With or without sponsoring?

Posted by arnaud on April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized |

How to earn money with flash games?

For most casual flash games, the usual way of earn a few bucks is pretty simple:

  1. Find a sponsor (hopefully)
  2. Earn a bit through adds

These are the two main sources of income for most developers.

The sponsorship is a game portal which pays you a certain amount to put its logo when the game starts. They can pay up to several thousands for that. Advertising, well, you know, stuff like mochiads where you see ads when the game is loading and you get a few cents per thousands visitors.

How much do indie developers earn?

Like always, the best of the best get the biggest part of the cake, with sponsorships over 10 000$, but this is very rare. But if you’re a newcomer, just forget it, you won’t get that! It’s more likely you will land an average game and get a few hundreds. Or that you won’t find a sponsor at all, and earn just a couple of bucks. That’s the reality of the game development scene: it’s overcrowded and extremely competitive.

Here are some links about the people’s earnings, as you will see it’s very low on average. Making a living out of it is really a challenge!


How to succeed?

Its very tough. New games are coming out on a daily basis and somehow have to stand out of the crow. Nobody cares about a small crappy game. Look at game portals, the top rated games are played over and over. On the opposite, once you go below the top 100, nobody play these games anymore, they will not even look at it. It’s a survival of the fittest. The few top ones earn the glory, the others are dead and forgotten.

You have to stick out of crowd. Moreover, even if your game is great, there is no guarantee. Last time, I was in the FGL chat and I hear about a guy having spent 750k to develop a new high profile game …it resulted in a total flop. The guy was broken. This is a bit of extreme of course. What I want to say with that is that we always have the best intentions, that we have dreams, that we think we will make an amazing game …but then, it turns out that when the game is made, it’s not as fun/good/entertaining as we thought it would be. Or simply that it’s not people’s taste.

Sponsorship: why do portals pay to have their logo in your game?

Because it’s advertising for their site! It’s a highly efficient and targeted advertising, brand building, that will redirect a lot traffic to their site. If a player enjoyed a game, he may click on that link to play more game like this. As a portal, it’s the best way to gather new users. Better than google ads and that sort of thing. So basically, both sponsorhip and ads are a form of advertising.

The title: …why go without sponsoring?

Well, because a third source of revenue comes into the picture: microtransactions. You know, when you pay one dollar in the game to buy a “premium” item. This was the source of the rise of all the high profile facebook games like FarmVille and such. Microtransactions are way more direct and seem to be way more profitable than advertising, which are a crappy source of revenue.

Until now, these microtransactions were used almost exclusively by such high profile games. However, they become more and more accessible, through APIs and such.

I heard recently of Whipflash, a new publisher coming on the scene and focusing on microtransactions games. Their long-term goal is to make flash game sites less dependent on Google as their main revenue stream, by offering them a new revenue source: a share of microtransactions.

And you know what their deal is:

Placing the games on your site will allow you to have a 33% revenue
share from all revenue the game generates from your portal!

33! …one third of the income just by having the player play on your site! I don’t know what you think about this, but I find it huge.

It’s a bit a monopoly. Like Facebook taking 30% revenues, AppStore taking 30% revenue… I mean, they do almost nothing. They don’t develop the apps, they don’t support it, etc. But they take a third of the revenue. And all this is only possible because they are the central “place”. Facebook is the biggest online community, if you want to spread your game, you “have to” go through Facebook and you “have to” accept their 30% fee. You have no other choice. Likewise for the App Store, you have no other choice than using it. It’s a bit of a rant, but it’s the reality of today.

…still …why go without sponsoring?

So, back to our sponsorship. Basically, they want to sponsor you because it will redirect traffic to them, which will in turn bring them profit back because of the ads and now the microtransactions.

So, instead of accepting their sponsorship and putting their logo in the game, perhaps you could put yours. If you make your own little game portal, it may even turn out quite interesting. Remember, you get 33% all what players buy there, advertising, etc. If you manage to make a site pleasant enough, it might even work out.

Is it worth it?

Of course, building such a portal is A LOT of work. And developing both games and a portal is probably too much. However, there may also be an opportunity there! All this microtransaction ecosystem is at its infancy. Many portals do yet really support them and stick to “good old casual flash games”. That’s where I would like to cite Wayne Gretzky:

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation. You make a little nice game portal, focusing on quality microtransaction games. No ads. And you offer them a 20% revenue “tax” instead of a 30% …or even 10% if they put your logo in the game.

This will give them an incentive to publish on your portal, and to make advertising for your portal if it’s big enough to be “worth it”. Or course, the competition won’t stand still. They will quickly adjust prices accordingly. But still, even managing to achieve that I would consider as a victory. It would bring what I consider a more fair share to game developers.

However, there are of course big hurdles to tackle. The first is actually attracting enough players to that hypothetical website altogether. The other challenge is the payment API. The one who controls that has the key to control the money flux. Currently, each major portal has its “digital currency” …which is also a pain in the ass since the developer has to make extra work for every portal. Simplifying this and making it more accessible to developers and portal commissions would be a great asset as well.

…but, as my many other project ideas, this is probably too much for me to tackle. :(





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