TurnStyle In The Wild
So, my game TurnStyle has been out about 3 days now roaming about the internet and I just felt like reporting the current stats and my experiences in case anyone is interested or curious about this aspect of the Flash game / business space:
This is not only my first Flash game but also the first thing I have ever really released onto the internet as well so it has been a real interesting learning experience!
If you don’t care about tech mumbo jumbo if you skip down near the bottom you can see some funny stats from which countries are playing this game and my personal thoughts on my experience so far.
Distribution and Ad channel technology I used – MochiAds:
I decided to go with MochiAds to do my game distribution. It is non-exclusive and free so I am also able to make other deals as well. One of the main benefits they offer is that they “wrap” your Flash game in a preloader that contains customizable and controllable ads from their network. So, the further your game spreads on the internet the better for them and you. You get a percentage of the revenue from the “impressions” that the ads receive as people wait for your game to download. I like that people have the ability to skip the ad by clicking the ‘x’ because let’s face it- ads are annoying. I also then think that let’s face it, I have to eat too.
Another great free benefit that MochiAds provides you is that the preloader that wraps your Flash game is encrypted as well as version controlled. This means that I can update my Flash game with bug fixes, new links, new ads or whatever I want in ONE location and that anyone playing the file (even if they have downloaded or are linking to a SWF somewhere on a portal) will receive a “diff” of the changes in the version. All seamlessly while it downloads. This is really incredible in my opinion. It has been a joy to work with and I have made quite a few tweaks and changes to my game already and it is nice to see them being picked up by all the portals which have received a copy of my game. The encryption is a nice benefit too I would guess though I don’t know much about Flash obfuscation yet I just hear it slows down someone decompiling your code a little bit.
Along with the distribution channels your game is automatically placed in you receive a full stat report at your MochiAd dashboard page. This is where you setup all the keywords, game thumbnail, description, instructions etc. that are distributed when a partner of MochiAds receives your game. I have watched my game spreading to over 40 sites now all without me having to do any further work. They do this because they benefit as well as the developer the further the game gets. They also have a more detailed stat service through MochiBot which I also signed up for which provides further detail on people who saw more than the ad. In other words, people who actually played your game.
The stats are a blast to watch! Especially for someone who is a complete stat and number junkie like myself.
Other portals I have released my game on:
Kongregate was the first portal I uploaded my game on myself. The submit process was very easy and only involved a few steps. You must have a Kongregate user account obviously but besides that it is really straightforward to get your game up there. You fill out the form with info on your game, upload a thumbnail, check any of the API options you may be using, and also let them know whether your game is “exclusive” to the Kongregate site or not. Options like this one, along with the stats API question control how much your percentage of the ad revenue will be.
Since Kongregate has a deal with MochiAds already they will suppress the display of your ads in your MochiAds preloader. The preloader download bar still works fine but no ads will display. They do this for many reasons and it seems to make fair sense.
Anyway, back to the percentage points: You get 25% of the ad revenue that your game receives just for uploading it to the site. If you also integrate either (or both) of their APIs (HighScore and Statistics) you receive an additional 10% for this bringing your total possible to 35%. Now, if you make your game exclusive to Kongregate you can receive a another 15% bonus bring the grand total to 50%. A nice thing about the exclusive is that they do let you turn that off if you ever feel like putting your game elsewhere and you will revert back to the 25% or 35% share depending on your other options.
Once your game is uploaded and published it will show up on their new games list. At this point it is up to the portal users to rate and view your game past a ‘under judgement’ period. The judgement period is a timeframe where you can’t view the rating of the game yet when you go to rate. I guess the idea is that this helps early reviewers judge with less bias. In actuality most early commenters during this phase like to post their ratings in the comment feed below the game. Once your game has received 75 ratings the rating number is revealed to all. If your game does well enough it will move through the rankings accordingly. TurnStyle seemed to fair pretty well for a first attempt. TurnStyle’s rating seems to fluctuate around 3.25/5 stars over there. It is ranked around 240/3200 in the puzzle game category currently on their site too. I guess that isn’t too shabby at all with everything considered. As of this post date my game was played over 3500 times, rated over 450 times, favorited 17 times, and earned me 1 fan.
This is the only other portal I have submitted to so far. Similar to Kongregate it followed a manual form submission process. Once your game is up on the site it also undergoes a judgement mode where people have to vote and review it for it to acheive it’s placement ranking. The system is similar enough to Kongregate’s that I won’t go into great detail here. They also offer an API but I haven’t looked into that yet. I am allowed to have my MochiAds viewed up there and they seem to get me a pretty good eCPM rate so far based on my MochiAd stats so that is good.
It seems TurnStyle faired a good deal better on Newgrounds than on Kongregate. My game got 7 reviews: 6 perfect “10s” and 1 “9” for a review rating of 9.9. The voting system seems to indicate that my game has a vote rating of around 3.5/5 stars with 298 votes received and over 1200 plays.
The cool news was the first day I submitted it my game did well enough to get voted 6th Most Hottest Game for Monday! That was pretty exciting. I missed the coveted 1-5 spots that would have gotten my game even higher in views. It was still on the front page though just didn’t have the icon next to it. Oh well, pretty good for first Flash game I guess.
Traffic Stats and Ad Revenue so far:
So, I wanted to provide all the above data for context to what I will now share so that other developers can see how these stats relate to what distribution technology I used and where I have manually uploaded it. I will detail the rough number of hosts my game has reached (remember only two of which I submitted to myself) along with traffic numbers, impressions received, and revenue received so far. I do this because I have found it really helpful seeing the other Flash developers who have been transparent about this business space so that all may learn to be better.
TurnStyle Stats: 3 Days in the wild
Dates: Feb 28, 2009 – Mar 02, 2009
# of Hosts: 42
# of Countries: 101
% of Plays by Top 5 Countries:
39% from Finland (this is crazy.. also almost half the leaderboard scores are from Finland too.)
20% from USA
7% from UK
4% from Canada
4% from Germany
I have also made about $3 dollars from my 3500 plays at Kongregate through their system.
So, while this game hasn’t been a financial success yet at a whopping $6 of ad revenue so far the education that I have received and continue to receive is fairly priceless. Also, ad revenue is more of a long tail approach as my game (and future games) spread through the internet. I try to visualize a day where I may have 10-20 games roaming about each bringing me a couple bucks a day potentially. Well, that ads up when these little critters can “work” 24/7. Heck, who couldn’t use an extra 10x $1 a day.. that’s almost $4k a year when you think about it. So, while $6 earned so far on 200 hours of work at least might initially discourage some- I believe that is a short-sighted reaction. There is also the idea that while most of your games will end up relatively “unplayed” in the scheme of things- you only need 1 or 2 to really “blow up”. I think the more quality games you can release over time the better.
In order to work on a different angle to monetizing the Flash business space there is also the world of licenses and sponsorship to consider. I have signed up for an account over at FlashGameLicense which lets you sell licenses to released games and find sponsorships of various types for unreleased games that portals buy. It allows bidding and reviewing and other matchmaking services to allow Flash developers to get a fair price for good work. I am excited about the potential that FGL offers to do this kind of work fulltime. I will be posting more experiences regarding those adventures in later posts!
Aside from all the business aspects and traffic aspects I’ll share a few personal joys from this experience:
The thought tickles me so that potentially 15,000 people have seen my illustrations and played my game. I can’t believe I didn’t do something like this earlier in my life because it is so much darn fun! There is something so tantalizingly weird about hitting refresh on your browser while watching your MochiAd stat page and seeing that every 5 seconds 20 more people have tried your game. It blows my simple mind.
I would also like to thank all my close friends and friends of friends that have played this game and offered their feedback. In the anonymous world of the internet it is still the opinions of those I am close to that I most value hearing. I can’t wait to make more games!