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Archive for month: December, 2011
In 2011, I wrote an opus for Adobe’s online Inspire magazine called “How To Make Money With Online Games“. Reading that is really at the crux of this blog article. I recommend reading that before proceeding below.
I am considering my strategy for my next game. I would like to self-finance a game. My goals are to learn more about the business and marketing side of things. I have the technical know-how to develop for computer desktop, computer browser, iOS (iPads, iTouches, iPhones), Android, and Blackberry tablet. I want to assume more risk and ‘own’ more of the profits (or ‘eeek’…, the losses too). Here I complete some research on mobile gaming and plot some strategies.
Where’s The Money? (Click To Enlarge)
Fig 1. (Thanks to TechCrunch)
I read many articles online and chatted with (just a few) game developers who have proven experience (positive and negative) with game development for mobile. Here are some provoking articles.
- I wrote this “How To Make Money With Online Games” and it is awesome.
- Developers spend 100k to make gross 150k with iPhone game
- Revenue potential with iPhone vs Android showing Android wins and android wins (again)
MOBILE GAME CASE STUDIES
- Designer outsources development of Beat The Boss for iPhone
- Dealing with iPhone app piracy
- Advertisers compare ads online vs ads on-mobile
- An iPhone developer’s thoughts when releasing a game fails
- Profits from iShoot for iPhone
- Tiny Tower’s # of gameplays & revenue specifics
- AppData’s stats on Bejeweled Blitz
Base Costs & Sharing
A solo worker who creates his own game can expect these base costs.
- Laptop Computer – 2k
- Software – 0.5k to 2k
- Revenue Share – The major marketplaces (Apple, Android, Blackberry) each take 30% of your game’s price tag. So you take home 0.70$ per download of a 1$ app.
My Next Philosophy
I am an expert at game design and development. However worrying about the profitability has historically been my clients concern. I’m learning how to monetize my own internal projects, to take higher risks, in the pursuit of professional challenge and higher profits.
Game players will respond to a really well polished (loosely speaking) game. However knowing exactly what response is significant, knowing how the game will respond in the marketplace, and how word of mouth will help, are not possible to calculate with certainty.
As of today I think that success with a mobile game takes a lot of luck. Larger game companies can use existing resources to facilitate success (big marketing budgets and cross promotion). Just like a critically horrible, predictable, boring, movie can make 300% profit because of big-name directors and 50% marketing budget, so can a game. The idea of a game that is created by one guy ‘over a weekend’ that makes hundreds of thousands of dollars too.
However the blockbuster game model and the indie crap shoot are not viable for me. No one indie developer sits down with the vision to make such returns. But his success must be compared to the myriad developers who work for a weekend, launch crap, and DO NOT make any profit. The blockbuster game model takes large resources to succeed and the indie crap shoot takes dumb luck or tons of trial and error.
My Dream Team
For ‘a typical iPhone game’ (whatever that is), the team size and set of skills will vary. I’d say at least you need these roles (some can be the same person); game concept designer, artist, animator, lead programmer / integrator, programmer, marketer, project manager, business developer / accountant.Â With a BA in art, my own software consulting company, and 12 years experience as a game developer, I can wear all these hats myself. However, subcontracting some things will play off my strengths, downplay my weaknesses, decrease time-to-market, and hopefully yield a better product.
Each mobile platform works on certain devices (such as iPhone), a development path of programming language and tools to create the game, and has a marketplace where the developer showcases the game (for free but with a share of revenue going to the marketplace).Â Traditionally a game must be created INDIVIDUALLY for each platform – for instance created first for iPhone, the recreated at additional time/cost for Android. I am expertly familiar with the Adobe Flash Platform. With these tools I can deploy to both iOS and Android from the same development path. This saves some development expenses, but offers the additional challenge of making a game work on a variety of screen sizes and devices.
I do not have one game concept in mind. I have several and must choose. I will lead every aspect of concept, design, development, launch, marketing. I can self-fund, but am open to investors. I will subcontract and pay a fair wage to all. I’ll hire at least one artist. Depending on the concept I may hire more artists, more programmers, play testers, and a marketing consultant.
My Next Game
After preliminary research and reflection, I have several possible strategies to creating my next game. It really depends on the outcome I want. These strategies are NOT a wishlist. I don’t say ‘make a cheap game that is really popular and makes tons of money forever’ and I don’t say ‘make a blockbuster like Angry Birds’.
STRATEGY #1 – Minimized Financial Risk
- Reduce production costs – Shoot for a simple, fast, predictably appealing, & addictive game mechanic. Perhaps that means each user enjoys it then abandons it forever – that’s ok.
- Monetize with in-game ads – Sell the game for 0$ and integrate a 3rd party ad-network. There are no licensors to impress with flashygraphics/gameplay and no marketing budget to overcome the barrier to entry of a $1 or 5$ price tag.
- Target high volume of game-plays – Short repetitive gameplay will increase ad viewing. Deploy to both Android and iPhone to capture a wide market. The game’s marketplace profile (icon, screenshots, title, description, reviews) are very important as is a 0$ price tag to drive high volume of downloads.
- Ideal for – learning the ropes, controlling our losses, setting ourselves up for a follow-up title.
STRATEGY #2 – Build a (Game Development Company) Brand
Here, if we want to make many games under the same label, and potentially offer 1st party ads in one game to ‘sell’ our other titles, we want to emphasize a quality product.
- Moderate production costs – Keep the idea simple to moderate in scope, but use a more expensive process to shape it. Start with several ideas. Develop each conceptual and keep the winning idea. Use iterative development (develop, play, revise, repeat) to put your best game forward.
- Monetization is a longer term goal – Our goal here is not to have a game that makes money. Its to build a brand.
- Target critical acclaim – Our goal is to have a portfolio that LOOKS good and receives GOOD REVIEWS.Â Ideal critique could be “This game is incredible fun and polished, however the appeal is too niche for mass popularity.
- Ideal for – Shopping for licensees with a follow-up title. A follow-up that looks sexy, seems massively popular (perhaps unoriginal), coupled with a good brand behind us will attract licensors or sponsors.
What other strategies can we think of?
My Bottom Line
There is much more analysis to be done. Most importantly will be the game concept and target devices. Those factors predicate the costs. Assuming strategy #1 above, a non-scientific estimation would be;
- 3 Months from initial concept, through development, to submission to marketplace. Assuming the game concept lends itself to this calendar. Its very possible.
- 5k to 20k per month in total costs. This includes the amount of and opportunity cost of my own time (vs doing paid client work) and depends largely on exactly what staff is needed.
- We’ll go with an ad-based revenue on a game with a 0$ price tag.
- Does anyone know how to calculate # of ads viewed = # of dollars made for an iOS / Android game? Pleaes leave a comment if you do.
After years of experience with PushButtonEngine from the PBLabs company, I am now learning PushButtonEngine2.
It is radically different syntax, but the same great component-based idea. Much more info to come soon…
[private_Free member]Enjoy this members-only content!
- Download the game source and see how it compares to HTML5 in “FlyerGame for HTML5 (See PBEv2)“.
I think in the short term and the long term, Flash and HTML5 will be viable options for software development. They have things in common, and are quite different in others.
As a game developer with 12+ years experience (almost exclusively Flash Platform and supporting technologies), I was able to hit the ground running with my first HTML5 demos.
My interest in HTML5 is theoretical, practical, and academic.
Theoretical – I am always interested to see how subtleties in each gaming platform suggest specific solutions to game development challenges (graphical display list, 2D vs 3D capabilities, general performance of pushing pixels, mouse/keyboard/gesture input support, game loop (frame loop vs time loop), etc…).
Practical – As a working consultant, it helps me assets new projects and meet the needs of my clients, to stay ahead of the trends. HTML5 is a prominent alternative to the Flash Platform. To offer my clients a competitively thorough assessment of the technologies at hand, its best to learn HTML5.
Academic – As an corporate trainer, school instructor and thought-leader, keeping on the cutting-edge is a welcome and rewarding challenge. When I learned Java, it raised the bar for what I wanted in ActionScript. As I learn HTML5, I find myself wishing it could do things that ActionScript can do. Comparing languages and platforms is a though provoking give-and-take.
Recently, I sat down to research HTML5, do some demos, and address the pros and cons of using HTML5 for gaming.
- Great performance – Add graphics, animation, sound, video and maintain good frame rates. It is not as strong as WebGL or native development (iOS for iPhone for example), but it is great.
- No plugin-required -A potential game player does not have to download any plugin to play your technology. However not all browsers support HTML5, and others support only some of the features. With time more % of the world will have HTML5 enabled browsers.
- Asset-Integration – Integrating assets (video, audio, animation, etc…) is not straightforward.
- No IDE – There are not yet good IDE’s for HTML5 game development, nor good processes for integrating assets
PRO OR CON (Depending on your point of view)
- Browser-dependent – Mobile browsers support HTML5 well. Computers do not yet support it widely. Each browser (theoretically and in-practice) support HTML5 uniquely. So not all features work everywhere.
- Easily readable source code – HTML5, by default, allows users (or other developers) to easily read your source code.
- ‘Standards-based’ – HTML5 is a ‘free’, open technology, rather than a technology owned by one company.
- Many ‘HTML5’ Frameworks – There are MANY competing free and premium frameworks geared specifically to graphics (for games) or for gaming itself. Competition spurs advancement (good), but lack of a single standard any confuse newbies and divide the community’s effort too thin. Some of of them are ImpactJS, Akihabara, LimeJS, FlashJS, MelonJS, GameQuery, ProcessingJS, EffectGames, Aves, CraftyJS, GameClosure, Mibbu, PropulsionJS, IsogenicEngine, and more…
Overall I see that HTML5 offers a viable alternative to Flash for in-browser gaming. I am actively looking for new clients with HTML5 gaming projects. It seems there is no stand-out HTML5 editing IDE, but found a good, free IDE with Aptana Studio.
As a game developer with 12+ years experience (almost exclusively Flash Platform and supporting technologies), I was able to hit the ground running with my first HTML5 demos. The first of which I published as FlyerGame for HTML5 and also see all my other HTML5 posts.
I’m new to HTML5, but aren’t’ we all. I’d love to hear your thoughts (good, bad, ugly) posted as comments below. My goal is to learn what I can, without the distractions of politics between Adobe and the world.