Today I wanted to post about something many experienced developers talk about frequently. Its a common gripe among the more experienced in the flash dev community and I felt it would be beneficial to offer my advice to other less experienced developers who may be seeking advice. Many may ask why no one has really spoke out about this before and I think I may know the reason. Its purely because a lot of developers have a “everybody for themselves” mentality. They feel like if they help then they are taking away from themselves, and in my opinion its having the opposite effect. If anything at all I hope to get some of you thinking and help in some way. Now to talk about the actual issue at hand.
Now before any of you ask what makes my advice worth anything I would like to state that I have been developing and selling games since I was 13 (about 10 years). After I sold my first game for over 25k I even took on a marketing job for a year and sold more games for over 10-13k. (meeting my employers expectations greatly) I had a lot of insensitive because when I met expectations I received bonuses which were very generous. Through my work I have been able to start and support a family of four while being able to purchase my first home (which resides in a nice neighborhood) and I am currently debt free. I am by no means trying to brag just trying to make the point that I have been able to live off of flash games for a long time. So I would like to think I know what im talking about. 😀
A lot of experienced developers (including me) believe that newcomers or the less experienced may be hurting the flash market, let me explain why. For whatever reason these developers enter the market and accept bids from sponsors that fall short of the games actual value. This could be due to lack of money, knowledge of their games value, patience or pure willingness to accept small amounts for their games because money is money to them. Or these devs could be feeling the pressure when sponsors are unwilling to raise their prices and are forced to accept. This has created a type of never ending cycle where many developers are not being able to reach the full potential for their games.
Basically this is what is happening. These new developers will create these very appealing games of great quality(not all new devs are so gifted :D). They will pore their heart into it for weeks/months/years and then (due to lack of experience) they will throw their games onto FGL and accept a fraction of the games value. Lets be honest, most of these guys have no idea what the value of their game is and are happy to get anything at all so they jump at the opportunity. Some of the more experienced will say “Hey that means more for us”, when in reality that is wrong. The problem is that these guys are really hurting the market.
Imagine this if you will. Your a sponsor and your out to find a good deal.(nothing wrong with that, us devs want a good deal as well, but a fair one for both parties) Your strolling through the FGL games or your email and there is a lot of variety/quality titles. (quality of the average game has greatly rose over the years as well) Lets say you want a physics game so you continue to search and come across an appealing physics title. You check it out and it has all the qualities your looking for. Shortly after you decide to bid in hopes of snagging it for pennies. Now the game you just bid on was created by a veteran of flash and they have a decent understanding of the games value. So as someone who is experienced they are unwilling to accept such small amounts and would rather wait it out. They may contact you and let you know they had a different price in mind or even just ignore the bid all together. Regardless in a lot of cases you will continue to search and bid on another similar game. In this next case this developer is new and less experienced. They will be happy you bid and after waiting a short period (couple of days) will launch the game into last call. Three days later you are now the proud sponsor of this awesome game and you got an great deal. You will surely make a nice profit now.
Did you notice what just happened? (You) The sponsor came across two similar games, both of similar quality and mechanics but of course took the cheaper version. Why wouldn’t you? They are both very similar and one developer was willing to take it for a much cheaper amount. It will generate close to the same amount of traffic to your site so its a win for the sponsor and the new dev.(in their mind, but not really) Whats happening is developers are making it really easy to get high quality games for small amounts. In effect it is driving down the value of all games in the market. Devs sell them cheap, sponsors dismiss devs looking for higher amounts and opt out to get the cheaper versions. The only way to really get a fair amount anymore is to make something not available on the market. That way sponsors will fight over it. Even that may not work some of the time as well. Primarily because the sponsor can turn around and sponsor 10 less unique games for cheaper. (which generates the same revenue or more) Its making it harder for most of the guys who do this as a primary source of income to continue doing what they love. So in the end the veterans are forced to accept low amounts to just make it or don’t have the games sponsored at all. Both of which can be a big hit financially.
Its almost like an “outsourcing” effect. Why hire someone for 100,000 a year when you can hire someone else to do the same job for 10-15,000 a year? I believe this has become a real problem in the industry and the main problem is because these guys are not educated when it comes to the marketing aspect of flash games. Nor do they have experience in business practices/negotiation. A lot of these sponsors are business men and have an upper hand because they know how to manipulate situations in their favor. They enter the situation knowing what to say and do to get you to crack/sell.
So here is my advice. Everyone needs to be willing to sweat it out and really do your homework. Figure out what kind of revenue your game is able to generate and come up with a reasonable price for your game. You can do that by looking at statistics of similar games. (plays/clicks ect..) Also be willing to wait it out.(be patient) My first two games sold probably 6 months after I finished them but in the end I hit my target amount. Do not be afraid to PM experienced devs and ask for advice. I myself am willing to help anyone out who asks. Make the effort to get your game in front of sponsors (email them with a private link to your game), get them to bid, build interest and be patient. The more guys interested the better it is for you. Always take all bids seriously, don’t write someone off because they give you a low offer. My second game sold for 5k because I was willing to talk with a sponsor and be patient when his initial offer was 300. Never dismiss an offer or burn any bridges. The internet is a funny thing. You can easily take what someone has said completely the wrong way and over react and intern destroy future business with a sponsor. Always and I mean always assume the sponsor meant no harm. Your not doing yourself any good if you get defensive. Also when you are speaking with a sponsor you really need to think of it like a game of chess. You guys can be friends but when selling a game its business. Everything you say is giving them hints about your life and situation. Letting them know that your broke, need food, diapers for your kids or electricity is about to go off is not going to get them to raise their offer in most cases. A lot of the time it will have the opposite effect. It will hint that you need money and its not going to hurt them if they wait until your forced to accept. I am betting they will be willing to wait 1-2 weeks if it means they save some money. So if anything you need to let them know all is great and life is good and you are in no rush. If they think you have all the time in the world then they will be more willing to speed up the process by giving an offer worth considering.
I think that’s all for now. I am afraid I am beginning to ramble and I want to keep all the information I have stated relevant. I am just hoping I am able to help some of you guys who may be confused about what to do once your game is ready for sponsorship. If I am able to do that then today was a productive day.
For those of you don’t know we are currently working towards other gaming markets.(steam primarily) Its really motivational to know a community is behind us and rooting us on so be sure to keep up with the blog/comment if any of this stuff interests you. Once we are successful I hope it will offer some inspiration to others who have similar goals. I know it would have been great/inspirational for us to watch someone walk a path we were wanting to take. Unfortunately not many blogs like that exist so maybe we can feel a small part of the gap. Also feel free to follow us if you like posts like this because I try to offer advice/wisdom when I can. Its just hard because I always have so much to say.