Is there money to be made in Flash game development? It depends -- in this feature
, Paul Hyman explains the role revenue streams and clever marketing play, with insight provided by notable developers such as Sean Cooper (Boxhead
series) and PixelJam's (Dino Run
) Miles Tilmann.
Cooper has a long history in game development going all the way back to 1987, when he joined Bullfrog Productions and worked on titles such as Syndicate
and Magic Carpet
. He also spent 11 years at Electronic Arts, following the publisher's acquisition of Bullfrog, until 2006 when, on a whim, he built a little Flash game.
He spent eight days creating the title and received $1,500 for it from a sponsor. At that moment, he decided to strike out on his own and continue to develop small Flash titles:
"The next step was to create more games, many of them incorporating what would become his signature Boxhead brand, which he describes as 'a collection of fast-paced, zombie-killing games full of action, guns, and loads of blood.' In all, his Web site now contains five Boxhead games plus three under his Wone Games brand and the first in his newest Shadez series brand.
'The brand is the key thing for me; it's number one,' he explains. 'If gamers like the first game in a series, they'll come back for more when you release the sequels. It's just like the cinema business. That's what drives the revenue.'
Much of that revenue now comes from sponsorships -- which Cooper says currently go for about $20,000 per game -- and from load-in ad revenue produced by the 1,009 web domains that carry his titles. There's also the online store on his web site that sells Boxhead and Shadez shirts, buttons, and mouse pads. His plan is to add a fourth revenue stream shortly -- in-game advertising."
For a game like his highly successful Boxhead: Zombie Wars
, a release which took him six weeks to build, those revenue streams add up to approximately $53,000, which the title has generated since March 2008. Cooper estimates how much a good Flash game developer can make in a year:
"'Let's say I can write 10 games in a year,' calculates Cooper, 'perhaps three or four Boxhead games, one Shadez game, and a few others. The new starts can bring in, say, $18,000 each, the less-well-known Shadez series games can bring in, say, $25,000 each, and the four top-end Boxhead games can generate, say, $50,000 each. Which means that one person can -- with a lot of hard work, meaning every day of the year -- expect to bring in close to $400,000 a year, I think.'
In addition, Cooper intends to allow other companies to develop Boxhead games which will entitle him to 50 percent of the revenue for the privilege of using his brand's name.
'But remember,' warns Cooper. 'That first game generated just $1,500. The bigger money doesn't come until you've become popular and built up your brand. It took me four other Boxhead games before I produced one as popular as Boxhead: Zombie Wars. Until then, you just have to be highly motivated. What motivates me? I live every day wondering how I'm going to eat that night.'"
You can read the full feature
, which includes more details on Flash game developers taking advantage of multiple revenue streams, as well as insight from Chris Hughes of brokering site FlashGameLicense.com (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).