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ION: Fuel's Robbins Exposes Secrets Of An Advergame Developer

In this session from the ION Conference, Fuel Industries' Brian Robbins, whose company makes advergames for major brands from Jim Beam to McDonalds and beyond, discussed why "making fun games associated with well-known IPs without paying license fees" may
Speaking at the recent ION Conference in Seattle, Fuel Industries' Brian Robbins discussed the ways in which developers can use brands and marketing as a viable source of funding -- especially for unique approaches and styles of gameplay that traditional publishers might be uninterested in. Founded in 1999, the company produces advergames for major brands including Jeep, Nokia, Fox, McDonalds and Jim Beam, and is well-positioned to discuss the state of the market for the burgeoning advergaming space. "The most important thing," Robbins begain, is that "you've got to make a fun game in this space. A brand may have come to you and pay you to make just a little Flash game, but all the principles of good game design still apply. The game has to be fun. But the great thing about advergaming is just that: the opportunity to make fun games associated with well-known IPs without paying license fees." "Also," he continued, "you get to work on unusual games that wouldn't otherwise be commercially viable. Since the brand is paying you to build the game, you don't have to worry about how conventional the game design is." Robbins went on to describe several projects that Fuel Industries had worked on to emphasize these positive aspects of working in advergaming, such as for General Electric's Ecomagination initiative. Fuel developed a game featuring seeds: players plant seeds and an algorithm grows a unique plant based on the command input of the users. Fairies and Dragons is a game Fuel created with original IP, which they sold to McDonalds. McDonalds distributed it for them as a result: "with huge reach," Robbins stated - the first-ever digital Happy Meal toy. Fuel's shortest projects take 6 weeks, but most of them take "3 to 6 months -- with some of the longest taking a year and a half." Robbins also discussed the fact that advergames are often used as part of a wider advertising campaign. "Sometimes we work for ad agencies and sometimes they work for the brand," Robbins explained. "We also get to use lots of different kinds of technology. A lot of our developments are casual games in Flash, but we've worked on a variety of other platforms as well." In conclusion, Robbins discussed the evolving revenue streams from advergames -- although currently most of their revenues comes from flat fee payments, some of the more recent deals are moving towards a fee plus a percentage of sales, which "ties the success of the game directly to the amount we're paid."

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