The further adventures of Kyobi + Updated sales figures

This is the story of the little game that just keeps on traveling. Since writing about my experience selling Kyobi a couple of weeks ago I just wanted to update you on what had happened since…

Part 1 – Kyobi won 3rd place in the Whirled Single-Player Game Competition

This was both unexpected and great news! I’ve blogged about Whirled before, the anarchic but beautifully freeform Flash virtual world. They run a quarterly developers competition where games are split into two categorys: multi-player and singer-player. Obviously Kyboi is about as far from a multi-player game as you can get, so that category was out of bounds for me (which is a shame as it has significantly bigger prizes!). But I spent some time making Kyobi Whirled compatible, uploaded it and hoped for the best.

And it paid off :) (thanks Chris/Adam!!) It paid off to the tune of $1000 in fact. You can see all the winning games here.

What I find interesting about Whirled is that my game is for sale in the shop there. I get in-world credits from these sales, but I also get my share from the developers bling pool too. The terminology might be a bit “what the hell?” but once you get over the pimp-my-ride lingo it starts to make sense. In short: for as long as your game is on Whirled, and brings people to Whirled, you get a cut of that. This translates into real money. If your game brings people to Whirled and they sign-up, you get 30% of whatever they spend for life. That could add-up significantly, so don’t ignore this fact.

You can also sell “furniture”, “backdrops”, “toys” and “avatars” in the Whirled shop. So I pulled apart the graphics from Kyobi, put them into the shop and now they are on sale. Every day people are buying these items. I took the background from my game, changed it a little and now it’s a room background to buy. And people do buy it!

Here is a picture of my room, decked out with most of the Kyobi game items available on sale:

whirled-room

I believe this is an easy avenue for income, both real and virtual. Given that you made the assets for your game already, it’s a no-brainer and I’ll certainly be doing it again.

Part 2 – Do people REALLY click those sponsor logos?

This question gets asked a lot, most recently here on the FlashGameLicense forums. Honestly, I was quite skeptical about it at first. When Kongregate made me a Primary offer for sponsoring Kyobi, the money was paid as an advance on the income these referral links would make.

To be brutally honest I took the offer and ran, never expecting to hear anything again. I’m glad to say I completely misjudged this part of the deal and my first months payment was just shy of $800. I will get paid another 2 months worth of referrals before the deal ends. While $800 doesn’t sound like a huge sum of money (and on its own it isn’t) you have to remember Kongregate sponsored the GameJacket version of Kyobi – so not only do I get money from someone clicking “More games” for example, but also from the pre-roll ad at the start. Combine these together and with a really popular game that travels well it can add-up significantly. I consider the total plays Kyobi is getting across all versions to be really good, but there are lots of games that do significantly larger numbers of plays – and if they are being paid per click there is some very serious income potential here too.

My advice? Don’t under-estimate these kinds of offers from sponsors. And never under-estimate just how valuable those “more games” links are to your sponsor. People really do click them, in their thousands. So sell your game for a decent price accordingly!

Part 3 – Skill Gaming – A great new revenue stream for Flash Developers?

On the most basic level Skill Gaming sites are sites that offer payments based on how well you play the game. It’s a form of gambling really, with payouts being based on who else is playing the game, how well they are doing, etc. King.com is an example of a site that makes a seriously large amount of money from this market. But there are many others, and I believe this is a growing sector in more ways that one.

At the moment King are sponsoring games left right and center, because they drive large numbers of people to their site – lots of whom then go on to spend real money. Most (if not all?) of the King sponsorship deals are just standard Primary ones though, they pay for branding and your game is a magnet for players to their site.

skilladdictionHowever this is changing – new sites such as SkillAddiction.com are starting that take your game, convert it to be more “skill game” focused and then you can get a percentage of revenue it generates on that site.

I have been contacted by two different companies, both of whom want versions of Kyobi for their sites on this basis.

There are some factors to consider when it comes to skill gaming – first of all it doesn’t suit all types of game. They have to be quite specific in nature, often they have to be completed within 4-5 minutes, and you have to be able to know the sorts of scores that are possible. For example I’ve had to change Kyobi to make it a lot harder at the start, and to make the play just get progressivly faster until it finally beats you – the current game doesn’t work like this, I inject “breather” levels into the game ever few rounds to give the player a break. But obviously you can’t do this when they are trying to win money.

Lots of current skill gaming sites buy-up Flash games just to pad out their sites and draw people in, then they hope those visitors will explore the “other” side of their site. But as I said this is changing, new skill gaming sites are appearing that will use your game directly with the players, offering pay-outs when playing it. And if they offer you a percentage of this then there is massive potential here. Contact the guys at SkilAddiction.com to see if your game would suit their site, it could benefit you.

I’ll report back to let you know how Kyobi fares in this market soon. I still need to finish my SkillAddiction version of it for release (an insane workload during crunch time for an MMO delivery has prevented this so far sadly)

Part 4 – Oberon Media version finally passes QA!

Oberon

After what seems like an eternity Kyobi finally passed Oberon Media’s QA process. Their API is pretty complex to work with, and you have to build your game running under a JavaScript test harness that simulates calls and events to/from your game. Certainly quite far removed from the simplicity of most sponsors APIs. It’s not massively challenging, but definitely more time consuming.

They also required a huge load of paperwork to be signed, and contrary to all the other big sponsors (Shockwave, BigFishGames, etc) you have to actually print and post the paperwork to them. Sending via UPS cost me nearly $80. Why they don’t accept it via email like the rest I don’t know. On the plus side once you have sent them one contract you don’t need to post them another in future, should they buy a new game from you.

Their payment terms are also extremely poor compared to every other sponsor out there. You are looking at a wait of around 60 days from the date the game goes live across their network. 60 days is an incredibly long time even for standard companies, let alone an indie developer. On the upside of course I don’t rely on this money for anything essential like the mortgage or feeding my family. But if you do then bear this in mind if ever dealing with them. It’s not a deal breaker at all, I’m just saying be aware of it. I also don’t believe the payment should be from the date they release the game. It should be from the date they approve the QA of it, but that’s another story.

So why go through all this hassle? because it will place the game across a number of sites with extremely significant visitor figures. They run MySpace games for example. I’d wager that the volume of plays my game gets when it hits the sites they licensed it for will be significant. I’ll report back later in the year to see if my thoughts confirm this.

Sadly Oberon don’t offer advertising royalty payments on Flash games (they do for ActiveX/C/Shockwave games). Originally when I first started talking to them it looked like this could be a deal, but things changed internally and it fell away. Had they been able to offer me an ad cut then I actually would have sold the game exclusively to them.

Part 5 – Shockwave.com version finished. Now devoid of Nazi imagery!

It surprises me that sponsors are still licensing Kyobi. I don’t know why it surprises me,  I mean it’s still a fun little game – I guess it’s just the “Flash mindset” where you assume your game is only popular and of interest to sponsors for a month or so, and then is swallowed up in the ever changing tide of new releases. I’m quickly realising this assumption is wrong, and there is actually a bit of a long-tail for game sales, just as in every other medium.

The most recent sales was to Shockwave.com, who contacted me via FlashGameLicense (that site is worth every single 10% they ask for!). Their offer was a good one, and the requests were simple. Logo here, few button changes there, basic API for highscores.

Then they asked if I could change the title page. Apparently the girl didn’t sit well with their demographic.  When I commision work from artists I always insist that they create it over as many layers as is possible within Photoshop, so it’s easily changed. This meant I was able to open the title page, hide the girl layer, shunt the logo around and create a new more “subtle” version. All-in about 10 minutes work. I was happy, they were happy. Job done. Or maybe not …

pinkblockThen the “Nazi” issue hit. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’ve played Kyobi you’ll know it involves throwing coloured blocks around. Apparently there was an issue with my pink block. The problem was that it featured a triangle. A pink triangle.

Highly confused by this being an issue they explained that a pink triangle was what Nazi’s used to brand homosexuals with while in concentration camps. I had always assumed the pink triangle was the gay pride symbol. A little Wikipedia reading later and it confirms both are true. It’s origins are one of the horrific brands used by the Nazi’s, but these days it is more commonly associated with the paramount opposite of this.

Also the actual symbol is an inversed triangle. The triangle in my game is the other way up.

Anyway, not wanting to be seen to promote Nazi’s in any way at all (even if it feels more like it would be promoting gay pride if anything) I agreed and modified the block, turning it a brown colour instead.

So there you have it – the Shockwave version should be released on May 12th and will be 100% cute girl and Nazi-branding free! If you’re going to sell a game to Shockwave be prepared for artistic change requests, and whatever you do avoid any of these shape/colour combinations!

Part 6 – (the penultimate part, honest) – iPhone game sales update

I reported last time that the iPhone version of Kyobi was enjoying success thanks to a promotion on the hit game iDare. I wondered if this might just be a flash in the pan, or if the sales rate would be sustained. Thankfully it’s still going strong and shifting 3 digits worth of copies per day. The amount varies a lot, but averages at around 250 sales a day, with the usual peaks and troughs you’d expect. I don’t know for how much longer this will last of course, but it does mean I’ll see at least one months worth of decent royalty payments from it. And of course it won’t ever stop selling, it’ll just reduce back to a much lower rate – but even this will ensure a nice small payment coming in each month.

Part 7 – Summary

Wow, I had no idea this would turn out to be such a long piece when I started. I could probably have broken it into 6 different blog posts. But if you got this far (and actually read up to here rather than scrolled) then thanks and I hope you found it interesting and some of it useful.

Factoring in new sponsored versions of Kyobi, the unexpected Kongregate payment, the Whirled prize money and money I know I’ll receive from iPhone sales so far, I can report that this one little game has now netted me $10,105. I know there will be more iPhone and Kongregate payments to come over the next two months (although I expect them to be lower). And maybe another portal may even buy it, who knows? :)

I’ve learnt an awful lot from this one game. Things I will take into my next game for certain. The Whirled link-ups, the possibility of skill gaming revenue share, not to under-estimate referal payment offers and the long-tail of sales.

Posted on May 9th 2009 at 9:03 am by .
View more posts in Business. Follow responses via the RSS 2.0 feed.


14 Responses

Leave a comment
  • May 9th 2009 at 9:57 am

    Probably the most useful share of experience on this meter. Really thanks for sharing :)

  • May 9th 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Brilliant breakdown, Rich. (Though I am surprised you didn’t add an affiliate Whirled link 😛 )
    Thanks for sharing again, this kind of post is really useful and inspirational.

  • May 10th 2009 at 12:20 am

    Thanks, that’s a really interesting and useful write up. Congrats on such a great, well performing game.

  • May 12th 2009 at 7:59 am

    An excellent article! Tis very encouraging for devs like me who are still inexperienced in the field of making successful games. Keep it up :)

  • Dan Efergan
    May 12th 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Great post Rich. Interesting.

  • May 12th 2009 at 10:00 pm

    I’m *still* getting occasional sponsorship requests for Chronotron, which is over a year old now. They’ve tapered off quite a bit, but there’s still a long tail. I still get checks from Kongregate every month too!

    The pink triangle thing is a little ridiculous. Especially since it’s not even the right way up! Shockwave made me change a bunch of still for Chronotron too, but they paid well, so no complaints.

    I made sure my wife got Kyobi for her iPod Touch. It’s a great game, and I’m sure it will keep money flowing to you for a long time!

  • May 13th 2009 at 9:45 am

    Great post mate, really interesting reading – nice work!

  • May 16th 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I lol’ed at the part about the pimp-my-ride lingo! Great job on making a great game, enhancing the whirled game community, and winning the contest!

  • May 26th 2009 at 6:23 am

    Great Post!

    it’s very interesting to learn about this world (game developing) with real examples

    i’m learning a lot, Thanks!!

  • July 17th 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing, very useful insight. And thanks for the feedback / encouragement on FGL :)

Make yourself heard