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.

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

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

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

Towering Forever

Getting rid of all the money talk and getting back to what really matters: GAMES! OUTSTANDING GAMES! Allow me to introduce you to Towering Forever, an amazing and beautiful game by Pixelante Game Studios. I’ll say no more, just play it!

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Outstanding Games | , | 1 Comment

Is sponsorship doomed?

Just read the chat event with Jared from Hero Interactive at Flash Game License. In the middle of a lot of questions and answers, one thing popped up. He said that he believes the current sponsoring model will move more towards a licensing model.

A typical flash developer would probably think that this is a bad thing, since exclusive and primary deals are probably the highest paid deals around. Let’s see what this means from a pure business perspective.

Here’s the math, round low numbers for clarity.

With exclusive sponsorship = $100

Imagine that you get an offer of $100 for an exclusive sponsorship. What this means is that you will get $100 and that’s it, maybe some advertising if the sponsor allows it. Your game will be on 500 sites in a month, the sponsor will get all the juicy traffic and that’s about it.

With primary sponsorship = $150

Many developers opt, if they can, for a primary sponsorship. That usually brings a nice sponsorship deal for a lower price, let’s say $75 and the power for the developer to sell site-locked licenses. For calculations, let’s imagine that you would sell 3 site-locked licenses for $25, so that’s an extra $75. The game would go to the same 500 sites, maybe some more cents from advertising.

Pure licensing model = $500

Let’s start with the basic of this. The game would NOT be distributed in 500 sites. The game would be licensed to any site that paid for it. Imagine this: only 20 sites would have the game, but each would pay $25. This is $500 right there. You can argue that portals can do this right now if the game has a primary sponsorship, but they don’t. Why? Because they can have the games for free. The beauty of licensing is that the game is not really freely distributed, but licensed for use.

What’s the big picture?

Well, this could change things a lot. First and foremost, this could mean either the rise or fall of advertising networks as we know it. Rise because portals that couldn’t license games would have to accept advertising not matter what. Fall because the high traffic portals would simply close down any external advertising offer.

This would also benefit more the big developers over the small ones. There would be more money going for developers but the offer would be uneven.

But I see this as a possible change in the business model. A change that is necessary since the right money is not going to the right pockets right now.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making money from flash games

I don’t have the slightest clue of the percentage of flash game developers that know they can make money from their games. Assuming at least one isn’t aware of it, I’ll try to tell you what paths are available.

Sponsorship

Many flash portals are interested in having their logos and buttons on flash games. This happens because people use the buttons and logos to navigate to the sponsor site, which translates to traffic, which translates to money. The more money they have, the more they will be willing to pay for better games since better games attract more portals, more players, more traffic and more money. I’ll give my take on sponsorship soon, but for now you can check these resources:

Flash Game License
Flash Game Sponsorship

Stuff

Although this is usually under the sponsorship umbrella, the truth is that it’s unrelated to sponsor branding. The “stuff” I’m talking about it to include APIs or make a custom version of your game or even selling the games rights to a third party that will then own the game. Hallpass has made the process of API inclusion quite easy and straightforward. The developer uploads a game with their API included and after Hallpass staff look at the game and aprove it, they’ll simply transfer $50. Not bad for a 15 minute job. There’s a world of opportunities around for several “stuff” just get to the number of forums around the net and pay attention.

Advertising

Advertising can be quite good or quite bad. The rule of thumb of advertising is that no matter where your game is played, you’ll get something, truth is, a lot of times you get nothing. Many of the big portals are not interested in games with ads, but you can make a buck if you use it. There’s a balance that the developer will need to find between cashing in a good sponsoring deal and having advertising. There are some offers, I invite you to check them:

CPM Star
Game Jacket
Mochi Ads

Revenune Share

Not all is bad news from portals that don’t allow ads. Some offer revenue share usually with a higher pay when compared to the advertising networks. The most outstanding portal that shares their own advertising revenue is Kongregate. Other’s offer it too like Fizzy.

Competitions

Too many to speak of really, but in my opinion most of them are bad for developers. These competitions either make you plug a logo and buttons in your game in exchanged for the remote possibility of winning a prize. That means you automatically exclude yourself from the best sponsorship arrangements. Others are cool though, even if very difficult. Kongregate and Nonoba offer weekly and monthly prizes to the games with higher ratings or number of plays. Althought the prizes are not that high, the simple fact that you enter the competition by uploading the game and eventually using an API, makes both extremelly attractive.

Advergames

This one is tricky. These are games that advertise a product, service or whatever they are contracted to advertise. You’ve seen it everywhere if you think of it. Little flash banners that want to you to score a goal, or to click it fast to win a push-up competition. For most flash game developers, advergaming is not that interesting since it looses the core mindset of game development and is more (if not completely) a marketing tool. To know a bit more about it, check Wikipedia.

And this is the overview of how you can make money from flash games.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Madness Regent

Madness Day

Madness Day

I was about to start ranting about flash game development, but a little voice in my head -the same that constantly asks me to behave in public- asked me to start nicely, with the best that flash game developers have to offer: outstanding games.

So I thought to myself… well… what game did really impress me lately? And the answer is Madness Regent, created by Tom Fulp, the creator and owner of Newgrounds himself with graphics by MindChamber. The game launched at Newgrounds in the infamous Madness Day and it’s a hell of a game.

A wonderful start to outstanding games.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Outstanding Games | , , , , , | Leave a comment