Thursday, July 2, 2009

How to Monetize Flash Games Efficiently

It seems like you see a title like this at every conference and on every website. And they all indirectly state the same thing. Go ahead and take a guess.

Give up?

Quantity, not quality.

Yup, that’s the key. You will make a lot more money if you focus on pumping out small generic games than large original games. Which is preferable: $2000 for a 2 week project or $6000 for a 3 month project? The choice is fairly obvious here. Unfortunately, the more preferable choice usually requires “selling out” or sacrificing artistic integrity, which a lot of artists value over financial reward, especially when the financial reward generally isn’t much more than an average salary.

There’s a few people who manage to make decent money without selling out, or while still making quality flash games (Dino Run, Auditorium, and Brad Borne) but those are few and far between.

In march I attended the first Flash Gaming Summit before GDC. It was nice meeting people I’ve known online for a while, and seeing adobe show off my game to promote a flash player 10 feature, but other than that literally every single talk was about the business aspect of flash- how to make money and how to attract players. Nothing about how to make good games, just how to make profitable games. There’s actually surprisingly little overlap between the two. Nobody even bothered to mention the games themselves at the talks, it was ALL how to market it.

Now I don’t mind learning a bit about how to market a game, but you know there’s something wrong when the marketing completely obscures the product being marketed.

I have not made much money at all from my work. I’ve made flash games for 5 years, and barely earned the equivalent of half a year’s average salary. I didn’t need much money though, I was in high school.

Anyway, I’m sick of seeing talks and articles about monetizing flash games like there’s some sort of secret hidden money button. There is no secret, all of those articles and talks say the exact same thing but worded differently.

Nobody ever seems to discuss how to make a good flash game, it’s all about what tradeoffs you can make to make more money. Sure I can make one simple dart throwing balloon popping game and release it 50 times with a different number next to the title and make 50x more money than had I left it at one, but do I want to? I can clutter up a game with video mochiads at the beginning and between levels (and during timed gameplay while the timer keeps going). I can offer DLC where you buy the upgrades to the zombie shooter with real money and alienate all but a few players, but profit tremendously from those few players. I can even do all of the above.

But, I don’t want to. I use flash as a medium for getting my ideas out there, experimenting, and testing out new concepts using relatively quick development cycles. I know there’s other people like me, a lot of other people like me, yet none of the presentations at the FGS, GDC, or anywhere else reflect that.