Flash Truth

…about flash gamedev and business

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

Contests or how to trick developers to work for free

Contests have been a big part of flash game development since… ever I guess. Back in the days where portals got all the cash and flash developers worked for the simple love of the (usually awful yet addictive) game that having contests was a way of pushing some coins to the developers.

Right now (and let me remind you that this is the end of 2008) a lot of developers look for ways of making money from their games. Either pocket change to buy the next console game or to make a living from their flash creations. This is simple economic evolution of business model. The portals attracted users and for that reason, money was generated. Along the way, portals shared their earnings through investments in sponsorship deals and later on licensing deals.

Contests haven’t followed this evolution. Contests still exist based on the fact that developers want fame and glory, not money. It’s fair to say that the prize is usually money, but it’s a contest, not a business decision. It’s ok to have contests for developers who do it for fun, as long as the developers understand that someone will be making a load of money at their expense.

I’m writting this because Mochi Ads and Arcade Town joint forces to put up a old-school contest. The winners of the contest get sponsorship deals from Arcade Town. Here’s why this is tricky…

1. To enter the contest the developer has to distribute the game using Mochi technology. By definition, a distributed game has no sponsorship or primary licensing value, so by entering the contest the developer hands over the possibility of getting a deal. Mochi Media on the other hand, has a bunch of games to distribute and Arcade Town has the exclusive right to sponsor the games, since no one else will want it.

2. To enter the contest the developer must use the tremendously bugged version control system from Mochi. The reason is simple: As soon as the winners are announced, to have access to the prize money, they have to brand the game with Arcade Town’s logos. Without the version control in place, the already distributed versions wouldn’t have Arcade Town’s branding, therefor this wouldn’t be interesting.

3. In the forums, where the discussion piles up, some Mochi’s employees use a sentence that really gets on my nerves: “You’ll have bragging rights if you win!” What these folks are saying is: it’s not important that you are potentially loosing money as long as you can brag about it.

The problem with contests is that it’s a way of getting the usual stuff (traffic) to the usual people (portals) with less money to the same guys (developers). Almost all contests are based on this: you have to brand to the contest holder or you cannot launch your game or you’ll loose any chance of a sponsorship deal. Contests are a way of tricking developers to work for free.

November 20, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , | Leave a comment

What’s happening to Mochi?

I have to say that it is with a heavy hear that I write this post. Why? Well, I really like Mochi Media. MochiAds are absolutely amazing, a breakthrough in terms of developer, publisher and advertiser offer. Add to that the value added services of leader boards, encryption and statistics, both through MochiAds for your revenue advertising needs or MochiBot for your overall statistics needs and you have a hell of a technical solution for whatever you want to do with your game.

But I fear that Mochi is starting to feel the pain from their own growth. Community is way too big and flooded by a lot of developers and portals not worried with quality but rather the quick buck and Mochi, which by definition wants to make money, opens their doors wide to them. Actually anyone can get into Mochi, it’s that easy, just create an account, log on and hope for those cents coming in your way.

Mochi recently partnered with Google in order to have Google Ads within MochiAds. While this is certainly good news since Mochi suffers from a severe problem of CPM in many non-English speaking countries, most developers won’t even notice it. There are too many developers there, so, too many games, so, the CPM has to be divided by all. Mochi staff acknowledges in their forums that there are a lot of unpaid impressions. This can only happen because there are too many games.

As CPM keeps getting lower and more developers join Mochi adding crappier and crappier games, the route to the continuous success seems to slip Mochi’s horizon. Developers, specifically the ones that bring a load of hits, will probably hit another service, looking for higher CPM and there’s some serious competition building up.

Mochi Media has the best technical offer, but developers didn’t go there for that, they went for the money and if there’s more money elsewhere, that’s where they’ll go, leaving Mochi with the newbies and the bad ones.

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Advertising Networks | , | 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