A huge frustration of mine these days is my inability to actually turn my love of crafting simple web based arcade games in to a profitable and worthwhile livelihood. I’ve been following the web scene for years and have seen a good many trends come and go.
The explosion of Flash several years ago really opened my eyes to the potential of the web but I have continued to resist it since it just niggled me that it was all dependent on a plug in. In so many ways the world of web design and development has been screaming for HTML5 for so long. And now we have it. Not only that we are seeing its adoption across the board.

Surely now is a great time to be a web developer with an eye for creating simple games that people can not only play natively but on the move as well. Mobile gaming is just going to go stratospheric this year and in the years to come.

As mobile devices become more sophisticated and their browsers more compliant to developing standards I can only see a bright future for the developer of HTML5 based web apps. Especially a developer with a good handle on design and presentation.

So what about the game designers ? What about those of us who enjoy making and playing those simple (or not so simple) coffee break arcade games. How do we capitalise on this exciting new world of web development and maybe even make a living out of it ? How did the Flash guys do it ? How much money is in it ?

I’ve seen a fair few portals appear in the last 12 months that offer some real hope. The excellent HTML5games.com and the long established Spil Games to name just a couple present an excellent outlet for the HTML5 game developer. I’ve also been approached by a number of other portal providers to license my games for a small fee on a non exclusive basis. Which is great and very encouraging. But for a man of 41 years with mortgage, bills and family to consider it’s all just a bit too much of a risk to ditch the day job and start churning out 3 or 4 games a month. Or is it ?

You see it was when I actually put it that way that I realised there might be something in it.
Imagine you have just one game. On a non exclusive basis you might get your game on to say 3 portals. Right now is a good time since portals are in their infancy and crying out for content. Sure they might not have too much cash to offer you but these are early days.
I’ll talk in dollars to help the broader audience. Let’s say you agree a license fee of $300 for your game. That figure is not uncommon in my experience. For that the portal operator can take your game and present it within their family of web sites and you remain free to pursue other deals with the same game. By far the best option.
So if you develop a relationship with just 3 portals that’s a tidy $900 for your first game. Assuming you pay your taxes subtract a relevant percentage to stuff in to your pocket.
So then it comes down to productivity. Just how good are you at making HTML5 games ? It stands to reason that the better you are the more you will make. If your games are good you’ll also attract more portals.
So who cares if the portal ask you to slap their logo on the splash screen. Who cares if they want you to hand over a small amount of space on the title screen for an advert. If you want to be commercial it strikes me you have to play ball and compromise a little. So long as the game itself remains intact.
Just make sure that you retain the ability to identify yourself within the game somewhere (say a Twitter account or a web address). The game should do a huge amount of marketing for you. Don’t forget it’s in the interest of the portal operator to attract thousands / millions of visitors. Each of those visitors will be viewing your game if it’s good enough. Make sure it’s good enough.
Get out there and play other games. Research the technology. Push it, offer something a little different.

As with all things in industry and commerce there is a small window of opportunity in the early days to establish your self and make a mark before the whole shebang gets swamped by the big guns who seek to shrink the Market down to size to suit their own endeavours.
If you are in any way inclined to create HTML5 games I believe that now is the optimum time to get yourself out there and possibly carve a living from it.

Good luck !

6 Responses

  1. publishers are increasingly looking to adopt HTML5 games in their distribution channels. As a HTML5 game developer, you can capitalize on this. A good place to start connecting with publishers is http://marketJS.com

    I just sold 2 of my own games for 4 figures. It took me about 2 weeks to make.

    If one keeps a productive rate of say 4 games a month, it’s quite possible to get a high 5-figure income just making HTML5 games.

  2. Great post and good comments!

    Couple of tips on making money with HTML5 (mobile) games:

    1) Use in-app purchases/virtual goods as revenue model
    2) Make your game as social as possible (multiplayer, challenge, highscore sharing etc.)
    3) Try to make your game cross platform: web + mobile with same account

    Get in touch if you want to explore distribution opportunities with Spil Games.

    Robbert Bos, Mobile Partnership Manager

  3. I am also a novice HTML5 Game developer. Below is a link to my first game. I am trying to figure out good ways to monetize the game, and your post was helpful. I thought the hard part would be making the game, but it turns out monetization is really quite tricky. $300 (or $900) is just not enough for the amount of time it took me to make games….
    Asteroids Inc. Game

    • I can certainly see your frustration.
      Your game looks excellent and you’ve clearly invested a good deal of effort.
      Perhaps the only thing I could offer you is that in my experience it is far easier for publishers and portal operators to monetise games that are optimised for mobile devices.
      There are plenty of companies out there just now who are looking to boost their portfolios with mobile focused HTML5 games.

      How easy would it be to adapt your game to run at around 460 x 320 with touch control ? (In fact I didn’t check, does your game flip in to “mobile mode” if viewed from a phone ?)

      In your favour I see that more of these companies are now looking to more complex gaming. It seems that the early rush to get “any old game” (and we all know that means 5-in-a-row or tetris clones) out there is now being overtaken by the requirement to provide originality and more social aspects to games.

      My advice initially would be to:
      1. optimise your game for mobile
      2. ensure your code is flexible enough to be able to export a player’s name, score and goals attained (most likely via AJAX)

      Keep in touch and good luck !

  4. […] Making a living designing HTML5 games | in search of Space Monsters … What about those of us who enjoy making and playing those simple (or not so simple) coffee break arcade games How do we capitalise on this exciting new world of web development and maybe even make a living out of it ? […]

  5. Great blog post. As a student developer I found this really interesting. I’m just starting some HTML5 game development and really loving playing around with the new capabilities. Looking forward to your next post.

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