Recently, we wrote about the future of HTML5 games and discovered that prospects for success are perfectly attainable for the average HTML5 developer. This kind of statement, of course, is always met with a few incredulous stares, since these games tend to be swept under the rug as development hobbies or something entertaining for a casual enthusiast. After all, when was the last time you overheard a group of players talking about the latest HTML5 game release?
But really, the key is in knowing how to monetize your game in a way that doesn’t hinder design or player experience. Millions of people are monetizing traffic to their websites just fine, and there is really no technical or market-related reason why you shouldn’t be successful.
That being said, HTML5 games are overshadowed by Flash, causing many to wish Flash fades out fast (which apparently it will by 2020). The quality, scope and variety makes Flash games a commercially competitive obstacle for HTML5.
But that’s not the biggest obstacle. The most prominent hurdle is yourself—and your ability to essentially work hard to make decent profits. You could have an entire website dedicated to your HTML5 games only and still see little revenue unless you know what to do. This primarily stems from the fact that everything in the HTML5 market is angled for mobile right now, which means that unless you go into it with a game plan, you’re likely to make more money off of mobile games than web-based games.
Whether you want to make those classic 2D card games or the next browser RPG, just know that it’s all entirely possible these days. There have been many device improvements in recent years, so making games that run in browsers or HTML5-powered devices can be done with no sacrifices.
You don’t even need to know how to code to make an HTML5 game anymore, since there’s software that can do it for you. Construct 2 is a prime example of this, but it comes with a $129.99 price tag.
Books on language learning, such as “HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites,” vary in price. This book in particular ranges anywhere from $15 to $30. Meanwhile the more niche “Learning HTML5 Game Programming: A Hands-on Guide to Building Online Games Using Canvas, SVG, and WebGL” is $15 on Kindle or $25 in paperback.
Assuming you already have a working computer (you’re reading this, so you just might), the upfront costs of a comfortable place to work from and a few hours of your time every night aren’t all that high.
The most expensive part would be in publishing, which depends entirely on approach. Hosting a game or publishing it on a platform may involve submission fees, but that varies by platform. If you decide to really be risky and put it on your own website, you’re looking at a domain cost and maybe web design. A Bluehost domain ending in “.com” runs about $12, but hiring a web designer can be significantly more expensive (hint: you probably just learned HTML and CSS so take a swing at web design!).
Again, to reinstate revenue is entirely possible with HTML5 games, but a lot of work is required. Unlike releasing a game onto a console or a digital marketplace like itch.io or Steam, with HTML5 games, it’s all about design, smart thinking, strategic planning, and research. You can’t simply put it on a website and expect it to sell itself—or even get traffic.
Let’s look at three possible ways you can make money with HTML5 games:
It’s nothing to brag about, but ads are functional. Brands and other advertisers love using games to advertise relevant products to people that are likely to purchase them. And because games offer so much market information, such as metrics and demographics, it makes it an ideal platform for ads.
Again, not ideal, but it does work.
These companies are willing to pay developers to design and create games specifically for them. That means your sense of freedom and creative ideas are pretty much discarded—since your game’s concept isn’t your own—but you do get to create a game, sell it, and make a profit. This means that if you’re creating games for monetary purposes exclusively, this works for you. But if you pour your heart and soul into your art and want to create games that really connect with your players and brand, you might want to rethink this approach.
That being said, brands and advertisers that are aligned with your own brand will usually ask for games that fit nicely with your own vision. So before signing any contracts or making any deals, really think about how this work may affect your reputation moving forward!
If you do decide this is for you, create games to showcase first (build a portfolio), and link to them in any potential lead you come across.
There are plenty of websites, such as FGL and GamePix that provide marketplaces where HTML5 developers can sell their games, and get them in front of publishers looking to buy games for their own websites.
The process is simple: develop a game, list it on the platform, and wait for a publisher to make an offer, either with an exclusive or nonexclusive license. One sale alone can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand, but there’s a catch: you aren’t guaranteed to sell a license for your game. That means games need to be created quickly. This explains why so many of these games made for licensing are 2D casual games like puzzle games.
Monetizing Your Game
First thing’s first though: even though this is the absolute best way to make money off an HTML5 game, while keeping your creative freedom, monetizing your own game is risky. There is no other company that’s paying you for the game or anything, so you’re very much on your own with this approach.
This method includes running adverts in your game and using virtual currency or even in-app purchases to create a free-to-play game.
One game that has done well with this model is Agar.io, which uses coins, skins, XP Boost, and Mass Boost. Created by Matheus Valadares, the game revolves around a cell in a petri dish. Players attempt to control the cell and gain as much mass as possible by eating agar and other smaller cells, while avoiding the larger cells with ample appetite.
Yes, it’s a game about culture bacteria that has made waves.
Engadget had nothing but nice things to say about it:
“It sounds simple, but it can get very hectic—and it’s a good abstraction of the fierce survival-of-the-fittest competition that you sometimes see on the microscopic level.”
The success of the game largely has to do with the amount of work that went not only into design but also spreading the word. It was streamed on Twitch.tv and YouTube, and it was even featured in an episode of House of Cards—”Chapter 48,” in which it was compared to political campaigning.
Kotaku also compared it to politics, since it pointed out how Turkey was using it as a symbol of their desires to form new alliances.
But before you get too carried away with ideals of success and recognition, remember, this game was heavily pushed. Unless you have it in you to work hard for several hours a day/night, it just may not happen. There is no guarantee.
Obviously, one of the key components in game monetization is the ability to connect with resources that streamline the process. Websites like Facebook, Kongregate, and Miniclip offer payment APIs that allow developers to sell virtual goods in games.
In the case of Kongregate, you can host your game on the open platform and get your game in front of thousands of users. Ad and virtual good revenue is welcome. Another alternative is to use the publishing program, which helps to get the game out on multiple platforms, including Kongregate.
On the other hand, Miniclip is known for being one of the best platforms for browser games of all genres, from 2 player games, to golf, arcade or political. Even simulation games. Submitting a game involves contacting them and following easy steps. They feature different types of licenses, a skilled team that helps with integration, and a range of components to helps with administration. There’s microtransaction, award, data, chat, and score system help available, as well as a professional beta testing team.
If you’re looking for help with things like distribution and game-commerce, Xsolla is a good option. In fact, both Miniclip and Kongregate use Xsolla themselves. They’re known for providing a multitude of services to help with game development, distribution, integration, marketing, localization, and just about everything else imaginable. More notably, their PayStation is highly useful for HTML5 developers looking to sell virtual items for games. It features over 700 payment systems in 19 localized languages, helps to sell virtual items, currency and subscriptions, and even makes it possible to offer sales and coupons.
What This Means For You
Developers may very well scoff, but HTML5 games are only just getting started. They’re not for everyone, and certainly not for every player out there, but they are certainly a viable way of developing games without breaking the bank. There is less competition than on console and mobile markets, and in all likelihood, you probably already have everything you need to make these games.
That being said, HTML5 game development isn’t for everyone. It takes dedication, perseverance, and strategic thinking. Interested developers would be wise to keep their day jobs, and really only pursue this if they are willing to either sell it to companies, or really push their game for visibility.
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