My Take On Monetizing
Last night I was on a panel called Making Money With HTML5 Games in 2013. I was actually hesitant to be on the panel at first because I have not made much money with my own games but figured I had an interesting take on the topic since I work for Microsoft coupled with my monetization shortcomings. On the panel was Jamie Hall, Co-Founder, President/CTO of MocoSpace, Elle Chen, License Manager of BoosterMedia, Robert Grossberg and Vincent Obermeier, CEO and President of Tresensa. While we were all supporters of making HTML5 games, especially since each of the companies we work for has a vested interest in helping people monetize their game, it was interesting to see a completely “topic friendly” panel where we all agreed to the main points that HTML5 is a viable platform for the future. I thought I would write about points I brought up about HTML5 gaming, why I believe in it and ways to help you monetize on it your own.
Before we go any further you should read Richard Davey’s post on The Reality of HTML5 Game Development and making money from it. It sums up everything I would want to say if I was actually more successful at making money from my games. So you may be asking what did I talk about on the panel if I am not rich yet from my HTML5 games? Well I have two takes on monetizing your HTML5 games: first I talked about get HTML5 games into the Windows 8 (along everywhere else you can publish them) and second was around monetizing your skills at making HTML5 games over the actual games themselves. While making money from your games may be more difficult, building games for companies is easily attainable assuming you have the proper skillset. Let’s chat about the first topic.
When I look at HTML5 I see huge potential. We are finally getting to a point where it works almost everywhere. In places where it still struggles like Android for example, there are solutions to package up your JS code into a native app and distribute it via something like CocoonJS. Honestly I believe the future of HTML5 gaming is going to be outside of the browser but right now for as long as desktop computers and web browsers are popular, we will always see a need for web based gaming. My fascination with HTML5 gaming on Windows 8 has a lot to do with the fact that running an HTML5 game on Win8 is basically native. Windows 8 itself is simply the best wrapper out there for HTML5 games and with 60+ million users already on the platform in just a few short months, it’s a huge opportunity. I also dog food and have 2 of my games on Windows 8 but I’m not putting all of my eggs in one basket.
The panel was unanimous on multi-channel distribution meaning you should publish your game to as many places as possible. While I would love to have your game on Windows 8 the real magic of HTML5 games is that you can run them in browsers, mobile and desktop via other types of app packagers. I can’t sell you a dream that having your game on Windows 8 is going to make you rich. What I can tell you is that if you want the best experience on desktop/tablets for your games than Windows 8 is the one to focus on. But of course I still put my same Win8 games on web, chrome and soon with the help of CocoonJS I’ll be on iOS and Android. Just because I work for Microsoft doesn’t mean I have a myopic view of the world. I want to be successful just like everyone else and Windows 8 is only one of many distribution channels I can use for my game. For me the key take away is that I can take any web based HTML5 game that runs on IE 10 and have it in the Windows Store with very little effort.
Some people may get this approach and others may not. I guarantee the ones who get it, and go out to make a living doing HTML5 game or app development will be incredibly successful in the next few years. The key is to find something you love and monetize that. Selling an individual product is incredibly difficult. Making money on games is very hard, I know because all I do is talk to indie game devs all day long and I have yet to meet one who is not stressed out about whether or not they will make enough money from their latest game to make another one. And while licensing out a game is a quick way to make some cash, we still aren’t talking about a lot of money. A quick scan of marketjs.com shows that game licenses range from $300 – $1000. Assuming you can make a game in 2-3 weeks and get the high end of that range it’s not a lot of money. Well not enough to live on in NYC.
I don’t want to depress you, I do believe that there is a huge potential to monetize your game on Windows 8 and even the web through some of the partner/distribution companies like MocoSpace, BoosterMedia & Tresensa which were on the panel but in the end being a good technician is always going to win out in the long run. Double points for being able to teach others to be good HTML5 game developers as well, knowledge is power and another asset that you can easily monetize on by writing articles, doing talks and writing books. That’s what I did and it’s how I got a job at Microsoft not to mention all of the emails I get daily from companies looking for HTML5 game devs.
In the end while we watch HTML5 continue to grow in demand and robustness on multiple platforms we will see an entire industry spring up around it just like Flash gaming did and Director before it. The key to monetizing HTML5 games is to put yourself in the right place at the right time. Make a game, take part in OneGameAMonth.com and use that as your resume to make people pay attention to what you can do with the technology. It’s never too late to pick up a technology, but the ones who arrive early get the pay day. I watched it happen with Flash and HTML5 is following all of the same patterns. The only difference now is that you have so many platforms to choose when it comes to publishing your game verses Flash which was always dependent on a plugin in a browser. Stay focused and pick the opportunities that give you the best ROI (return on investment). And of course if you are going to make a HTML5 game you should at least get it running on Windows 8. When an HTML5 game is done right, you can’t tell the difference between it and native. Don’t believe me, try Cut The Rope or my own games.
One last thing, I wanted to call out was a book I just started reading by Matthew Bowden called ironically enough Making Money With HTML5. It discusses the author’s own success at monetizing his HTML5 games and has some great tips as well. It’s work checking out for sure and is a quick read. I wish there was a little more technical details but if you are hungry for more information check it out.