Here at GameFromScratch.com, we have run a number of guides on how to create games but nothing on how to actually make money off them. The following is a guest post by Ben Chong, an HTML5 game developer and founder of marketJS.com.
The advice, views and opinions expressed below are not necessarily those of GameFromScratch.com.
It’s been 6 months since the last guide about monetization was written. Considering how fast things are moving with HTML5 games, it’s timely to write a new one. Please note, this guide chooses the path of least resistance to the money.
Chrome Web Store
Probably the easiest to begin with. Host your game, run ads on it. Two ad networks to trust are
- Google Adsense - variable rates, but it depends a lot on what’s on your game page. Try inserting HTML5 related keywords, because companies are spending more money on HTML5-related ads. You’ve probably seen countless “Ludei ❤ HTML5 “ and “CocoonJS” ads. Capitalize on this, and make sure some of that ad spend trickles into your pocket.
- Ad4Game - this network displays pure game ads. You’ll be promoting other games from large game studios. eCPMs of about $1.50 - 2.00, and they do very timely NET30 Paypal payments. Contact Angelica, tell her that your game’s on the Chrome Web Store. She’ll be delighted to set you up.
If you’re feeling brave, try out Google’s In-App Payments API. It might take an hour to figure out and a few more to integrate with your game. That is, assuming that your game actually functions well with in-app purchases.
Being featured matters a lot in the Web Store.
A normal featured game fetches about 1000 plays/day. A game featured on the front page of the games section, right at the top gets about 60,000 plays/day, or 60x.
Google loves it when you showcase what their engineers have built. If you want to get your game featured, remember to integrate some of Google’s APIs: WebGL, Chrome Fullscreen, Web Audio, etc. You can’t obviously integrate all of them, but having a few will give you a boost over other game devs. Once you’re ready, start pitching playable games to Google developer advocates. You can find them all here.
Costs: your server hosting fees, integration time and pitching time
iOS and Android
Deploy your game using one of the many wrapper tools out there, like appMobi, Ludei’s CocoonJS, GameClosure and Spaceport.
Ludei seems to be the only one publicly telling the world how great their engine is. They’ve got the entire monetization suite ( iAds and in-app purchases ), which is always a bonus for developers.
The upside is, once you manage to successfully master one of the tools above, you get access to virtually 100% of the mobile app market. Whether people will actually download your game is an entirely different topic.
Before launching your game, remember that you have only one shot at this. If your game flops in the App Store, you might be able to save it by doing free-app-a-day promotions/price manipulations. However, the download spikes you get from promotions do not last. Your game will be piled under 1000 new games being published each day. Find your niche, and market wisely via developer forums like TouchArcade. Don’t forget to pitch to blogs like Kotaku, they always enjoy a good story.
- appMobi charges $99 for a game dev toolkit.
- Spaceport takes 10% of anything you earn.
- CocoonJS and GameClosure are free, but you need to personally contact the companies.
- hours in learning how to use the tools and integrating with your game.
- iOS dev account costs $99/year.
- Google Play account costs $25/year.
Facebook canvas games don’t get the attention they deserve, but they’re still wildly profitable if done right. The virality from game invites/activities are what you should be focusing on when designing a Facebook game.
Ads and virtual goods (Facebook Credits) work well here. Note that Facebook doesn’t allow google ads running, so you need to look for other game-focused ad partners like Ad4Game.
Another caveat: not all HTML5 games will work perfectly on Facebook, because they still have a percentage of users that have older browsers. What to do? Your best bet is to politely ask them to download and use Chrome, or the Google Chrome Frame plugin.
- server hosting fees
- integration time with Facebook APIs
Mac App Store
Not as popular as the iOS App Store, but worth a shot. One of the earliest HTML5 games we noticed here was Onslaught Arena.
Google is a bit picky when it comes to selecting partners, on grounds of maintaining the user experience. You need to have a reputation and a hit game to be considered ( think Triple Town ).
Intel App Up Store
Intel gives you access to the PC app market. No hard numbers on revenue, but they run a small fund to encourage developers.
Pokki gives you access to the desktop games market. Wrap your game inside their SDK and deploy! We don’t have hard numbers of how well their games monetize. Last we know, they ran a HTML5 games contest which proved lucrative.
Mozilla App Marketplace
Should launch in late Q3 2012. Firefox has about 25-28% of the browser market. Putting your games here should theoretically produce similar revenue numbers to that of the Chrome Web Store. Mozilla has bigger plans ahead, particularly in mobile. Would be interesting to see if this ties in well with the App Marketplace.
Sell distribution rights
An increasing number of publishers are looking to pepper their own game portals with fresh HTML5 content.
These publishers are looking to license games that run on the web and mobile ( yes, games that run on the mobile safari/android). There are a few ways you can capitalize on this:
- sell exclusive rights for a high price ( $1500 - 2000+ ) to one publisher/
- sell non exclusive rights for $500+, to multiple publishers.
- sell distribution rights to publishers, and take 60-80% from all ad/virtual goods revenue generated
You are free to negotiate any type of deal with publishers. Most developers prefer upfront payments, but if you think the publisher has impressive reach, doing a revenue split from ads/virtual goods might be a smart move. A top developer recently made 4 figures a month from Google ads alone.
How do I find these publishers?
- time to optimize your game for the mobile web.
- time to integrate your game with the publisher’s APIs ( if required ).
- Our startup, marketJS connects HTML5 game developers with publishers. It’s free to use, and we’ve got a good database of publishers hungry for games. Upload a game, and start negotiating!
So many choices
There’s no single best option to monetize your games. Build a team, adopt a shotgun approach, analyze results and seek advice from other developers.
Can I go full-time making HTML5 games?
Yes, you can make a high 5 figures/year by making HTML5 games. This excludes development contracts and funded projects. Snag a few of those, and you might even hit 6 figures.
Pick your battles, test each market, and keep polishing. The games industry is very competitive, but extremely fulfilling.