Betting on HTML5 for game development – Part 4

coinsI was asked by several readers if I could provide some useful figures so, as promised, in this 4th article of the series I am providing a rundown on some hard numbers and also share additional insights based on my 6-month experience in the video game industry.

Firstly, to put everything in context, Okijin Games is a one-man show and wearing as many hats as I can to limit the costs is my highest priority. Unless you are lucky enough to be a nanti, I believe one must be prepared to be some kind of Renaissance man to succeed as an indie in this highly competitive industry.

With all this, how much money can one expect to make with HTML5 games?

The HTML5 licensing deals I signed last month for 2 games, with 7 publishers, amount to a total of $17,000 including an 8-month exclusivity deal and a PPI for a premium version on Android.

With publishers such as SpilGames pledging to invest $5M this year, the licensing of HTML5 games can be expected to offer the best payout but one should not neglect the native mobile market which, when given some consideration, can also generate substantial revenues with HTML5 games and without too much investment. Let’s talk about it first.

I hit the publish button. Now what?

Back in July 2013, when discussing with the bank business manager, she asked that question while trying my game: “Can people really make money selling games for $2 on the stores?”

Despite some initial research, I admittedly had little clue about what it would take to publish an app on the stores and, to compare with something that people are more likely to have done, publishing a game on Google Play had the same effect as uploading a new page on my website… This is something that we do not always realise as outsiders that without the appropriate marketing investment, no one may ever see our games. It takes time to increase exposure and fine tune the revenue streams of native mobile apps. The free version of Zombies Can’t Jump on Google Play has now passed the 14,000 installs and combined with a white label deal in revenue share, I am expecting to see substantial growth in ads revenues from the store.

The story was slightly different on Windows Phone Store where the paid version of Zombies Can’t Jump was selling up to 70 units / day in August and has now seen more than 45,000 downloads. Thanks to Microsoft featuring across all markets and the efficient review service of websites such as WMPowerUser. The promotion on this store is also cheap. With less than $500 investment in a promotional campaign in November, Zombies Can’t Jump reached the rank of 1st paid strategy game in China and Italy, 3 months after release. Microsoft OS may only have 5% of the mobile market share, it is a friendly place for indie game developers with small marketing budgets.

Nothing specific to HTML5 games here. This is the story of all mobile apps, promoting them on the crowded stores is hard and costly. But since HTML5 games can be released on these platforms too there is no reason not to do so.

HTML5 games are not confined to the extremely competitive world of the app stores and publisher deals are by far our best bet.

I was initially doubtful about exclusivity deals for my games because it is hard to predict how the HTML5 market will move in the next months – whether an exclusivity period would increase or decrease the value of the game is hard to tell and depends on how the market will look like in 8 months. Although some publishers asked to be notified when the exclusivity expires, the risk is definitely there.

There is however another motivation for this choice: time. Growing my company game portfolio is a priority during the first year. Dealing with publishers is time consuming; from negotiating the contract terms to preparing the product including re-branding and API integration, I have seen most of my time taken by these tasks lately. There is a clear need for efficient B2B service adapted to Indies, some homogenization of the process would clearly be welcomed. There are however interesting efforts which deserve more exposure in this domain (e.g. Clay.io).

Based on this and to regroup with my previous post, the first semester of the New Year will see a focus on production for three new games seeking exclusivity deals with highest bidders. For the native versions, I will remain opened to the most interesting deals in revenue share and/or white labels and will continue to provide updates to existing games increasing their value as well for when the exclusivity expires.

To conclude, I would definitely recommend a read through Matthew Bowden’s blog which contains a lot of figures. There is also this article from Jesse Freeman which highlights interesting ideas on how to make money with HTML5. Although his main idea opposes to my end goals and vision for Okijin Games, it is practical. I truly believe that HTML5 will offer many more opportunities to developers.

Thanks and feel free to contact me for any questions or comments.