Flash Game Development Journal

I’ve read a few great development diaries from other people such as Emanuele Feronato and I thought I’d do my own for Binary Space and for any other developers who are walking down a similar path. I’m not sure yet exactly what I’ll write about week to week, so I’ll just write when I feel I have something interesting to talk about.

Small Biz
At the moment our game is at very early stages, and we’re familiarizing ourselves with how the whole industry works. There’s just the two of us, a programmer and myself (artist/designer), so the whole thing is run very much like a small business I suppose, with the owners doing a bit of everything whilst trying to steer the ship. So yes we are in this to make money as well as make fun games. I have another business that is doing well, so I can afford to spend as much time as I like on the game. I’d say its one of the harder things to do, trying to perform your main roles whilst trying to figure out how to host a website, what is a CPM, what is a CPC, whats a good CPM/CPC, how much bandwidth will we need, what’s our game going to be worth, what’s a good company name and a million other little things. But I feel like I’m getting a reasonable handle on all of this now, so I’ll be writing about my expectations, thoughts and plans, without giving too much away about our game in the short term!

Numbers and Best Case Scenarios
I must admit I’m a little surprised at the numbers for flash games, specifically: the low cpms for advertising and high game hosting fees almost cancel each other out, and depending on various factors, my maths say that we will be either making a small loss on our homepage or a small profit. I’ve looked at a ton of dedicated host options and content delivery networks, both of which are fairly expensive. Then there’s also Mochi’s free hosting option, which I’m looking into closely. I can’t help but think there must be a catch, so I’ve emailed them to confirm!

Home Page Numbers
If we look at some exact numbers, a successful game can do 30 million plays in a year, and I’ve heard from other developers that they still get up to 5-10k visits a day one year after their game is released.
For this example, I’m going to take Mochi’s standard CPM (money they pay per 1000 views/plays) as a very reasonable 0.50c, and I hear Adsense is roughly the same for entertainment. So for the home page, getting 10k visits a day (yes this is best case scenario), you should expect to make an un-whopping $10 a day or roughly $3500 a year, possibly double or triple that daily rate in the first few months of release, I’m yet to pry too much into other developers to get this figure. Guessing numbers of views on your home page is always going to be mega-ballpark because it all depends on sponsor deals, your own marketing efforts, whether you were Dugg, how good your game is, and so on. So say $1-5k on your home page a year per great game…

Outside the Home Page
For everything outside your home page, you’ve got sponsorships and mochiads. For a game that does 30,000,000 plays, mochi might give you around $10,000, and you might manage another 5-30k from sponsor deals again depending on how much they like your game. I have little idea what the upper limits are for these guys, obviously they will be trying to part with as little money as they can, whilst you will be asking for as much as possible. Flashgamelicense.com is certainly a good site, in that it definitely creates a bit more competition among sponsors to get your game.

Wrap Up
So for a killer flash game you might make tops, $50k a year. That’s using the standard advertise, sponsorship, mochi route that most people take. Depending on how long it takes you to make this game, 50k is either paltry or awesome. Either way I swear money must be getting left on the table somewhere. I mean, 30 million or so plays in a year or two – that’s a really, really big number. If you did that in other game industries, you’d have a massive hit on your hands, but with flash you might make an average wage. Yes the scales are much different, but when you work out an hourly earn, its pretty average. Plus when you consider that other free games like Mafia Wars on Facebook are killing it to the tune of millions a month, the same should be possible to at least some extent with flash games.

You could say its a combination of a flooded market, mostly sub par games, and unfortunately low advertising rates that causes it, and that’s possibly true. However I’ve been in business for a little while, and while I mainly want to make fun games, I also find it fun and challenging to make money! So while our first game will follow the tried and true, standard portal/advertising/sponsorship formula, that will just be to get our bearings, get some experience under our belts, and then we already have some plans for something different for the next game.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Other Sites
If you’d like to read some existing dev blogs/reports then:

Emanuele Feronato
Fun Face

Elite Games
Gaming your way
and
Gamasutra: “Wheres the Cash in Flash”
… are all great places to start.

7 comments

  1. Sam Horton says:

    Nice Article, Jay!

    It’s really tough to make any predictions about Flash Games, whether it be A 5 minute game about throwing shoes at presidents, or another Zombie Slayer, it’s all up in the air.

    A developer earning 50k for a single Flash game is not unheard of, but at the same time, most games fail to come anywhere near that mark. Sponsors/publishers make the real money, by running a “successful” portal with a constant stream of new games to keep the players coming back. An individual can hardly imagine competing with that, unless they have strong IP to build on (Casual Collective, Bloons, etc.)

    Success stories like theirs are great fun to read about, but it’s much more rewarding to build something you love and watch it take off, even if it doesn’t make it to that $50k mark.

    Best of luck with your new game, and definitely keep going with the blog!

  2. Colm Larkin says:

    I tend to agree with Dan Cook recent post (see http://lostgarden.com/2009/07/flash-love-letter-2009-part-1.html ) about making money from flash games; why not charge the _player_? Basically the problem is that mochi-ads, sponsorship, adsense… ALL that money comes from advertising revenue at some point, putting a hard limit on how much money there is to go around.

    It’s definetly something we’re looking at very carefully right now; our original plan was to do as you said and release our first game with the standard ‘free/ads/sponsorship/licenses’ flash moneymaking model just to get through the (difficult) experience of releasing a finished game for the first time. The intention being to make something with a ‘real’ revenue model after that; now I’m leaning towards doing from the get-go. We’ll see!

    Anyway, keep up the good work, you’ve made it into my RSS subscriptions :)

  3. Jay says:

    Thanks for the feedback guys. Colm, I hadn’t seen that article yet, thanks for bringing it to my attention. We have had numerous talks on a paid version, and we were leaning towards doing it for the sequel… but that article is very convincing! Our game has an added difficulty in that if we want to sell it, we need to pay certain ‘license fees’ which are quite high. We’ve got a couple of ways of measuring the potential success of the game before release, so depending on how that goes we will make a decision. We will know in a month or two either way.

    Cheers,
    Jay

  4. flash says:

    I’ve been reading a few posts and i’m adding your blog to my rss reader , thanks !

  5. You make some good points in your blog. I found this site on bing while searching for some puzzle games, I have added you to my favorites :)

  6. Nice Article, Jay!

    It’s really tough to make any predictions about Flash Games, whether it be A 5 minute game about throwing shoes at presidents, or another Zombie Slayer, it’s all up in the air.

    A developer earning 50k for a single Flash game is not unheard of, but at the same time, most games fail to come anywhere near that mark. Sponsors/publishers make the real money, by running a “successful” portal with a constant stream of new games to keep the players coming back. An individual can hardly imagine competing with that, unless they have strong IP to build on (Casual Collective, Bloons, etc.)

    Success stories like theirs are great fun to read about, but it’s much more rewarding to build something you love and watch it take off, even if it doesn’t make it to that $50k mark.

    Best of luck with your new game, and definitely keep going with the blog!

  7. i love your game and im telling everybody i know.
    please make sequels you have somthing great running here. :)

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