Business Category

  • The final Kyobi round-up

    On May 9th I posted the second part of my report on how my game Kyobi was doing. This is the final part of the report, nearly 2 months on.

    Kongregate Summary

    The Kongregate referral payments have now finished. When I sold Kyobi Kongregate were my Primary sponsor. They offered me $200 upfront on referral payments (basically any time someone clicks one of the Kong logos in my game, I got paid for it). The last time I wrote they had just paid me my first months worth of clicks (just under $800). Since then I received 2 more payments, one for the month of May at $1548 and June at $382. I know that if GameJacket hadn’t died then the June payment would have been a lot higher. That is now the end of the agreement I had with Kongregate, and it certainly was an unexpected bonus to the games earnings.

    GameJacket RIP

    Of course as we all know by now, GameJacket have gone bust. This means I never got paid the $1000 they owed me, so I have to deduct that from the previous total Kyobi had made.

    iPhone Sales

    Kyobi on the iPhone has enjoyed moderate success, and there is still a constant trickle of sales coming in. Between launch in late March and the end of May it has sold 5802 copies (an average of 77 copies per day). Because of the way Apple report sales I cannot give figures for June yet. But I do know that they are much lower than April and May. Summer time, plus now being an “old” game don’t help. It was fascinating to see how the sales changed. Some days it would shift nearly 300 copies, and then drop down to 100 the next day. Chart position played a really important role, as you can imagine. Right now it still enjoys a healthy ranking in European countries and, strangely enough, Japan. Bear in mind that I only get a percentage of sales (the lions share going to the publisher) but it still equated to $1563 to the end of May.

    More small sponsor versions

    I sold two more sponsor branded copies of Kyobi since the last report. Both were very small scale and only netted me $200 in total, but it’s still all helpful. Incredibly off the back of these sales I also sold two copies of one of my first ever Flash games, Abombinaball, so the knock-on effect was pleasant to say the least :) It also gave me two more portal contacts that I can approach when my new games are ready.

    Final Summary

    So how does it all stack-up now? Well taking the figures from the last report into account ($10,105). Deducting the $1000 GameJacket will never give me ($9105). Add in the new iPhone sales, sponsorships and Kongregate payments. And the total from my little game stands at $12,798. At the current exchange rate that’s £7833. Of course you then need to deduct the UK tax I have to pay from this.

    In “real life” terms after tax that equals what I get paid from my day job over the course of a couple of months. So does this mean I could quit my job and do this full-time? Well, no. For a start I wouldn’t actually want to. While extremely demanding my job is also very satisfying. I work with a great team of talented people in one of the most creative places in the UK. That alone has value to me. The other important factor is that this money came in dribs and drabbs over a period of 12 weeks. That is not helpful when you have fixed mortgage payments, food to buy, etc. I know a lot of people who can and do work like this, and are very successful at it, but I just don’t really have the self discipline needed to stay on-top of all the paperwork. I admire greatly those that do.

    And it’s a risk because not every game I make will be this successful. Perhaps I’ll never get this level of success ever again. Of course I’m optimistic that the game I’m working on at the moment is original and fun enough to do well. But that’s like saying I’m optimistic that my lottery numbers will come in next week. Granted it’s not a gamble on the same level, I mean you can’t sit back and look at your lottery numbers and go “damn, that’s a fine piece of work there”. But there’s an element of risk in all game releases, and logic or fairness doesn’t always win. You never know who you are up against that month. Or what the overall feeling of the gaming world will be. And you never will.

    So to conclude I just want to say that whatever you do, keep on coding, and keep on making great games. Because there is definitely a market for them. Many people far greater than I ever will be demonstrate every day that there is a life to be made in building beautiful Flash games. And living from those proceeds. If you are one of those people, I tip my hat to you. If you aspire to be one, you have my best wishes for your success.

  • 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.

  • Flash on the Beach 2008 – As good as the hype?

    Having returned back from Flash on the Beach 2008 yesterday I finally have time to sit down and collate my thoughts.

    I had been looking forward to FOTB for months, the constant emails from them bigging it up, the “you must be there!” attitude coming from the blogosphere, the list of impressive speakers. It was set to be 3 days of Flash heaven. In reality it didn’t quite pan-out like this. I think my expectations were a bit too high to be honest, and should I attend again I’d know exactly what to expect, and crucially which speakers to avoid.

    I have full respect for anyone who can get up on stage and talk to hundreds of people. It’s something I know I’d have real trouble doing well, so I do genuinely admire them for it. But what I don’t admire are speakers who are highly dis-organised, easily distracted / side-tracked, or who delivered extremely content-weak sessions.

    A couple of the sessions were truly terrible from an organisation point of view – minutes of wasted time spent messing around in iTunes, or frantically trying to find a file somewhere on the hard drive (is it really that difficult to organise your presentation material into a single folder or set of short-cuts on your desktop?). It’s not like they didn’t have enough time to plan for the event.

    A few sessions also felt like little more than a narrated showreel of work (most of it quite old). This really bugged me, I wanted to learn new tricks and tactics to take home and play with, that is why my company had spent good money to send me there. But in reality this didn’t happen half as much as I would have liked.

    But it wasn’t all bad and some of the sessions were truly incredible. The absolute highlight of the whole 3 days for me was Joa Ebert talking about “Audio Tools Private Parts“. This was a superb session and truly inspirational. He covered object pools (and how they applied to their new Tween engine), lots of detail of approaching the seemingly simple problem of bending a cable around an object (lots of graphs, lists, sorting methods, etc). He also alluded to the fact that their AS3 disassembler is nearly ready. In short, the guy is a genius and I have absolutely maximum respect for him.

    I guess his session appealed the most because I’m a coder, I’m not a Flash “designer”, I didn’t acidentally fall into coding as a means to get my artwork to move. I’ve always been a coder. So it takes clever code to impress me. Joa’s 10 minutes of “live coding” in the Jam Session was excellent, but full respect to the C64 emulator (written in AS3) with sound support too :)

    I’m still kicking myself for not going to Andre Michelle’s talk, but it clashed with a session on decompiling and hacking SWFs which I hoped would be far more in-depth than it actually was (but again I can appreciate why it stopped where it did).

    Keith Peters did a good talk on playing around with verlets. It wasn’t complex stuff, but it was nice to see it presented so well. All of his slides were in order, his code easily accessible, his timing spot-on. I liked the little bits of history he dropped into it as well (about the real mathmaticians behind it all). It convinced me to pre-order his new book, not because I think it’ll contain anything earth shattering, but just because he has an obvious love for this stuff, and that’s always a good thing to inject into your book.

    I regret very much not hearing Grant Skinner, Richard Lord or Rob Bateman talk. They all clashed with things that sounded more useful in my everyday work, but sadly didn’t turn out to be the case.

    If I go back to FOTB I’ll definitely know how to pick better, which should hopefully increase what I ultimately take away from the event. But I can tell this much already – if none of the uber-skilled German guys are talking next year, I certainly won’t go.

  • Is it possible to earn a living making Indie or Casual games?

    There’s another fine post over at Grey Alien Games asking (and answering) the question: is it possible to earn a living making Indie or Casual games? The article itself is interesting reading, and while it focuses on the PC side of game dev the core concepts still ring true. The comments section throws some more ideas into the pot too.