I wrote the other news post this morning when I probably wasn't in a very clear state of mind and I was more stressed than I am now, so I'm writing this other one to better explain the situation.
There are a few ways that Flash games can potentially make money. These include:
What 'sponsorship' means is that a portal site, like Kongregate or ArmorGames or whatever, pays the developer, me, to basically put their branding on it; their logo and links to their site. They do this because when the game is distributed, people may click on the links and come to their site, where they may become regular members of their site or click on the adverts on their site. Sponsorship like this generally involves paying the developer a lump sum based on how much the game seems like it's worth... or rather, how likely it seems to bring in hits for the sponsor.
The types of sponsorship deals differ, but generally you stick with one sponsor and can't have MORE than one (since they're all competitors), UNLESS you go with a 'primary sponsorship deal' where the game in most places has your main sponsor's branding, but some sites can pay you to change the branding to that site's so then traffic won't be redirected to one of their competitors.
The price that sponsors pay differs wildly. Some simple Flash games that won't perform well might get $100 or something, while the big-end games may get up to $10,000 or something (I don't know if any go above this).
2. In-game adverts.
These are the things like MochiAds, that appear as the game is loading, or sometimes within the game itself. They make the developer money every time players click on the adverts, I think. Though they're seen by millions of people and as such get a high amount of *views*, the clickthrough rate is generally abysmal and it's very rare to make $100 for a million views using adverts. The earnings from them could be described as 'pennies'.
3. Optional Premium Content.
This seems to be a new concept that I haven't seen much of since I don't play Flash games as much as I should... but basically it involves in-game APIs where you can use real money to buy items. MochiCoins is an example; I can't remember what the others are called.
You buy the Coins using the real money, then use these Coins in multiple different games. They're generally used for unlocking things like new levels, optional weapons, etc.
The profits from these seem better than the adverts, but it can lead to players complaining since they feel 'ripped off'. I think the earnings are in the area of $1000 for a million views for a good game; not high, but not 'nothing' either.
4. Demo and Full Version For Sale.
This is what I mentioned in the last news post, I think. It involves releasing a demo to various portals which links to the full version on the sponsor or developer site, and you have to pay a one-time fee to play it.
It's supposedly the most profitable, but can easily enrage fans, it seems.
I've worked on MARDEK 3 for a long time, and really want that time and effort to count for something. I won't be satisfied with mere pennies from this, since I do sort of want to make Flash development a career that can support me financially. I intend to make other projects like Beast Signer and FHO more profitable using the premium content option (buying optional stuff), but I don't know what will work best for MARDEK.
I can either earn more money, potentially, and lose fans, or I can keep fans and gain new ones but earn 'barely any' money. Hmm.
I'm still trying to work out a happy medium that will help me keep fans AND earn money.
Premium content might be the way to go... I can make certain quests something you have to pay for, maybe, though I'd have to plan what to make for sale.
This seems like a decent compromise since players would be able to get to the end of the story, but I think it could work too much in favour of the players... I can't help but feel frustrated when people suggest things that would make them be able to take without giving, while I go essentially broke or have to settle for pennies... It just doesn't seem fair! And things like this seem like nobody would really PAY for them, whereas I can imagine more people paying for a 'full version'... Hmm.
Anyway, the filesize is still an issue, apparently, BUT I'll solve that problem with help from people who know what they're talking about, on a special developer forum thing that I'm part of.
I've spent basically all day repeating myself to people, dismissing the following suggestions:
* "You should split up the game!"
I can't do this because MARDEK 3 isn't linear. It starts off with three inter-connected dungeons which you can't leave until you've finished them all; this would serve as a nice demo. However, once you get out, the game involves a lot of travelling between areas, back and forth, going to lots of old areas as well as new ones on various quests. There are no points where I could make a clean cut, and even if I did, much of the music would need to be in ALL the parts anyway.
* "Remove some of the music!"
I feel that the music is the most important part of MARDEK. I composed each track with care, taking hours, or days to do each one and often having to try two or three or more times just to get it *just right*. To suggest that I could merely cut some out and put others where they were never meant to go as if they're all interchangeable bland stolen music loops is sort of upsetting, in a way, since I really do think the music is such an important part of the experience...
And besides, the game as it is is about 19MB, and 10MB is the sort of maximum limit thing. The game is about 7-8MB with NO music, and there are about 73 tracks; I'd have to remove the *majority* of the music to get it under 10MB.
This is a reason why I thought the demo might be best; it's basically the only way I could get the size under 10MB.
(I'm sure there were more, but my mind's blank right now... If I remember them, I'll add them!)
EDIT: Why filesize is an issue...
Most Flash games are small things that can be loaded and played quickly in a short break, designed for a casual audience. Because of this, filesizes are generally small; people don't want to wait for them. There are limits on the maximum filesize that some portals allow, because of bandwidth issues as well as this patience factor.
Apparently the bidding site that I want to upload MARDEK 3 to for sponsors to look at has an upload limit of 10MB; MARDEK 3 is 19MB. I can't upload it to the site in its current form, and when asking in the site's forum for how to get around this restriction, other issues were mentioned by other developers there, like how some sponsors won't want a file so big because lack of patience and smaller portals' filesize limits would prevent the game getting much in the way of distribution, losing them clickthroughs.
This whole sponsorship process is going far less smoothly than I'd hoped... I just hope that I can get the game out *at all* though.
But whatever I do, if people just pirate the paid content, if there is any, then I don't see why I should bother making MARDEK 4. What'd be the point? If I'd not make enough money from it, it wouldn't be worth the time and effort.
The success of this game will determine whether I should continue the series.
Also, an edit: I'm going to describe some stats about MARDEK 3 and what would be in the 'demo' if I released it.
The 'demo' would probably include the first three dungeons, which would take maybe two or three hours to get through. In them, you'd get to play as five player characters, visit a town, fight several bosses, one with unique music... It'd give you a good idea of what the full game would be like.
If you chose to purchase it, you'd be able to get at least 10 player characters on your party with a range of unique abilities each, there'd be over a dozen dungeons (I'm not sure of an exact figure, since it'd depend on what you'd classify as a 'dungeon'), 73 music tracks, two secret bosses, the first two chapters would be included... In a playthrough by myself where I try to get everything, starting from chapter 1 and going to the end of chapter 3, it takes me about 45 hours. And I know where everything is!
There's a lot of replayability too, since you can use different party combinations (you can change who's on your party very easily).
There are hundreds of items, loads of abilities, LOADS of dialogue and a lot of it's secret... Quite a few side quests.
It's a huge game, anyway; I'm certain you'd find it worth your money, however much it cost.
Something that I could potentially do is have the demo/full version thing, but rather than having a fixed price like $15, I could have a 'pay what you think the game is worth!' thing, perhaps having a minimum of $1. It's easy to think that everyone would just pay the minimum, but you may be amazed to know that some people are generous even when not forced to be, and things like this might encourage such generosity purely because of a psychological choice.
I know of one Flash game that did this, and got average payments of about $7, with some going as high as $500. People who have a lot of money to spare donate a lot for encouragement and out of appreciation, it seems.
What do you think of this idea? Is it still objectionable?
YET ANOTHER EDIT:
Something I'd also like to include in the 'full version' deal is a walkthrough thing with 'developer commentary'... Basically, it'd be a simple walkthrough telling you where to go in the game (but not where each chest is or anything like that), and a load of rambling writing about my inspirations for MARDEK and what I wanted to do with the game, where I want to go with the series, etc. I'd also write long descriptions of what inspired me to come up with certain characters, what their purpose is, aspects of their history that might not be in the game, etc. People may find this interesting if they like reading things like the Encyclopaedia.
I'd also want to sell the soundtrack in the same way that the first two are sold now, but separately; it too would be a 'pay what you like' thing so you could pay a dollar for the game and another for the soundtrack if you wanted, maybe, or you could give $30 for both if you thought they were worth that to you...
Oh, and another thing: Since I'm aware that a lot of people would have to go through their parents for payment, I'd take the care to write a page for parents to read, which you could direct them to, explaining who I am and what they'd be paying for, and why it was all secure and everything. I know that many would be stubborn and set in their ways and therefore wouldn't TRUST what I wrote, but it might help reassure some just to not be in the dark.