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

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

5 Questions to Badim

I really hope you know Badim. He is the creator of the Elite Forces IP and a force to be reckoned and an example to be followed. He is well known for the stats he continuously updates on his site regarding the money made from flash games. He is the owner of Elite Games portal and a success story to be cheered and watched.

Taking the event of his first indie aniversary, I sent him an email asking if he could just answer 5 questions, which he did. So here goes a brand new category 5 Questions to… Badim.

You have just completed one year of Indie development with considerable success. What do you consider that success to be based on?

I think, because I`m making games that I like – and I like military games like Contra or Starcraft. Besides that I like to read what other people think about my games, and beside reading I like to improve them.

What’s your workflow at the moment? Do you work alone? Hire? or do you have a team?

I`m now developing five new games, few of them alone, one in a team of three, few others in team of two.

Elite Forces is your strongest IP. Do you have plans to develop other IPs or will you focus on EF?

Yes, indeed! Joe’s games are also doing very well. And I do not like to put all eggs in same basket. But one should have the focus and that is EF games for sure.

A lot of aspiring developers read your blog and dream of that kind of money. What’s the best advice you can give them?

Make games that you like, but for others. Listen, improve your games, improve your skill. Reward best feedback.

And finally your portal. Do you have plans for your portal or will it be secondary to games?

It will always be secondary after developing games, but I’m going to improve it anyway, and I’d like to achieve more with it.

Thanks to Badim for taking his time to answer these questions!

December 5, 2008 Posted by | 5 Questions To..., Monetizing, Portals | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Stop complaining, will ya…

This is more of a rant than a “good” post. I’m tired guys, really tired and this is why I’m ranting about. I’m tired of reading “developers” complaining their games don’t get any sponsors. Are you one of those developers? Here’s some news for you:

Your game probably sucks!

Not only that, but your over inflated game developer ego forbids you to see the obvious, which is the level of suck-o-meter your game can achieve. The most astonishing fact is that you don’t give a crap about your game, do you? If you actually gave a crap about your game, you’d take time to make it better, polish it, soften the rough edges. If you cared about the players that will play the game, you would strive to give them the best possible experience. If you cared about the portals from whom you want the money from, you would make the game fit, you would make the game feel and you would make the game breath.

But no… your biggest concern isn’t that the game is not good enough… your concern is that the game is not good enough to give you cash. Your concern is not that you should’ve contracted graphics and music. Your concern is not the game’s financial break-even, if you even know what that is. Your concern is that no one will offer you money for it.

You are not a developer, you are a whiner.

On the other hand, you may not be complaining about it. Maybe you know why you are not getting any money, but you don’t care that much… you do your games for fun, and let me tell you, that’s the most noble thing to do. Maybe you even say “Yeah, getting some sponsorship would be cool, but I’m ok with not getting any” and I really relate to that.

But if you want to make money, if you want to make a living out of this: make a good game, the best possible one you can do and you can invest in and stop complaining, will ya…

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , | 2 Comments

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

Are you a greedy bastard?

I started this blog a couple of days ago with only one subject in my head: this one. Problem is I didn’t know how to write it without slapping the wrong people. And the wrong people in this case would be the guys behind Flash Game License.

Flash Game License

Flash Game License

So, before moving forward, let me start by saying that this post is not about FGL as a community, a service or a company. It’s not about the people that started it and maintain it. This post is about the wrong mindset that has been created by the possibility of quick cash… and do people love quick cash.

The outstanding success of FGL has made a large amount of developers join the FGL community. I don’t have numbers, but I believe that the growth was at a certain point exponential. The success of one developer brought two. The success of two brought four and so on. We have to understand that this success didn’t arrive by accident. What FGL allowed that was never seen before was to have a standard for both developers and portals. A standard place to show, a standard place to look, a standard set of information to use. The downside of it is that the huge developer community gathered arrived there with a purpose: get their games licensed and either you like it or not, that means they arrived there to make money.

As FGL grew bigger and moved more money, more sponsored games; the community grew eager of achieving the same goals of the more successful developers. At FGL and Mochi forums, questions were repeated ad-nausea. “How much is my game worth?” some asked, many times receiving an answer, from a developer, that finishes his post making the same question. This threads by developers for developers caused a constant feedback of false expectations because, truth be told, most games are worth $0.

Yep, that’s it… zero. Funny fact… many developers think every game is worth something and waste enormous amounts of time thinking more about money than about the product that will allow them to get money: the game itself.

So are you a game developer or a greedy bastard? The game developer in its essence is a hard working person. His next game is his most precious possession and he will strive to make it as perfect as it can possibly be. It’s that passion that creates something between good games and masterpieces.

A new breed of greedy bastards are now thinking day after day how much their 1 day game will profit. Game developers are spending one more day to achieve something grand. Money will smile to the developers.

October 17, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , , , | 4 Comments