end3r

Current state of HTML5 game development in 2016

43 posts in this topic

14 hours ago, KyleNau said:

 

I think this is a problem of tunnel vision where most HTML5 game developers automatically think in terms of sponsorship for their games.

People have been monetizing web content for decades and there are a lot more options for generating revenue. In fact, the more unique and interesting the game the greater the number of options available to you but it changes the approach to development (both what and how) significantly. Licensing is a business-to-business transaction, the audience (for both parties) is pretty much an afterthought but you can always take your game directly to the audience. Examples:

Dwarf Fortress is free, ugly and devastatingly hard to learn - but earns over $4,000 a month in Patreon (and was doing so for years before that using regular PayPal donations).

John Battagline has a Casual Connect talk about building his business (and going full time indie) with freeplay Solitaire and Mahjong websites.

And quality isn't the metric here as much as niche is. It's worth remembering that Minecraft started as a bare bones Java applet posted free to the public. Spelunky was a Gamemaker game, posted for free with its source code.

We've all been in the sponsorship game and seen how... resoundingly unimpressive the sponsors are. If you're making something special, something interesting, you would be a fool to trust it to them for the pittance they offer. Had any of the above examples taken a sponsorship (allegedly the Dwarf Fortress devs turned down a six-figure offer) they never would have been the successes they came to be.

 

I think that these exemples are mostly outliers. The truth is that even the authors of such games have hard time replicating their past success with new titles, despite having probably more time and resources than when they created their successful title. Just taking a look at Steam, there are legion of indie devs making amazing, unique and interesting titles, yet they cannot make a living from their creations. If success is measured with money then "unique and interesting" is definitely not the criteria that people should look for. Sad but true.

On a side note, I don't know if the numbers are accurate but Dwarf Fortress rejected an offer at $300K (wikipedia). I can assure you that any wise investment of $300K in 2006 would produce a LOT MORE than $4K monthly passive income in 2016 while keeping your initial capital. Furthermore, that passive income while constantly growing would also be much safer than Patreon's money... I can understand money is not the only motivation obviously but if the end goal is financial freedom as opposed to maintaining the same game for the next 2 decades we may want to think twice when such an offer comes...

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25 minutes ago, OkijinGames said:

On a side note, I don't know if the numbers are accurate but Dwarf Fortress rejected an offer at $300K (wikipedia). I can assure you that any wise investment of $300K in 2006 would produce a LOT MORE than $4K monthly passive income in 2016 while keeping your initial capital. Furthermore, that passive income while constantly growing would also be much safer than Patreon's money... I can understand money is not the only motivation obviously but if the end goal is financial freedom as opposed to maintaining the same game for the next 2 decades we may want to think twice when such an offer comes...

I recall seeing direct donations of $6-8K per month through their website before Patreon (maybe around 2010). I'm not sure if they have any other monetization in place but $300K would be a more reasonable offer based on those numbers.

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On 11/5/2016 at 3:37 AM, OkijinGames said:

The truth is that even the authors of such games have hard time replicating their past success with new titles, despite having probably more time and resources than when they created their successful title. Just taking a look at Steam, there are legion of indie devs making amazing, unique and interesting titles, yet they cannot make a living from their creations.

But going to Steam with your game is basically no different than taking it to the portals or app stores. Devs struggle to make money on Steam for the same reason they struggle to make money in the app stores... your game simply becomes lost in the huge ocean of other games and marketing opportunities are limited. That's not what Kyle is talking about. He's talking about creating a great game and then setting up a nice website, implementing proper SEO, and taking responsibility for your own marketing and sales. This strategy works best for games that people are already searching for (e.g., solitaire, sudoku, chess, etc, etc) because it's critical to leverage the power of the search engines (i.e., if your game is "Dawn of the Bloody Dead" then you had better put it on Steam because no one will be Googling for it).

This strategy is not easy, and it's not for everyone. It generally means working to continuously improve and market the game over the long haul. Many devs would find that boring compared to producing new games every week or two, and many devs don't want to be bothered with marketing. There is generally a lot more upfront work as well and it can take a long a time to reach good revenue, even for successful games. But if and when good revenue does start flowing then you will generally have a stable situation as opposed to being on a treadmill of having to constantly crank out new games. This strategy is definitely a viable alternative and there are many devs who have been successful with it.

Jadegames, OkijinGames and Mattia like this

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Quote

I think that these exemples are mostly outliers

All successes are outliers, in any business or creative endeavor.

Developing games is a stupid way to try and make a living, let alone get rich, so the assumption I make is that most of us got into for creative reasons and, if so, I think it's smarter and just as likely to produce success by staying true to that. The difficulty curve is the same regardless.

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11 hours ago, KyleNau said:

Developing games is a stupid way to try and make a living

I cannot disagree more with this statement since I have been full time indie for the past 3 years making a pretty decent living from licensing (non-exclusive) my 10 titles game catalogue.

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On 11/11/2016 at 10:43 AM, KyleNau said:

Developing games is a stupid way to try and make a living, let alone get rich

It's certainly an ambitious way to try make a living (there are easier guaranteed paths to basic financial stability) but as far as careers go this is one of the few where you actually can get rich. The success stories are outliers, as you said, but the guy who made Flappy Bird would never have made his fortune working at McDonalds.

I'd go as far to say that developing games is one of the best ways to get rich as an individual.

Horizonicblue and gaelbeltran like this

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6 hours ago, True Valhalla said:

It's certainly an ambitious way to try make a living (there are easier guaranteed paths to basic financial stability) but as far as careers go this is one of the few where you actually can get rich.

I can actually provide some insights on this point since prior to starting my indie game venture I was working as Technical Lead for an American brokerage firm in London (7 years) and prior to this, I worked for 3 years as C++ dev for a bank in Paris. As a dev in the financial sector you can expect to earn a lot more than in any other sector coupled with high bonuses and generous packages. Financial stability is definitely easier to achieve with these kind of careers.

There are however some constraints that money cannot offset. Money cannot buy time lost (I started my life in an orphanage in Korea and there was things that I really ought to do regarding this personal matter). After 10 years of career abroad I realised that time was just flying by... being able to untie myself from constraints while making money was my main motivation to start with and this is something that I managed to do.

When I told the company that I was leaving to create an indie game business they were understandably surprised. They offered me a higher package, I explained my personal circumstances, they suggested part time freelancing or that I take a short sabbatical leave to focus on my personal situation but I wanted to start anew and have no further constraints. On top of having a much better quality of life now, my indie game business allowed me to focus on these and this is my greatest pride so far.

Now I am not saying you should leave your day to day job today. I had savings when starting Okijin Games and a career (with 10 years experience) to go back to "in case of failure" so the risk was mitigated. I also got lucky as my first game (Zombies Can't Jump) was a success on Windows Phone and on the licensing market so it started generating revenue immediately and I actually did not have to tap into my savings despite a one game only catalogue.

But what I am saying is that it is perfectly viable to make it as an indie dev in the HTML5 game industry provided you pay attention to the right opportunities and partnerships. Some markets in the game industry are saturated by extremely high expectations, this is definitely not the case with HTML5 games where there is so much room for development. If you read the latest news you will even find that 2017 is likely to be full of development.

To debunk even further, last month my work consisted on successfully negotiating 7 non-exclusives for my latest game Sailor Pop ($1100 average per license), adding to this a discounted sale across my older game catalogue ($1300) and passive revenue from rev. share and stores ($2350). I also went to sign a deal for distribution on several Asian Markets. Most of my revenue comes from these type of deals as I do almost no client / freelancing work (in 3 years I took only 2 contracts for clients and refused many more). Client work may feel safer but you are not building your assets, no scaling prospect nor repeat sales which is one of the most important component of a business along with its structure - I believe that if you ever want to grow your income and value over time then this is a dead end.

I also don't necessarily make games on a treadmill, I took one month off development work to offset the burnout from my latest game and I am now 1 month into my next project (my first multiplayer HTML5 game) although I ought to finish all my projects within 3 months max.

There are obviously other viable ways to make it as an indie (like discussed above), we can also look at the exceptionally successful stories, but in the shades there are many ways to make it decently while having fun with less constraints (that's what "independent" stands for after all).

To conclude I also agree that in all this, there is also the prospect of one day making it big with one hit! But in between it does not mean that making a living is impossible.

ozdy, Cyborg_Ean, KirUn and 14 others like this

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Okijin I've always wanted to ask you about your games. Your art is amazing, really good. Do you purchase it or drawing it on your own? 

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9 hours ago, mazoku said:

Okijin I've always wanted to ask you about your games. Your art is amazing, really good. Do you purchase it or drawing it on your own? 

Thanks Mazoku! I do most of the art myself. For Sailor Pop, I bought graphics for some map elements but created everything else.

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My main point - going back to selling a game versus sponsoring - is that there is no one true business model that all HTML5 developers need to follow and I worry that "sponsorship" is the only business model being discussed (and sold) on this board.

The success model exists for direct-selling games as well, if you want to check out Lost Decade Games' or Greenheart Games story. In fact, I wish those guys were active on this board just to offer a counter the sponsorship message.

b10b likes this

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29 minutes ago, KyleNau said:

My main point - going back to selling a game versus sponsoring - is that there is no one true business model that all HTML5 developers need to follow and I worry that "sponsorship" is the only business model being discussed (and sold) on this board.

The success model exists for direct-selling games as well, if you want to check out Lost Decade Games' or Greenheart Games story. In fact, I wish those guys were active on this board just to offer a counter the sponsorship message.

Well, once Apple Pay and Google Pay become widespread, it will be so much easier to accept mobile payments and we can start seeing some real innovation in this area. But until we gain more options, sponsorships will remain the most reliable source of income for most HTML5 game developers.

blackmoondev likes this

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Aside from IAP that Apple Pay and Google Pay could bring. The thing that I most miss in HTML5 is rewarded video ads. This would have very very potential. 

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1 hour ago, ArcticArcade said:

Necro!!!

Just wondering how licensing's looking to you guys at the mo? We're starting to shop around our latest puzzler and trying to figure out whether it's worth continuing with the licensing market.nIs it possible to get OK money with something like this in today's market? http://arcticarcade.net/tmp/jigsawPalace/

Hey, spotted a little bug - if you split your single cell piece it bugs out at JP.Game.makeShape (game.js:1202)

Nice enough game, very simple though so (imo) will likely not make much dough.  Add more wow, more spectacle, rewards, hooks.  Or consider doing something innovative with the concept like multiplayer territorial or head-to-head time attack?

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8 hours ago, ozdy said:

Really like the Arctic Arcade intro and presentation in general.

Thanks Ozdy! Now to convince people who could potentially pay money for it ;)

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