How Does a Flash Game Developer Make Money?

People often ask me how I make money developing flash games since they are free for people to play. Hopefully this short article will offer some insight into how to monetize flash games and provide some data that might be of use (or at least interest) to other developers or people wanting to make money from flash games.

The short answer is that almost all of the money in the flash games industry comes from advertising. I make some money from having adverts in games and I have a site (BadViking.com) where I also show adverts. Sites with bigger user bases are able to make significant amounts of money by showing adverts. In order to obtain those user bases these sites pay to sponsor games (among other things).

What that means is that they pay for the right to have their logos and links put into a game. Because of the viral nature of a flash game it will quickly spread to many sites (provided it is good enough) and will be played several million times generating a significant amount of traffic (and therefore advertising revenue) for the sponsor of a flash game.

Of course it doesn’t always work out that way. Some games will flop and the sponsor could make a loss so they have to choose carefully which games to sponsor. Make a good enough game though and you could certainly net a very nice sponsorship deal which is what can make being a flash game developer profitable. At the short end of the spectrum there are games that go for a few hundred dollars but at the other end there are games that can sell for tens of thousands. Primary sponsorship deals make up almost 70% of my revenue.

It doesn’t stop there though. Most sponsors allow you to sell secondary licenses of your game. In these versions of the game you switch out the branding for that of another sponsor with the condition that the new version is locked to one site and is not allowed to spread virally. Obviously these sell for less than the main sponsorship but are still a valuable source of income and currently account for 10% of my revenue.

The rest is made up by advertising, whether that be in the game or on my website. The one source that we don’t get any revenue from oddly enough is our user base. We rely on the users to generate advertising income but they don’t actually give us anything in return for the right to play our games. In some ways that does seem like an untapped source of income but on the other hand it would be a huge shame to have to make users pay for the wealth of free games that can be found on the internet.

It seems though that we are on the verge of change as micro-transaction systems are starting to crop up in many of the top quality games on offer. Happily this does not mean that we are about to see the end of free entertainment on the internet. Almost the opposite in fact. Every day free to play games with higher production values than ever before are being developed.

I myself have implemented micro-transactions in one of my newest games, Toxers. Players can spend a bit of money to buy extras for the game such as fun weapons or in-game currency. I had been hopeful that this could be a great additional source of income without compromising the free to play philosophy but it seems that the majority of players do not share this viewpoint.

Some people do pay for some of the extra content in Toxers which is great but the income from that has been somewhat disappointing. It is hard to tell whether Toxers simply wasn’t the right game for micro-transactions. Certainly there have been some big successes with micro-transactions but we will have to think hard about whether they are worth the extra effort spent developing the additional content in future games, not to mention the negative response from players who don’t appreciate the idea of spending money in flash games.

January 11th, 2011 Articles 14 Comments

Bad Viking

BadViking.com

If you have played a few of my games you may have noticed that some of them appear to be sponsored by a site called BadViking.com. This is actually my own website and I have self-sponsored several of my games (meaning I have my links and logos in the games). BadViking.com differs from this website in that I host games on there from other developers as well as my own.

I hand pick all the games that go onto BadViking.com by playing them first to make sure they are of a high enough quality. I also try to ensure that the site is family friendly, something that I believe to be an important consideration.

The Bad Viking brand was something that I came up with one afternoon after deciding that it was about time I owned a website to publish games on. I drew several little viking characters and refined them until I had something that I liked. The actual name of the brand came later. I bounced a few ideas around, Red Viking, Little Viking, etc before finally settling on Bad Viking. When coming up with a website name a big factor is whether or not the site name is available and I think ultimately that was what led me to BadViking.com.

The decision to self-sponsor some games was made in an attempt to drive more traffic to BadViking.com. It’s a more long term strategy to trying to make money from Flash games since you don’t get the up-front payment that you get with a sponsorship. Instead you have to hope that over time your website will become more popular and that you can make more money from on-site advertising.

I found it difficult to decide whether to aim for sponsorships or to go for the website model but now that I have given both methods a proper run out I have opted to focus my attention more on developing than on publishing. There is a lot of competition in the publishing sector and a large number of already established sites with huge user bases. As a developer you don’t really get the sense that you are competing with other developers. A good game is a good game no matter what other developers are producing around the same time.

I do still maintain BadViking.com and publish games regularly but it is not my main priority at the moment.

September 26th, 2010 Articles Tags: , , , , , 0 Comment

My Thoughts on Micro-Transactions

Planet Basher 2 was my first foray into the world of micro-transactions. For the uninitiated micro-transactions means selling in game content to the players, usually for a low price. This is a concept that is becoming more and more commonplace in the world of video games with even major titles jumping on the bandwagon. It’s the same idea as buying a downloadable map pack for Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, just on a slightly smaller scale (in general).

In Flash games the one problem for developers such as myself who are trying to make a living from it is that the content is free for anyone to play. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we have all these great games that we can play for free and we take it for granted that we can. I wouldn’t ever want to change that (besides, I couldn’t even if I wanted to) but I do think that there is something in this micro-transaction idea.

In theory what it means is that as developers we can spend longer and put more effort into adding features to our games that we think our fans would like to see. Under normal circumstances this content wouldn’t exist but by charging a small amount to players it makes it more worth our while to spend the extra time developing.

So the end user gets bonus content (if they want it) and we get a bit of profit. A win win situation. Of course not everyone sees it that way and there is plenty of opposition to the concept. A lot of people are very against paying for content in Flash games and I can certainly sympathise with that view, but what they don’t seem to realise is that we are not trying to charge them to play the game, we’re offering additional content for those that are willing to pay for it. The game is still free and it’s not just a demo.

Of course, in Planet Basher 2 I made just about every mistake I could have in trying to implement micro-transactions. I tried to add them into a game that hadn’t been designed for them from the start (not a good idea) and I also made the decision to publish the game before I had been given clearance to go ahead with micro-transactions (as I recall it was just before going on holiday and I was in a hurry to publish). As a result the micro-transactions only got added to the game once it had been released by which time the non-micro-transaction version was already widely distributed.

In spite of these errors, it enabled me to see the potential for success using the micro-transactions model and I took away some valuable lessons from the experience. I look forward to trialling micro-transactions properly in the future.

Twitter

Follow me on Twitter
Bad Eggs Online 2

Bad Eggs Online 2

Escape To Hell

Escape To Hell

The Ninth Realm

Falling Elephants

Falling Elephants

Super Villainy

Super Villainy

Hambo 2

Hambo 2

Ninja Bear

Ninja Bear

Bad Eggs Online

Bad Eggs Online

Battle Beavers

Battle Beavers

Synapsis 2

Synapsis 2

The Adventures of Red

The Adventures of Red

Blow Things Up! 2

Blow Things Up! 2

Animal Raceway

Animal Raceway

Hambo

Hambo

Legend of the Golden Robot

Spitfire: 1940

Spitfire: 1940

Blow Things Up!

Blow Things Up!

Toxers

Toxers

Brain Waves

Brain Waves

The Dreamerz

The Dreamerz

Panda's BIGGER Adventure

Panda's BIGGER Adventure

GearCopter

GearCopter

Popopop 2

Popopop 2

Planet Basher 2

Planet Basher 2

Panda's BIG Adventure

Panda's BIG Adventure

Planet Basher

Planet Basher

Orbit

Orbit

Popopop

Popopop

Panda: Tactical Sniper 2

Panda: Tactical Sniper 2

Bubblebot

Bubblebot

Panda: Tactical Sniper

Panda: Tactical Sniper

Salmon Survival

Salmon Survival

Pondskater

Pondskater