With 2010 at our doorstep, it’s only fair to have a look back at 2009 and see how it went for the Flash Game developers, portals, and the Flash Indie scene in general.
Luckily for us, a very interesting study has been released by Mochi Media, in collaboration with some of the major portals and developer networks.
Having read various studies on the browser based game market, I decided to compile my readings and thoughts in an easy-to-understand, executive summary on this blog. Although I tried my best to be as thorough as possible while approaching the available information, the opinion and perspective I state in the following post are based on my own deductions, and are not necessarily an accurate depiction of where the industry stand nowadays.
Online, browser-based games are an ever expanding trend. As pointed by Kyle Orland, in the Gamasutra Network, Free Flash/Java games fit perfectly in the recent Business model of free web services. Of course, we all know that nothing is really free, so who or what pays for development?
In-game/on-site Advertising: (combined, approx. 30%) historically one of the first way to monetize games, advertising is still a predominant source of income for developers.
Sponsorships/licensing: (combined, approx. 33%) Gaming portals offer various formats for sponsored games, ranging from exclusive to non-exclusive licenses, including time-limited exclusivity contracts, etc. As gaming portals are becoming more and more professionally handled (Miniclip, Kongragate, Newgrounds, Armor games…) the licensing/sponsorship offers are rising, and the income generated is becoming a reliable source for developers.
Micro-transactions: (approx. 1%) Micro transactions are the emerging trend of game monetization. Online games can be played for free, but players have the option to buy premium in game items, cosmetic changes, etc. The revenue for the developer depends on the distribution contract with the publisher.
Custom development: (approx. 13%) Online Advertising campaigns sometimes rely on custom, branded games to create word-to-mouth and drive traffic on brand sites and mini-sites. Although rare, custom game development can be a significant source of income and/or exposure for a selected few developers.
Prototyping: (N/A) Prototyping is not necessarily a direct source of income, but some very popular Flash games can be ported to console (or the rising Iphone market). Releasing a game in Flash can be a good way to “test the waters” and strike better deals with publishers and end up as custom game development.
The rest : (approx. 23%) Some games are self-published and sustained. Never financed by a 3rd party, they rely completely on their developer’s shoulders. They are either pure amateur work (in the noble sense of the term) and can often be a way to test the market and audience, for wannabe game developers.
State of the Industry
Free web games are popular! a recent 2009 survey by Comscore on the US identified a traffic of 87 million US players, our of 194 million US Internet audience – around 45% of the web audience, a 22% increase from the previous year.
Yahoo reigned supreme in 2009 with 19.4 million US visitors, followed by EA online and Nickelodeon Casual Games (15 million).
Game syndication is also rising. As of May 2009, the content distribution platform, Mochimedia had reached 17 million US players (91 million worldwide) – on par with the numbers of the top 5 of gaming destination sites.
As Advertising money gets redistributed from traditional media (Press/TV/Direct marketing) towards the web, it fortifies this rising browser-based games industry, creating more opportunities for in-game advertising and custom games content.
The Online market can be expected to grow by 11% until 2013 and is the fastest (with the Wireless gaming market ) growing segment for the gaming category.
As the Browser games get more attention and money, we will most likely see an increase in quality and depth of the gaming experience, longest development cycle with bigger, more professional teams. These bigger games will be built to encourage repeated gaming sessions and support the Micro-transaction business model.