Flash Game Funding Data from Intuition Games

by Darius Kazemi on August 24, 2009

in business,distribution,indie

In light of Jeff’s recent article delving into funding models for indie game developers, I’d like to draw your attention to what I think is an excellent community resource. Greg Wohlwend of Intuition Games explains the process of selling a game to sponsors, and breaks down the bidding timeline for their game Fig. 8.

Greg used FlashGameLicense.com to sell his game to the highest bidder. I’ve been very interested in FGL since they first launched. They’re good about publishing their monthly sales statistics, but I’d never before seen a timeline breakdown like Greg’s. (Kudos to him for getting his sponsor to agree to have the details published!) I learned a lot from his posts. For one thing, I didn’t know that in addition to a basic bid, that sponsors could add bonuses for a certain number of plays or a certain average rating on Kongregate or NewGrounds.
His final, accepted bid for Fig. 8 was $3700 with an $850 bonus for a 3.8+ rating after a month or a $1250 bonus for a 4.0+ rating after a month. According to Greg he spent 2.5 full weeks developing the game, and then spent about a week on polish. How does this compare to the numbers in Jeff’s article?
Let’s assume only gets the base $3700. Now we factor in time: while he spent about 3.5 weeks on the game, I’m assuming that some more time went into the whole marketing push that he talks about on his blog. Maybe it wasn’t full time, let’s say he spent 4 hours a day for two weeks on that, so that’s an extra 40 hours or 1 week of work. So let’s call it 4.5 weeks of work.
In theory, if a person could make a Flash game every 4.5 weeks and sell it for $3700, you could make about $42,755 in a year, which is right about at Jeff’s $40k I-am-not-incredibly-poor benchmark. But the catch is that it’s incredibly hard to make and sell a game in 4.5 weeks. The Intution devs are immensely talented at both development and marketing, and even I would be surprised if they could keep up a punishing schedule like that year round. (Edit: per the comments, this game was made by two people, Greg Wohlwend and Mike Boxleiter! So divide that in half: $21377/year, which is about the equivalent of working a $10/hr playtesting job with no overtime. In Mike’s words: “Bottom line, if you don’t have a family, this can keep you afloat. If you have any more expenses than rent, electricity and food then you’re gonna get into trouble.”)
Let’s move this into non-virtuoso territory. The average accepted bid for an action game on FGL is roughly $2000, so let’s say you can sell a game for that amount. And let’s say you spend 6 weeks making and selling that game, which seems to me to be far more sustainable long-term. That only comes out to about $17,300/year. Even if you’re a good marketer and you consistently perform better than average in getting bids at $2500/game, we’re still only talking about raking in $21,600/year. Let’s say you get a $500 bonus on every other game you make, so you average an extra $250/game on top of that. We are still looking at $23,800/year. Which ain’t much.
It seems like a key factor in getting a high bid is playing off the success of your previous games. So if you can be smart like Intuition Games and consistently release a bevvy of excellent games under your brand (and I do love me some Effing Hail!) it might be a sustainable way to make a living.
(Edit: Also of note is Joel Gonzales’ analysis of FGL. Among other things, he breaks down Sponsorships versus Licenses, and kindly provides the Excel file of the source data that he manually collected.)


Mike Boxleiter August 24, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Good analysis Darius, though there is one detail you overlooked. I honestly didn't read Greg's post so he might have left it out as well, but I worked on Fig 8 just as long as he did, so that 42G value at the end should actually be split between two partners, which actually is in the "just above poverty" zone.

Bottom line, if you don't have a family, this can keep you afloat. If you have any more expenses than rent, electricity and food then you're gonna get into trouble.

Darius Kazemi August 24, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Sorry Mike, it looks Greg did indeed mention you and I just totally missed that! Updating now.

Joel Gonzales August 25, 2009 at 1:27 am

I ran numbers from FGL and the average sponsorship price is pretty low – $1400. Now granted, the average game on FGL may not be made by people who are full time or have the skill of Mike and Greg. As Mike pointed out, it's not a lot even if. You might be able to make it if you are able to make good use of microtransactions.

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