer is a spoiled brat that doesn’t give a damn about business. There are exceptions *cough* Oberon *cough* but what matters is not really the paperwork but the behavior.

All of this should mean money, right?!

Not really, this means that you have the skills to market yourself and your games. You still have to find multiple income streams and raise the quality of your games constantly. Use this formula: Business + Money = Reputation * Quality.

The Cash for Flash

One last word for the issue at Gamasutra. Basically it serves as advertising for the people mentioned there. Life in the flash market is way more difficult than it looks when you read it. I felt that, even if it wasn’t made with that purpose, smaller developers were being told that they’ll get rich if they do what those developers do and/or if they do it on FGL. Success is not a log on on FGL or an idea for a game. It’s blood, sweat and tears that I think most developers are not willing bleed, sweat and cry.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My expectations for 2009

I think that 2009 will bring some movement to the flash game market. Some are good, some are bad.

The quality of flash games is growing. This trend was easily spoted in 2008 and I believe that the bar will keep rising. Portals such as Kongregate and services (or dare I say “The Service”) offered by the Flash Game License crew really pointed many developers the right way: Quality over Quantity.

Although this is good news, it can also be the beginning of the end of money making hobby developers. It was easy to notice that quality developers are becoming full professional game development companies while existing game development companies make their way to the flash market.

What does this mean? Will we have publishers? Thus killing the flash game development risky and yet wonderful game design? Will we have more and more exclusive content to the established portals making the traffic wars less sponsor based and more content based? Will there be any other portal with a view for the midcore market?

Will see…

January 15, 2009 Posted by | General, Portals | , , , , | 2 Comments

Understanding the flash game space

In my most humble opinion, most developers are clueless about where they stand in the flash game space from a market point of view. This leads to wasted time, bad business and bottom-line: low money. This only applies to developers that want to make a profit from flash games, to all others that live up for their passion, it’s pointless, although, maybe, educative.

Here’s how most developers face business assuming there’s a sponsorship deal for a small game…

1. Developer makes a game in a week;

2. Developer shows game around to get a sponsorship deal, although not full time, it can take two weeks easily;

3. Game is sponsored, let’s say, for $500 and developer takes a couple of days to include sponsor stuff;

4. Developer puts ads on game and distributes it which generally means at least another week;

5. Game spreads and traffic goes to the sponsor thus generating money;

6. Developer gets an average of 15% (from my personal experience) from ads, so an extra $75;

Let’s crunch the numbers…

First and most obvious there’s no such thing as one week games, or one day games, since build to market time is always bigger, but I’ll dedicate a post to that one of these days, but the hard truth is that a one week game can easily be a 22 business days game, meaning, a full month. All of that for $575 if you are lucky. Assuming you work 8 hours a day, that’s a $3,26 per hour rate, which, let’s face it, it’s pretty bad.

And why did this happen? Let’s follow the money now…

1. Developer makes a game;

2. Sponsor picks it and sponsors it for $500;

3. Most sponsors don’t actively spread the game, thus, no distribution costs;

4. Sponsor gets pass-through traffic that will generate around $1 per thousand visits but it isn’t that important;

5. Sponsor gets traffic that sticks from users that register and visit the site and play their games continuously, which can generate a lot of money if the site is good which the large ones are.

6. Advertising networks keep a huge chunk of the money generated.

The Truth

1. Has I have said before, developers have nothing to win from distribution itself. Portals and advertising networks get most of the profit from the plays and the traffic games generate, still, developers are worried about distributing their games like if it was the most important thing of their, second only to sponsorship. In fact, the most important thing is THE GAME! A good game will attract good sponsorship deals, not to mention extra licensing if you are smart.

2. Developers waste too much time, thus loosing money, doing things that will make others win money. Mochi Ads is a class act in this department. They do handle distribution but they do it at a low cost for themselves since they have an established network, which is good for both Mochi and the developer.

3. Smaller portals do make a huge effort to distribute the games they sponsor but most of the bigger ones simply don’t care. And they don’t care because they usually get the high profile games that will, sooner or later, wide spread on the web, usually at the expense of the developer or, if they allow it, Mochi.

Understand where everyone fits and make everyone do their job

1. Developers should make the best game they can. They should also strive to make all necessary arrangements to fit their sponsor and licensing portals needs, which is something I often see developers lacking: professionalism. Developers should not distribute games since game spread is not their income source or investment return.

2. Portals should either spread the game themselves or allow ads on games thus leaving the distribution for the advertising network since both have direct income from game spreading wildly. Using advertising would then be an extra incentive to the developer, not a need, a badly paid one.

3. Advertising networks should be the major spreading force since they are the ones that get the most of it. Most bigger portals already have a considerable user base, thus making licensing more interesting as a model.

4. Bottom line: each part does what it’s profitable for their core business: Developers make games, portals manage content and advertising networks manage advertising inventory.

Wow… this was a big one…

Still there? Ok… What matters here is that there’s a culture of “roles” in the flash game space and it’s the developer that takes the toll. Why? Well, most are naif and the big guns take advantage of it. I’m not saying portals are bad or good or that advertising networks are bad or good, what I’m saying is that the developer is the small guy that can be easily bullied if he acts alone while the herd is following a different direction.

We must rethink all of this, together. Us, portals and ads networks are partners in this, not enemies, so we need to sort our act together so that the market continues to grow based on quality, not a dogmatic approach of how it is handled.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Advertising Networks, General, Monetizing, Portals | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mochi Ads and Game Jacket CPM 2008 results

Hi and Happy New Year everyone.

This blog is new but there are things to be learnt from 2008. For instance, what keywords people used to get to the blog. The most common keywords were MochiAds, CMPStar and GameJacket.

So, sort of a delayed Christmas present for everyone, here are my stats from Mochi Ads and Game Jacket and my conclusions regarding 2008 results.

CPM rules it all…

Mochi Ads: $0.21 per 1000 game impressions
Game Jacket: $0.54 per 1000 game impressions

I did about $360 from both, mostly from Mochi since I didn’t use Game Jacket early on. What’s interesting to notice is that if I was using Game Jacket mostly, I would have made $925.

…until distribution steps in.

Here’s the underlying problem: Game Jacket distribution SUCKS! While Mochi Ads distribution means an average of 1.000.000 plays per game, Game Jacket distribution means an average of 3.500 plays per game.

Game Jacket argues that the games were released earlier on Mochi Ads, thus jeopardizing their own distribution… I personally believe that Game Jacket makes an effort on only some games, while Mochi’s distribution is pretty much automatic, making it more… democratic lacking a better word.

I will be releasing a game with Game Jacket only soon, so I’ll let you all know how that goes. But right now, with the info I have, I must say that even with a lower CPM, Mochi’s distribution pays for the difference.

It’s still early to say exactly where the benefit is, but I’ll be releasing games with several types of licenses, several distribution patterns and everything will be posted here.

A great 2009 to all flash game developers out there!

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Advertising Networks, Monetizing | Leave a comment

Integrating GameJacket in your game

Hello again. I’ve read a lot of people complaining about the difficulty of integrating GameJacket in their games. I had a lot of problems when I did it the first time, biggest of all was that I assumed it worked just like MochiAds, meaning, it was a preloader. That is the biggest misconception about GameJacket and it’s what causes most of the difficulties developers complaint about. It’s not the technology itself, but rather our understanding of it. So here goes the tech crunch.

How does it work?

GameJacket serves as a wrapper for your game. What this means is that the file GameJacket distributes is not your game, but rather their loader that wraps your game. I don’t know why GameJacket decided to do it this way, but it addresses one of the major problems with other advertising networks: it is pointless to decompile the wrapper because the game itself won’t load without it.

The code that is delivered with the instructions has one and only one objective: to prevent the game from being ran without being called by the wrapper. This is a good thing: it assures you will get the play from wherever the game is. In case you are wondering, there are portals that will decompile your game, rip your logos and advertising code and post it as if it was a non-exclusive license. This prevents it.

So… what about the preloader?

You will have to write your preloader to all games that you want GameJacket to go with, but that shouldn’t be a big deal really, that’s something you should always consider anyway. To make it simple: write your preloader as if you were releasing the game without advertising; insert GameJacket’s classes and code as explained in the documentation; make the success event trigger your preloader graphics and finally make the failure event go to a nice message box that says where people can get a legitimate copy of your game.

The workflow of all this is?…

As I explained, the distribution file is not your game, but rather a wrapper. When it is loaded from a site it will show the ad and when the “Play” button is clicked, it will load your game. When your game is loaded, the code you inserted will confirm if the game was loaded from the wrapper or not. It will either launch a success event, launching your preloader, or a failure event, showing the message you want.

The good: Version control, more difficult to rip your game ads
The bad: Well, we are kind of used to have Mochis preloader

Hope this helps!

December 19, 2008 Posted by | Advertising Networks, Monetizing, Technical | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Addicted to the number of plays

Just stumbled on a thread in the Mochi forums where a developer proposed to rank other developers by the number of plays their highest played game achieved. Seems logical doesn’t it? I personally disagree and it seems I’m not alone in this. Badim spoke wisely when he said that average playing time, earnings and time spent to develop the game is also relevant and I partially agree with him.

There was a time where all people wanted was to have their games largely distributed. Nowadays, that’s a bit pointless. You spend countless hours making a game, countless hours finding a sponsor, a bit of time integrating the code from an ads network and then countless hours distributing, creating thumbnails of different size and shape only to appeal to the portals.

And what do the tasty high traffic portals do? They don’t want the ads in your game in their site. Isn’t that a killer? Your game will not generate YOU any revenue unless you license the game to those portals, which is fine by the way, but that means you will loose potentially millions of plays because of that. Well, think about it… if you have nothing to win from it, why should you even consider having your game, generating revenue to the said portals and you getting nothing from it?

Flash game developers are too addicted to the number of plays. In reality the number of plays is meaningless if the developer as nothing to win from it. You, as a developer, should not upload your game to any site, even if very high profile, if you don’t have anything to profit from the upload, simply because portals count on your addiction to increase their revenue and most of them, not sharing it with you.

December 10, 2008 Posted by | General, Portals | , | Leave a comment

A flash game in Time

Time Magazine online just released their Top10’s of 2008. You can find GTA IV at the top as many would have anticipated, or even Spore at #10 as many probably couldn’t predict. But the most fascinating figure is #8. Hunted Forever is the game that was born just before Towering Forever from Pixelante Game Studios, which I already pointed out in the blog.

I’m amazed. Not by the fact that there’s a flash game in the list, not because it’s above Spore, but because of the recognition. I thought no one had ever noticed us, but I guess I was wrong. Right beneath it, I noticed there’s a DTD game… for the iPhone and I smiled.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | General, Outstanding Games | Leave a comment