I’ve spent all of 2012 trying to break into the HTML5 mobile game market, and with my financial success of late I feel like I’m in a good position to offer insight to others. While I know developers that have been licensing their HTML5 mobile games to publishers since early 2011, I certainly joined the market when it was young. As a result, I have benefited from the limited supply of content available to companies looking for cross-platform HTML5 games. But just how good does your game need to be to make $100, $1000, or more? Well, you might be surprised.
First though, it’s worth mentioning what type of content these publishers are looking for. Most are looking to establish themselves better in the mobile space so HTML5 is a logical choice for companies that have a primarily web-based audience. Remember that “normal” mobile games are downloaded from a platform like the Apple AppStore or Google Play and then installed on the device, whereas HTML5 games are played directly in a web browser. This means that publishers can keep players on their portal while providing a seamless mobile experience. Given the limited and fading support for Adobe Flash on mobile, HTML5 is really the only option available to web-based game portals that want a taste of the ever-growing mobile audience.
The actual types of games that publishers want vary from portal to portal, but typically family-friendly casual games are what they’re looking for. The HTML5 market mirrors the early Flash market so closely that you could take pretty much any Flash game, copy it, and make money from it. I haven’t resorted to this option myself though as I’m working at an even more basic level.
I’ve spent 2012 recreating common puzzle games, arcade games, and even card games. And they are making money. It’s amazing. I mean, even my sliding puzzle Picture Shifter has made over $2000 now!
Why do these types of games even sell at all? To explain, it’s worth keeping in mind that the game itself is never actually sold to players. No one is going to to pay to play Tic-Tac-Toe. The actual process is simple: the publisher licenses your game for a fee, which allows them to legally place it on their portal, where they direct players to play for free. They then make their money back via on-page advertising or some other method.
But that still doesn’t explain why such basic games are of interest to publishers. Again it comes down to the simple fact that there is not enough supply to meet demand. HTML5 developers can get away with shipping low-end games because there are so few quality games to compete with, and publishers are desperate for web-based mobile content.
This revelation leads us to the last major question: why aren’t developers making high-quality games?
In short, the money isn’t there. While I have extensive access to publishers from around the globe, I only ever pitch my new games to a score of them. The others either pay too poorly or are just non-responsive to the point where they aren’t worth pursuing. But even out of the remaining publishers, few will stretch their budget for a quality game. The best game in my growing portfolio may fetch only a few hundred more dollars than the worst one, or even less!
Consider one of my few public games, Hi-Lo. This obviously simplistic card game was made in just 9 hours and has gone on to make over $3000. In contrast, a small team of skilled developers with access to the same publishers as me spent months creating a high-quality HTML5 mobile game that went on to only make an uninspiring thousand dollars or so.
Publishers do not pay for quality.
At least, not yet. As the market grows in size and larger companies like Microsoft enter the scene more seriously, this scenario will most certainly reverse itself and the HTML5 market will begin to look more like the current Flash one.
The window for making a quick dollar with HTML5 is slowly closing but there is still time to join. The difficulty is knowing where to start. Resources like my upcoming eBook “Making Money With HTML5″ should help with that, though even as the market develops there will be plenty of potential to monetize HTML5. There are currently thousands of games portals that still don’t have a mobile presence. Unless they want to be left behind, they’re going to need one.
Invest in HTML5 now and get ready to cash in on the inevitable flood of demand.