Monday, July 9, 2007

Should We Turn to Advergames for Flash Game Development?

Gamasutra posted a great opinion article today from Magnus Alm of Swedish developer Muskedunder Interactive entitled Why The Game Biz Should Turn To Flash.

He beings by explaining why the Flash game industry has seen a lot of growth lately:
• The upward economic trend within the games industry in general.
• Advertisement agencies realizing the need for skilled game design competence.
• A growing online and casual games market.
• And let’s not forget that flash games now are being ported to other platforms.

He then states that those with decent-sized marketing budgets are taking notice of the games industry and using online games as a means to sell their brand. He's referring to advergames here. This avenue can be a very lucrative path for many companies. There's a danger that lies in doing this kind of work, though.

First of all, you are selling out to a certain degree. Now, that's ok, especially if there's no other option for a newbie developer (like us). But as a developer that is essentially doing games as work-for-hire, you have to always be aware that you are at the mercy of your client and you can't just drop everything to go start working on your next artistic masterpiece of a game.

You also have to make sure that whatever you're making is targeting the market that your client wants. This is really a problem that will occur for almost any kind of external funding. With advergames, though, the client will be very adamant about this. Otherwise, what's the point of the game?

Magnus then proceeds to talk about Asia. The online games market in Asia is growing and lucrative. However, it should be noted that the Asian market is incredibly difficult to get into. Between piracy, different market expectations and tastes, and other random cultural barriers, finding success in the Asian market is the exception, not the rule.

The next sections seem to be the most intersting though: finding a path to console development through Flash and exploring new revenue models. He states that the major consoles, plus soon to be the PSP, have or will have download services where players can download games via the internet. He lists Alien Hominid and flOw as examples of games that started out Flash and ended up on consoles. That happens to be our strategy, too. It seems to be a great idea. For revenue models, Magnus mentions the Korean model of free-to-play with microtransactions for non-gameplay items. It seems to be a successful model. In fact, that's our current model for the multiplayer version of Dinowaurs.

In the end, most game developers want to get to the point where they can make the kinds of games they want as soon as possible. There are many ways to get there. Are advergames a good one? Maybe. Just make sure to always be aware that you are working for your clients, not yourself. Alternatives to advergames are out there; those will be discussed later.

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