But Kongregate's Greer thinks that Flash games won't really get out of the gaming ghetto until developers are able to charge for them. As it stands now, the advertising and sponsorship money involved is just too small. "Let's say Armor Games gives you a sponsorship for $2,000. You get another $1,000 from ad revenue, another $1,500 from prize money, maybe Miniclip licenses your game for $5,000... you might make $10,000 to $15,000 on your Flash game -- and that's a really successful Flash game."
The relatively low ceilings mean the best developers tend to not stick around in the Flash market, Greer says. "What seems too bad to me now is that developers will have a big success in the Flash game world and then they're kind of forced to change platforms if they want to go beyond that -- they're forced to take a job at EA or scrape and scrounge and find a way to get a game on Xbox Live Arcade."
But convince players to pay
a small fee for the games, and everything changes, Greer says. "If
you made a Flash game that was good enough that you could get 50,000
people to pay $2 for the game -- or maybe it's a hit, you get 200,000
people to pay $5 -- now you've totally changed the economics of what
you can do. You can get a really good artist to help you and work for
six months. You can do deep multiplayer missions, you can do co-op,
you can do all kinds of stuff that isn't really available right now."
Despite competition from free games, Greer thinks convincing players to make these small payments for web games isn't out of the question, as long as the content is there to keep people coming back. His inspiration in this regard is his previous employer, EA's Pogo, which has 1.5 million paid subscribers who get access to slightly enhanced versions of the site's freely available web games.
"Those Pogo people paying $40 a year, they rush to give their credit cards for that because they're spending hundreds of hours on that site," Greer says. "So they say 'Sure, I'll pay $40 if it makes my hundreds of hours better. Flash games, right now, it's something you spend ten or twenty minutes on... why would you pay for that?"