July 7, 2009

Free Flash Fallacy

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Danc said...

"...back up his ideas with actual experience."

Best idea I've heard in a long while. :-)

Your post is very correct about the direction I'm suggesting. I'm not interested in free Flash games. It is cool that people are and they will keep making them whether or not premium games succeed in the market or not. It is a big market with plenty of room for all.

I am interested in using the Flash platform and the existing portal network to make smaller, independent developers a living wage. These are slightly bigger games with much bigger payoffs. It has worked for some like Colin with Fantastic Contraption so I suspect it will work for others. There's a repeatable new business model out there that is going to grow quickly over the next few years.

Not all developers are capable of making a living using these techniques. You need to rethink your game design, you business and invest in some new technology. Middlemen can help, but it is real change and it certainly doesn't involve doing the same old short form thing as before. Still it is healthy to strive to building business models where *more* developers can thrive. I figure...why not try to improve the world even if it takes a bit of effort?

As always, I enjoy your posts,

Krystian Majewski said...

Hey Danc,

wow, that's internet for you, the author you critisize tends to be the one reading your critique and actually answering. So now I feel bad because I might have come off a bit too negative here, as I often do. I apologize. :-(

Because in reality, we are on the same side. I'm actually working on a bigger Flash game which I would like to use to try out alternative revenue streams. I'm going to use a slightly more risky approach, one you haven't quite mentioned in your article:

Give the game for free AND charge for it at the same time. Like the demo/full version but with no gate at all. There would be 3 versions:

1. A free full-version of the game for the viral effect and to undermine piracy.

2. A downloadable version with the same content for a small charge. Easily scalable as DLC is.

3. A premium hardcopy version for a relatively high price with additional print content.

I'm curious how that will work out. That's actually why I emphasizes important experience. Where I think your article hit a homerun was where you actually commented on Dan Hoelck's mistakes about the implementation ("buy" button, calling it "cheating", etc...). Setting up the offer is a very delicate thing. The general revenue model you use may less important than how the customer actually experiences it. I guess that's why you mentioned small things like bundles as a separate offer. In a way, the appearance of your buttons may be more important than your business model.

So even if it may not sound like it, thanks for your article. It resonated with some things out I've been brooding on for a while. I'm looking forward to your experiments! :)

axcho said...

Haha! I wouldn't mind if I were the author, at least it's nice to know that someone cares enough to respond. ;)

But what Danc didn't tell you is that he's actually been working on a project to test out all his theories. With any luck we'll see it out soon, with numbers and and a detailed postmortem.

There are also a few more articles coming up that should hopefully address your concerns with item-based monetization and such.

The main thing is that you seem to have an expectation with the word "Flash game" that goes beyond the definition of "game made in Flash and delivered in a web browser" that does not fit with the vision of "Flash game" that Danc seems to be proposing.

When Danc tallies the blessings of Flash, notice that he does not include "easy for amateurs and hobbyists to make". He may be talking about Flash as a platform for large game studios! And I think that would be perfectly valid.

"Cheap and effective distribution"
"Robust technology"
"World class creative tools"
"Thousands of developers making stuff just for you"
"Immense creative opportunities"

"Easy for amateurs to make"

By the way, did you see my article on Ten Ways to Monetize Your Flash Game? I'm curious what you think of some of the other models, like Patronage and Ransom. Also, what do you think about the technical difficulties of Micropayment (item-based) games changing now that so many Flash payment providers are popping up?

james john malcolm said...


A riskier model?
Your model seems to maximise players, while Danc's interest is to maximise revenue.

Both have a chance to maximise profits (for the dev) but I get the feeling Danc's model(s) have the better chance.

Krystian Majewski said...

@axcho Thanks for the excellent response. You are right, Danc's list of advantages of flash doesn't fit too neatly to "easy for amateurs to make". Let me try to flesh out the relationship some more:

"Cheap and effective distribution"
"A poor college student can release a half decent game and within a month, a million people will play it."

A poor college student can release a game that is played my so many people if it is free to play. There is a huge crowd of people keen on seeking out free flash games on portals and forwarding the best ones to their friends on Twitter and Facebook. If the same poor college student would charge for a game, for example in gate-model, his exposure would drop significantly, being somewhere along where downloadable Indie Games are. So suddenly that poor college student has to think about Marketing. Of course, this is all speculation but my point is that we got to where we are with Flash Games because they were free all along. Also, I believe that the community might treat the rise of payment models as a damage and route the traffic away from games that use them. This is generally what we observe in the Web. I'm not saying your game won't be popular when you charge money from players, it will just be significantly LESS popular because you are in a different category then.

"You can make whatever you want."
"Unlike developers of other platforms, there is minimal interference from traditional gate keepers such as big company politics, retailers or publishers."

Adopting some of the more advanced revenue models introduces the gate keepers right into your head. As I wrote, the payment system is so difficult to set up, it takes over your entire game design. Sure, you can make whatever you want, as long it has something to do with sellable items, subscriptions, item rentals or a social network systems. This kinds of limits can be a great source of inspiration but also can shoehorn you into a fixed category of games. Using an Advertisement model gives you certainly more freedom. Do whatever the hell you want and care about the revenue later. The attractiveness of Flash games today is often exactly that - the fact that they can be so charmingly free-style.

@james john malcolm: Hm, haven't thought about it this way, but it sounds right! Thanks!

Of course, I prefer my model for the following reason: The limiting factor on making Money on the Internet today is anonymity. So dealing with this limit it should be a designer's main focus. Monetizing on traffic is simpler once you've got the traffic.

Krystian Majewski said...

Also, if the game itself is for free, you aren't really selling the game content. You are selling items and services peripheral to your content. This gives you more freedom on the price and the scope of the game content. You can actually go HIGHER with the price for payable items because they aren't vital to enjoy the game. And people who want them won't be affected by the price.

axcho said...

"Also, if the game itself is for free, you aren't really selling the game content. You are selling items and services peripheral to your content. This gives you more freedom on the price and the scope of the game content."

I think this a good way to think about it. Good point.

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