As an HTML5 game designer I am always optimistic about the future of gaming in the open web. I love this Canvas technology ( which is pretty much the largest aspect of HTML5 that I use ) and I love the process of crafting games to exploit this burgeoning technology.

2011 has been a great year.

As HTML5 games designers we are in such an incredible position. We can daydream about countless cool ideas for games and we can quite inexpensively go out there and make them. Let this next year be the year that you push yourself to make the best games you could possibly make.

Don’t settle for your first idea. Build on it. Don’t settle for your first half dozen implementations of an idea. Work them through and refine your code until you get something that is just plain fun to play.
If you want the bonus items to bounce around, code it! If you want the text to flash through a colour cycle because you just know it’ll look great, code it! If you want to blast something quite literally to pieces, code it!
The player will silently thank you for your efforts and reward you by coming back for more.

I will let you in to a couple of secrets in the hope that it encourages you to go and make these games and make them good.

Secret #1 – I made money this year through my games. Quite a lot of money. Over half my salaried income to be more accurate and I made all of that in the last 4 months.

Secret #2 – I didn’t, don’t and never will use an HTML5 game framework. I’ve checked a few and I love them. Sure they could save me some time and a lot of effort in the finer things but I just don’t get excited about using somebody else’s code. My point isn’t that, though. My point is that you can earn money by rolling your own code. If it works and works well make sure you make it readable, flexible and editable and you have right there your very own framework.

So how has all of this been possible ?
How did I get very close to matching my salary in licence fees in under half a year ?

Here’s my advice.

Embrace mobile

By far the biggest move I ever made in all of this was ensuring that all my games can be played on a mobile smartphone. Most importantly I designed my games to work against iOS with the fixed screen dimensions of 320 x 480. Everything else came from there.
I didn’t understand creating web apps for iOS at all until I bought the book Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: Making App Store Apps Without Objective-C or Cocoa and it changed everything. I instantly understood about viewport presentation and scale. I also learned some cool CSS tricks and essentially how best to use the handheld device.

Separately from that book I went on to research touch screen controls and the associated events.
Developing for touch screen is not at all difficult. In development you can use the mouse to pretty much simulate the touch if you have to. Just be aware of the differences in handling the respective events and you will be fine.

Another important aspect of mobile gaming is the need to understand scale and composition. On a small screen you really don’t want to be concerned about controlling tiny, fiddly sprites. Learn how to make best use of your drawing package to create big, bold and colourful sprite animations. Remember, your players want something to impress their mates with.

Understand your options for monetisation

You have a few options just now for getting your game out there. Not all of them involve generating any kind of revenue so be mindful that the simplest exposure for your games may not be the most lucrative.

Here are the two methods that I have used successfully.

Licencing options

Licencing your games means that you quite rightly retain ownership of the content and simply grant a 3rd party a licence to use your work. Licencing comes in two flavours; Exclusive and Non-Exclusive.

  • Exclusive means that the licence you grant to a 3rd party restricts you from further licencing options for your game.
  • Non-Exclusive means that you are still free to pursue other licencing options for your game. I chose this option.

Of course you can ask for much larger sums of money for your licence if your client should ask for an exclusive licence and you haven’t as yet licenced the use of the game to any other party.

Through non-exclusive licencing I found that the budget available to each company varied tremendously. In some cases we were talking 4-figure numbers but in most just 3. On a per game basis I would say that somewhere between £350 and £400 was about average. This grants the licencor distribution rights globally within their portal.

The figures here are quite simple: more games = more licence fee.

I have just 8 games and around 20 contacts.
I am in fairly frequent contact with most of those contacts and enjoy a great relationship with them.

Game portal operators generally aim to monetise through mobile phones.
They have a portfolio of games that they know will be a hit with mobile gamers so study the portals and see how any game that you make can complement their portfolio.
Don’t just look at the genre look at the style. It may be that a game in a different genre but with a similar style will be a hit for them and for you !

Revenue share and advertising

Revenue share is exactly what the name suggests – a split of the proceeds between you and your client.
It’s quite possible that the client has little or no budget for licencing games. In this scenario they may offer you the chance to create some money through advertising and you split the proceeds down the middle.

I have successfully used Google’s AdSense to date. Not the best or most popular advertising network I grant you but a great one for starters. It’s free, easy to use and integrate and they don’t mess about with payments. You just get paid !

Make some space in your game’s home screen ( and possibly Game Over screen, essentially the 2 places where the player is inactive ) for a small 320 x 50 advert and get along to to figure it out. It’s all CPC (Cost Per Click) and providing you don’t go clicking your adverts all day and all night Google will quite happily serve up your ads and pay you each month for every click it takes.

Your client will drive all the traffic your way for his part and for your part you present a great game to his audience.

Always look to the portals for your business. It is in their interest to publish the games within their portfolio so they will handle the traffic. They will ensure that their userbase comes to see your games. Where possible retain an area within your game for a link or at least a display of your web site URL or Twitter handle.

Also, and this is very important, understand the legalities of game licencing.
I’m lucky, I have a great lawyer who understands this stuff. He’s helped me a great deal and saved me a great many headaches. Lawyers are not cheap but a good one will ultimately save you a tremendous amount of stress and money.
You can probably figure out a generic licencing agreement that you can ask your clients to complete for you.
In some cases your clients may wish to remain consistent in their paperwork and ask you to complete their own forms. At this point be smart and seek advice. Be sure that any agreement you sign up to has your own interests as well as your clients. Make sure that your agreement is covered by the laws of your own land.

Avoiding legal complications is the key to happy game development. Trust me ;-)

In 2012 I would hope to see more options for HTML5 game creators.
2011 has been great. The last few weeks ( since the announcement that Flash on mobile is to die ) have been incredible.

This is very much the tip of the iceberg. Now that open web gaming is sweeping through town at pace we can expect to see huge strides made and increasing strength from browser vendors and tool developers.

Issues with HTML5 Audio will soon evapourate and we will be left with the fantastic scenario of being able to just make great games and push them out to a global audience. In many cases those games will be smart enough and good enough to earn their creator some money.

Maybe you are one of those developers and maybe next year you will be making games from that small studio in town and pushing them out to half a dozen portals for 500 (pick your currency) each and getting by just nicely.
Who knows, maybe you and a friend could be working on them together and monetising your games through advertising to the tune of 3,000 a month.

It’s all possible and for many people will become a reality.

Make it happen !





13 Responses

    • Hi Andrew,
      I confess I didn’t find any of them, they found me.
      The best move I ever made was blogging about this stuff.
      I think I enjoy a fairly good Google position for some key phrases !

  1. Just a warning that “Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript” and “Building Android Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript” are the *exact same book*! All they did was find-and-replace the word iPhone with Android and republish it. Just buy one or the other.

    • I only bought and read the former. Although to my knowledge there is no concept of launching from the “home screen” in the same way as you can on iOS so it would be interesting to see how they achieve that.
      Thanks for sharing.

  2. it’s really easy to cheat with (html5/js) game.

    evrybody can read how you secure your game and bypass it, i think it’s the biggest weakness of this tech.

    for example in galactian just type : m.player.lives = 3; in the js console of your browser et voila.

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