Flash games are hugely popular, and they're cheap to make. But is there money to be made as a Flash developer?
That depends, say the people interviewed for this article, not only on the quality of your games, of course, but more importantly, on how clever you are at marketing them. It's all about having multiple revenue streams, they say; single sources of income used to cut it, but no longer.
Once upon a time, the standard operating procedure for an independent Flash developer was to create a game and then shop it around to the various portals and sponsors to see who -- if anyone -- would bite, says former Flash developer Chris Hughes in Sacramento, CA.
He and his partner Adam Schroeder soon became weary of the process and launched FlashGameLicense.com, a broker site where developers can display their wares and sponsors can bid on them.
"We've had a huge impact on what developers get for their games," claims Hughes, the site's co-owner. "We only allow legitimate sponsors to bid, and the process not only helps to increase the monetary value of the games but also can improve the terms of the agreements, which can sometimes be more important than the upfront money."
The Web site claims to have over 960 sponsors -- including CareerBuilder.com, Cartoon Network, and Simon & Schuster -- of which 200 view the site daily. There are currently about 2,000 games on display, created by the 4,400 developers now enrolled. Since the site was launched in April, 2008, it has brokered over 830 deals totaling almost $956,000 -- an average of just over $1,000 per deal. Sponsors pay no fees to become sponsors; the site takes 10% of each transaction.
How much is the typical transaction?
According to Hughes, of the 20 games submitted daily to FlashGameLicense.com, "99.9% of the good-to-great games get sold while 25% of all the games we've ever had on our site have been sold. At a minimum, developers selling their first game ever -- if it falls into the 'good-to-great' category -- make about $500-and-up."
At "the high end," a not-so-typical example of how lucrative Flash development can get is Auckland, New Zealand-based studio NinjaKiwi, the developer of the Bloons games, says Hughes.
"They have created an entire game-specific site -- Bloonsworld," he notes, "which enables them to make $30,000 a month or more by leveraging their IP in various ways, including creating an online community around their games, in-game ads, banner ads on their site, and various licenses on their games. And that, in fact, is what developers need to do to make their work lucrative -- maximize the number of revenue streams they create."
For instance, developers can allow specific branding in their games for a fee through sponsorships and licenses, sell items or premium content through microtransactions, and allow ad networks like MochiAds and CPMstar to keep ad inventory flowing through their games and to share the revenue with the developer.
In addition, developers can license or sell their IP, enter competitions that generate revenue, and urge gamers to buy full and/or downloadable versions of their games.
Take, for example, developer Colin Northway, whose first Flash game was Fantastic Contraption. Northway sold "premium content" in the game -- a level editor and the ability to view other peoples' contraptions -- for a one-time $10 fee payable through PayPal.
"The game ended up making Colin an amount in the low six figures in only four months," recalls Hughes, "and then he sold the rights to inXile. He still retains a percentage of the revenue share on the game and any version of the game released. That's what I call maximizing revenue streams."