Game Design
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The Life of a Flash Game-How to Promote Your Creation

Posted by: Sam Horton on Feb 13, 2008 at 2:50 AM

If you're an aspiring Flash game developer, you can turn your efforts into long-term income sources by learning how to effectively promote and manage your game.

In this article, I want to point out some of the often overlooked benefits of Flash game advertising, as well as cover a few topics that will help your game become successful such as:
  • Getting paid to have your game sponsored
  • Adding in-game advertising so you can collect money as your game spreads across the internet
  • Learning how to promote your game in order to maximize your earnings
First Things First
Obviously making money in the Flash games business is not going to be an option until you have a game developed. While this article's focus is not about how to make Flash games, I can point you in the right direction. If you are just getting started with Flash and need some help, check out the links in the resources section at the bottom of the article.

Why Sponsor a Game?
So your game is finished, and you can't wait to release it to the world. Before you hit the upload button, consider the following, from a sponsor's perspective:

Flash games have the potential to reach millions of players, often in a matter of weeks. This obviously represents a great market for advertisers to get involved with. Ordinarily, online advertising consists of banner ads and text links, scattered around the content of a web page. Savvy web users recognize that that these ads are not part of the content, and as a result, they often get skipped over intentionally. Flash games on the other hand, provide a vehicle for delivering interactive, rich-media ads that are contained within, and most importantly, associated with the featured content. This has the obvious potential to create more interest and trust in the sponsor, which leads to long-term brand recognition.

A sponsor will pay to have a logo animation and links leading back to their site placed in your game. Once you release the game and it spreads all over the web, the sponsor has one of the best forms of advertising working for them full time. If the game is a massive success such as The Fancy Pants Adventure World 2, then they will get a great return on their investment, and substantially increased brand recognition!

If you've ever set up an online advertising campaign, then you know it can get expensive quick. Basically, you have a budget and you bid on keywords, when the budget runs out or you are outbid by a competitor, you don't get the prime ad slots anymore. Now contrast this with the following:
  • Large-format, multimedia-rich, Flash animation
  • One-time fee
  • Ad placed inside the featured content (the only thing the player is paying attention to)
  • Games persist indefinitely, and your ad is a permanent part of it!
  • That means it has an uncapped click potential!

It's pretty easy to see why Flash games represent an interesting advertising venture.

But let's do a quick example:
You sponsor a game for $2000, which is a common rate for a medium/good game. If 500,000 people play the game in the first month–which is average for a medium/good game–then you've spent 2k for 500,000 impressions of your uber ad. That translates to $.004 per impression, and with a lowball guesstimated click-through rate of 1%, you are looking at 5000 visitors at 40 cents a pop.

Well that sounds rather average, but you also have to consider that the sponsor gets to host the game on their site and earn ad revenue from the traffic generation. The real money maker is not the ad per se, but the huge traffic potential of your game combined with all of the other games on their site. The ad serves as a nice bonus to create brand awareness, and a decent amount of interested visitors for as long as the game is in circulation. Try getting as much bang for your buck through traditional advertising...

With that said, make sure you—the game's developer—have your own logo and branding to promote yourself with. Keep your logo animation around 5 seconds long, and make sure it also functions as a link back to your site. Displaying your domain name is also a smart idea, since some browsers treat outbound links from Flash as popups.

Types of Sponsorship Arrangements
A Flash game sponsor is most often a portal site looking for a hit game. When a game portal sponsors your game, there are two main types of sponsorship arrangements: exclusive, and non-exclusive. Alternatively, you could opt to self-publish your game if you think it's good enough. Self-publishing is a big risk, but also presents a huge potential to make big bucks from your own advertising should the game become a hit. Once you release your game though, the chances for sponsorship are almost nil. It's definitely a do or die scenario!

An Exclusive agreement boils down to you adding the sponsor's branding to your game before you release it, and the branding must remain in the game permanently. The sponsor's goal then is to help spread the game far and wide, which potentially puts their ad in front of millions. Exclusive deals usually pay the most money up front, and represent a risk for the sponsor if the game is a flop. One of my favorite things about exclusive licenses is that they are truly "fire and forget" situations. Since the branding is locked in, and you can't usually make deals with other sponsors, you are free to release the game anywhere you want with no strings attached. It is also a common practice for the sponsor to pay a higher rate for any future games you make. Your games should be getting better as you gain more experience anyway!

A non-exclusive deal goes something like this: You sell a license to the sponsor for the right to host your game on a specific site for an agreed upon period of time. You also add their branding to the game, and then lock the game to their site so it doesn't spread around the web with their branding in it (which would decrease the value of your game). The main benefit of a non-exclusive deal is that you can sell multiple licenses to many different sites and potentially make a lot of money (you totally control your game). The downside is that it is more work for you the developer. Adding custom branding, extra site locking, managing multiple communications and terms of agreement etc., will eat up quite a bit of your precious time. Non-exclusive deals also pay less per deal in most cases, so choose the best option for your situation.

If you want to learn more about the many types of deals that are available for getting your game sponsored, then the ultimate resource is Flash Game Sponsorship. These guys are pros in this arena, and have a service established to connect you with potential sponsors. They will try to get you the best deal for your game and more than likely save you a lot of headache.

In-Game Advertising and More!Check out MochiAds
One of the best things to happen for Flash game developers, hands down, is MochiAds. They operate a massive advertising network which delivers high quality in-game ads to any participating Flash game. They also offer free hosting and distribution for your game. This means you will not rack up extra bandwidth fees in the event that a million people try to play the game on your personal site. If you are looking to self-publish your game, then this aspect alone could be the deciding factor.

The great thing about having MochiAds in your game is that it allows for a long-term source of income. The more it gets played the more money you make, plain and simple. In the past, Flash developers had to worry about unscrupulous individuals stealing their games and hosting them on their own site, thus profiting off of someone else's hard work. With MochiAds in your game it's not really a problem if this happens, since you will be earning ad revenue. In fact, it's desirable!

In addition to providing in-game ads, and swf hosting, they also offer customizable leaderboards to store and display high scores in your games. Managing all of the security and database issues related to high score management can be a full time job, so this is a great service that will save you time in the long run.

When you are getting your game sponsored, make sure you discuss including MochiAds. Some sponsors will not allow them, but most are coming around and realizing that it is good for developers in the long run. One thing I have personally done to help get MochiAds approved in my games, is to give the sponsor the traffic share ad. When a developer signs up with MochiAds, he/she gets a free ad that circulates throughout the entire network of games. The more ad impressions you show in your games, the more they show your ad, which usually links back to your site.

Mochibot Host Tracking
Another free service that mochimedia offers is swf host tracking. You place a snippet of code in your game, and they will keep track of every single site that is hosting your swf file, as well as the total number of game plays. Being able to determine your top host is always exciting, and can help you target your promotion efforts in the future. If you make games, then choosing whether or not to add Mochibot should be a no brainer. Check out the public stats for Oroboros to see Mochibot in action.

The Big Launch
So everything is good to go, the ducks are in a row, and you are ready for the deluge of players that will undoubtedly be unleashed upon your game! This is probably the most important moment in the life of your game "The Initial Release." There is nothing that is going to boost your chances for success more than having a great game. This much is a given. There are however, several options to consider at this point, and they depend on the agreement you have with your sponsor (if you have a sponsor).

Lock the game to your site, and don't let anyone else have it for at least a week.
If you have a great game on your hands, and you can handle the traffic it will generate (see the bit about MochiAds hosting above) then this option will be crucial in order to maximize your ad earnings, and in-bound links to your site. You need to be the one who seeds it to all of the social networks like digg, stumbleupon, facebook etc. If all of these sites are pointing to a fantastic game on your site, then prepare for a flood! The best thing to happen as a result of this is that large sites will link to your game, write reviews, and do the lions share of the promoting for you. The main goal here is to establish a network of links pointing to your site. I can't stress this enough.

When a site such as jayisgames decides to write a review of your game, you are going to get world-wide exposure, and as a result, game portal owners are going to come out of the woodwork to contact you with offers and requests for your game. You can really build a great network this way!

We are talking about the basic laws of supply and demand here. If you don't create a demand for your game, then it's not going to generate as much buzz for your site. Let's say for instance, that you want to go for the digg effect. If you are seeking that illustrious front-page status, then you need everyone to be digging the same link. Sometimes 10 or 20 diggs is all it takes to push it over the threshold. If, conversely, your game is released on 10 different portal sites that are all hoping to get their version dugg, then you are seriously diminishing your chances.

I have watched the digg effect happen to several games on Kongregate such as "Filler", and "Protector". Both are excellent games that received so many diggs that they literally doubled or tripled the traffic to Kongregate for a time. All of those people are going to generate some serious buzz for your game, so it makes sense that it should point back to the game's creator/s if possible.

You may have an agreement with your sponsor that requires a period of exclusivity on their site for the initial release. If this is the case–and hopefully they paid a premium for it, or at least agreed to give you a share of the advertising revenue that your game generates–then make sure your link is also on the site, and focus on promoting their version of the game during the exclusive period. You are basically giving up the traffic, back-links, and ad money you could have gotten, in favor of an upfront payment. This is not a bad situation at all. Many developers would rather let someone else handle the promotion, or might not feel confident that their game will be successful enough without the sponsor's support. If you are just starting out, this might be the best option while you get acquainted with the whole process.

Prepare for Bugs
The first week of release will put your game to the test, and I promise you that when you put thousands of players in front of your game, something will eventually emerge. This is yet another reason to make sure the game is released exclusively to one site for the first week. It's easy to make changes and upload a new version to a single site–especially if it's your own. Try doing that after it spreads all over the internet, and you will have your work cut out for you.

What Sites Bring the Most Players?
Based on my personal experience, there are a few key portals that you should absolutely target when releasing a game. These sites can put millions of players in front of your game, and most of them have thriving communities that are fun to get involved with. You should really try to develop a good rapport with the people who run these sites, some which are the original pioneers of the Flash game industry!

In no particular order:
  • Newgrounds - Legendary! commonly viewed as the number 1 Flash portal in the universe! Login and upload your game through a very slick interface. It will be published instantly, and if it makes the front page, will get a ton of plays!

  • Kongregate - My personal favorite place to play Flash games, mainly because of the achievement system they make available for developers to design into their games. They are also growing rapidly, and shaping up to be the leader among gaming portals. One downside to Kongregate is that they have a deal with MochiAds that disables the ads on their site. They do however, offer contests and ad revenue sharing, which pretty much makes up for it.

  • Armor Games - They sponsor the best Flash games, and offer a great price for them. I chose Armor Games as the sponsor for both Oroboros and Super Saimon, and the experience was stellar. I received a check within 2 days of the agreement! Their new site is top-notch as well.

  • Mind Jolt - Mind Jolt is the master of generating traffic! They have a facebook app that allows your game to spread like wildfire. It's mostly US players, which leads to high advertising returns if you are using MochiAds. I highly recommend implementing their high score api.

  • Hallpass - Another strong source of players. They will also pay you $50 to add a line of code to your game that enables their high score system.

  • Not Doppler - Great portal site with a nice clean design. Not Doppler will generate thousands of plays per day for weeks!

  • Nonoba - This is an upcoming portal to keep your eye on. The site is very feature rich, and has an excellent system for managing your uploaded games.

  • One More Level - Copious amounts of traffic while your game is on the front page list!

  • Ugo Player - Great site with a large community that extends beyond Flash games.

  • Heavy Games - The best thing about this site (from a developers point of view) is that they iframe your page so you get the full benefit of your ads. They also generate a ton of traffic!

There are several other large portals such as miniclip, Addicting Games, BigFish,, etc... but they do not allow MochiAds as far as I know, and usually require you to add their branding to your game (something you cannot do with an exclusive license). If you decide to go the non-exclusive route, then these portals are some of the best around.

Release it Everywhere
After the big rush from the mega portals has subsided, you might feel inclined to go on a portal search in an attempt to squeeze every last bit of life out of your game. While you are searching for places to upload your game, be sure to make a list of what sites you find as well as what features they offer. That way you won't have to do it all over again for the next game.

Many of these portals still do not have an automated method for uploading your game to their site. To help in this department, I suggest having a zip file readily available that site owners can download with the following contents:
  • Main .swf file for your game
  • Several thumbnail images at various sizes ranging from 50x50 to 100x100
  • Readme text file with the game's title, description, controls, dimensions, a link to your site, and basic terms and conditions
  • 2-3 screenshots of your game
In addition to that, prepare an email that you can quickly customize for each portal site. It should be quick, but informative. Include links to the zip file, as well as a link to where they can preview the game.

If there is ever a question about whether a portal is worth your time, you can start by going to and checking their page rank against other well known sites. Keep in mind that this technique isn't infallible, but it does give you a good idea of where they stand. Many sites are just getting started, and may be worth investing some time and effort into even though they have lower traffic levels.

Winning Contests
So far I've had a pretty good track record of winning prize money on Kongregate! They offer monthly and weekly prizes of up to $1500. for the top rated games. Contests provide a nice unexpected source of income, and can do wonders for promoting your game.

There are many contests out there with great prizes, but you need to be aware of the terms before you decide to enter one. Some contests require special branding as well as holding off on releasing the game on your own site (or anyone else's) until a specific date. These things can severely limit your chances for sponsorship money, not to mention missing out on the big rush of traffic to your site. Not everyone is going to win, and while it might be a great payout if you do, you could wind up with zilch if you don't.

The Downhill Slide and the Unexpected Spike!Traffic graph from when Super Saimon was featured on MindJolt
After the big rush to the top of the charts, your game will more than likely lose the spotlight to the fresh batch of games that get released on a daily basis. The spotlight period for a good Flash game, during which you can expect a decent amount of traffic, is normally about a month. If your game reaches legendary status however, then you will get pinned to the front pages of the big portal sites, and that period will extend indefinitely. This will keep a steady stream of traffic coming in, and if you are using MochiAds or some other form of revenue sharing, a steady stream of money too.

When a game is allowed to spread to the far reaches of the internet, its traffic graph will usually level out to a steady plateau with the occasional spike from sources like stumble upon. A good game can easily maintain 5000 plays per day long after the big rush is over, and while this won't make anyone rich, it will contribute to the cause!

Future Potential
As independent game developers, we should be thinking of as many ways to fund our games as possible. Personally, I am really interested in getting multiple (non competing) sponsors on board for future games, and getting more creative with how the in-game advertising works. Who wants to be associated with my next power up item? Energizer... are you listening?

This is all very exciting stuff to ponder!
Everyone is looking to benefit from their creations, and if you are in the business of making Flash games, hopefully this article has given you a bit more ammo to work with when considering how to manage, promote, and license your games.

Thanks for reading!

I'll be writing articles on more specific topics about game development, promotion, and design in the near future, so be sure to grab the funface feed if you are interested.

Flash Resources
Here are some useful sites for learning Flash as it pertains to Game Design:
Game/AI Programming - kirupa Forum
The Kirupa Forums are one of the best places to get Flash Help. This link points directly to the game programming area.

Steve Fulton's Flash Game Tutorials
Steve has a collection of great articles on game Programming with Flash. : Flash Tutorials
If you want to learn the inner workings of Actionscript 3, then is the place!

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By: Sam Horton | Feb 13, 2008 at 2:50 AM | | Leave a comment