July 11, 2009
Over at Lost Garden, Danc has made a very important post for the future of flash games and probably all games. During the past few years flash games have dominated the web game market because of their accessibility and variety. However, as Danc says, advertisements don’t earn flash developers much money for their hard work, and consequently only hobbyists can afford to develop flash games. It’s true flash developers already output incredibly creative, quality content, but imagine what would happen if their work became commercially viable.
A lot of this is comparable to the surprisingly successful iPhone app store which had one billion apps downloaded in just 9 months. The major reason for the app store’s success is exactly what will soon revolutionize flash games: microtransactions. Users are always willing to pay small amounts if it’s easy to do and has immediate rewards. The app store, along with the developers who profited and the customers who benefited, proves this. And it will be proven once again because the coming success for the flash market will be sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary.
In a year or two, the flash games market which is already almost double the size of the console market will further expand in many ways, including a dramatic increase in flash developers. Here’s my list of general trends for flash games over the next couple years:
- Richer, higher quality (more fun!)
- Larger, longer, and more time consuming (plus longer loading times)
- Higher learning curves
- More persistent – save your game and come back to play later
- More interactive between players, more often multiplayer
- Higher prices – most will be scared to charge more than $2 in microtransactions initially, but over time, as Danc suggested, prices of $19.99 will become common.
From this list you can see there will be growing similarities between flash games and commercial PC games that you buy in a box. But here are some important differences:
- The business model is different – pretty much every flash game will have a free version, or some sample of gameplay that requires no payment. This will replace marketing and advertising costs for the most part, allowing more to be spent on developing the actual game. Also, small items and upgrades will be sold easily and often – very unlike the current system where you spend money just once.
- Independent developers will rule.
- A larger range of prices will exist.
- Developers are free to experiment – they can continue trying out new game mechanics because making a flash game doesn’t require such a large investment. This is especially important for the evolution of game design.
- They’re on the web – so multiplayer play will come more naturally, and you can play from any computer.
Before all this can happen, we have to wait for a good flash micro transaction service that will work within just a .swf file on any website without charging too much. Nothing like this exists yet, but some candidates are currently in development by MochiMedia and the people behind Flash Game License (their product is called GamerSafe). Once that service forms, it will still likely take a while for players to grow accustomed to paying for flash games, and for all the details of microtransactions to be standardized for the player and the developer.
But then, yes then, flash games will take center stage in the gaming world. The smallest developers will finally be competing against the largest companies. Flourishing creativity will flow forth from ever-talented developers to make some of the best games this world has seen. Exciting times are ahead!