Flash Truth

…about flash gamedev and business

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…

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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

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

Nonoba

One of the subjects I want to bring to this blog is a vision of the pros and cons of several portals. I considered several of them to start up this category, all pretty obvious, like Kongregate or Addicting Games, but I wanted something more… Nonoba provides that something more I was thinking.

“Why?” you ask… or don’t ask. First and foremost, Nonoba is a great site. It has the basic condiments of that make a modern gaming site: developer profiles, a ton of APIs, great social implementation, lots and lots of things to have both players and developers entertained for hours.

More, developers can make money from it. First and most obvious, Nonoba allows advertising, such as Mochi Ads or Game Jacket. Not that much traffic to make it an extraordinary portal to monetize from ads, but that’s always a good add-on for developers. Second, it holds weekly and monthly competitions, based on number of plays with some juicy prize money. Third, Nonoba has a micro-transaction API which allows players to win money from in-game features, like objects or extra content.

Sounds really juicy but… Don’t you hate when someone says “but” right after something really good is showed? What is the problem with Nonoba then? A developer can see Nonoba in two different ways.

The first is the typical one: you create a game, put up some APIs and hope to get some traffic. This is where the problem starts since most portals pay to have their APIs integrated and Nonoba does not. So, the developer has the trouble of putting their APIs up, testing it and hope the game does good enough to get some money from advertising. You don’t need a lot of math to see this is not worth the trouble most of the times.

The second route is to go for multiplayer and transaction APIs which Nonoba supports fully. First… the APIs are wonderful. Really easy, really good. But the problem with traffic stands again since you won’t be able to sponsor your game or even to distribute it because both APIs are heavily branded with Nonoba logos and worst, Nonoba register user buttons and so on. No portal is interested in having that kind of branding, therefor, the game will not be sponsored or even distributed, bringing the problem of traffic up again.

So… Nonoba is a terrific idea that will go really bad if they can’t build the traffic up. The only developers interested in doing some real work there will be the ones aiming for the prizes (some are really pros at this) or contracted ones, since the rest is almost pointless. Ok, there are developers doing it for fun, but most good developers are pros or getting close to it. All other developers will simply upload the games, hopefully get some hits and that’s it.

Good things: Technology, social aspects
Bad things: Over branding, no payment

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Portals | , , , , | 1 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

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