The world of free-to-play browser-based Flash and Java games has largely thrown the gaming world's familiar business arrangements on its head. In this latest Gamasutra-exclusive feature, Kyle Orland examines the different ways of monetizing free Flash content.
Do ads work? Potential players can easily be turned off by overt marketing, but striking a good balance can be effective with the right tools:
"MochiAds' system has a leg up on portal sites like Kongregate, Hsu claims, because their ads will stay with the game no matter how many sites it eventually ends up on. "Advertisers are trying to come to terms with how content is spreading on the web," Hsu says. "More and more we're in a fragmented market. Not everybody's gonna visit major portals anymore -- it's not about Yahoo or MSN or AOL. We're moving beyond the walled garden and people are spreading out to MySpace and Facebook -- everybody has their sort of niche sites. As these things spread, content spreads. We're trying to educate advertisers that it's not so much about the site they reach, but the people they reach.
Others, like Kongregate's Jim Greer, feel that being able to charge for their work is the developer's ticket out of the "gaming ghetto:"
"As it stands now, the advertising and sponsorship money involved is just too small. 'Let's say Armor Games gives you a sponsorship for $2,000. You get another $1,000 from ad revenue, another $1,500 from prize money, maybe Miniclip licenses your game for $5,000... you might make $10,000 to $15,000 on your Flash game -- and that's a really successful Flash game.'
The relatively low ceilings mean the best developers tend to not stick around in the Flash market, Greer says. 'What seems too bad to me now is that developers will have a big success in the Flash game world and then they're kind of forced to change platforms if they want to go beyond that -- they're forced to take a job at EA or scrape and scrounge and find a way to get a game on Xbox Live Arcade.'
You can now read the full feature
, with more on how developers are -- or aren't -- making a living in browser-based games (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).