Flash Truth

…about flash gamedev and business

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.

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

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

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

Flash Game Development Current Status

Flash Game Development is changing.

People are more aware of flash gaming and general free online gaming now that bigger portals offer an added value in the form of high-scores and social networking. Most of the bigger portals left the supermarket approach of displaying hundreds of games for a more social experience. They embed chat windows, allow logins and comments, ratings and so on.

Developers are changing also. Professional teams are moving from the wounded world of casual downloads to a more open market, failing to understand that developing flash games is less risky, but potentially not profitable.

Advertising networks pile up and Google joins the race. There’s a world of opportunity now, but is it worth it and are you taking advantage of it regardless of you being a player, a developer or a portal owner? And are you dealing with the other two sides as partners or as enemies?

This is the status of flash game development today: Exploding! If it’s a good explosion or a nasty one, we’ll see and I’ll be around to tell you about it.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment