Thoughts on Mochi

September 21st, 2011

To any other developers who might be lurking around here, I thought I might share a few of my experiences to date with the Mochi ad and micro-transaction platform. Now seems like a particularly appropriate time to do so, as I’m pretty sure to be moving on to other pastures.

I discovered Mochi while working on Gun Nomads, my very first one-man game project. At that point I knew nothing about sponsorships, and in fact didn’t even realize it was possible to make a living from flash games. Gun Nomads was at first meant to be nothing more than an exercise in getting my 3D work into something, and actually finishing a decent game (something that I never quite managed with my school projects). So with that in mind, making a couple bucks from this Mochi thing seemed like a no-brainer. Not knowing much about the flash world, the resulting traffic took me completely by surprise. Within a week Gun Nomads reached its peak of popularity, receiving 100,000 views on its best day. Of course, my return from ads (ecpm) varied between 10 and 20 cents per 1000 views, so I wasn’t exactly making a fortune. Those tiny fractions of a penny for each ‘customer’ just didn’t seem like much for the entertainment I was offering. So, I started reading about this new-fangled thing called ‘micro-transactions’. It seemed like another no-brainer. I only needed one person in a thousand to spend a trivial bit of change to start making some real money.

So I went in and expanded Gun Nomads, adding micro-transactable guns, mission content and cheats. It turned out even a trivial bit of change was difficult to get from flash gamers, but my ecpm did jump up to about a dollar. Although my daily traffic had slipped by then, so I only made forty bucks on my best sales day. A week or two afterwards I was down to making $10-$15 per day. A bit of welcome spending money and a sign of better things to come, but not quite a quick and easy fortune.

But the long tails in this business can still make such games worth something. More than two years after release, Gun Nomads is still making nearly two dollars a day, and has made over four grand to date. So with a bit of patience and a hefty portfolio of games there’s no doubt a potential living can be found in this territory. On the other hand, my other three micro-transaction games haven’t done quite as well. Swordfall is currently making more per day, but it’s also a much newer game. In the very long term it might still overtake Gun Nomads, but at this point that seems unlikely. In any case, the bottomline is that sponsorships have proven much more reliable and profitable. In my experience, it’s also difficult to combine the two, as sponsors seem to like fully free games about as much as the audience does.

There are definitely a few flash games that have achieved some impressive numbers with this business model, but I’m not convinced anymore that it’s worth pursuing. There are other, much more fertile avenues to explore, if paying customers are indeed the ultimate goal. Like the internet itself, flash is supposed to be free in the minds of most people, and it is nice to have this one place where anyone, anywhere in the world can play games without running into a paywall.

So, what would I recommend in Mochi’s place? If you like the micro-transaction thing, it can clearly work spectacularly well on facebook. Getting into that market can be difficult for the little guys, as there is no way to get noticed outside of marketing and viral spread. The right game can still get all the attention it needs from the latter, but it won’t work out for most. The typical time-constraint, spammy paywall techniques on facebook can also be a bit exploitative. That model really has no appeal to me as a player, nor as a developer, but it might be the right cup of tea for some. Although, if you’re trying to build an image as a ‘good-guy indie,’ just the fact you have games on facebook will hurt that reputation.

Currently, the most interesting market for me is mobile, which of course is hardly a unique opinion these days. The culture on the various app stores is really completely different when compared to flash. People celebrate iPhone games for being so cheap, while they groan and whine when similar flash games charge anything at all. It probably has a lot to with the downloading of apps into your collection, rather than playing through a public website, that makes the things feel like property. Perhaps the most interesting thing, at least to me, is how the mobile publishing model is now expanding onto traditional operating systems. Apple now sells apps for OSX as well as iOS, and by the sound of things Windows 8 is going to follow close on its heels. This could be the start of a revolution in how PC and Mac games are published. Even something as accessible as Steam still has some pretty high standards and a fairly arcane approval process, at least from what I’ve heard. Letting nearly everything in and allowing the gems to float naturally to the top is a wonderfully democratic approach in comparison. All this together with the recent explosion in multi-platform dev tools is opening up game development like nothing else in history. I can see a day coming when any twelve year-old kid can make a game and release it on every computing device in the world at the click of a button. That day is not today, but the walls are definitely beginning to crumble.

– Peace and broken walls

Posted in Random Musings | 10 Comments »


10 Responses to “Thoughts on Mochi”

  1. george Says:

    I want to create a website. How do i put micro-transactions into a game? Also how do i get a sponsorship?

  2. george Says:

    I want to create a website. How do i put micro-transactions into a game? Also how do i get a sponsorship? Please get back to me.

  3. george Says:

    I want to know how i can put micro-transactions in a game. Also how can i get a sponsorship, please get back to me soon.

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  7. Third Eye Says:

    Hi man and thanks for sharing this insight.

    I came here following your link from kong (more specifically, the link on scrap metal heroes) and was wondering if being on more sites brought you significantly any more cash.

    As far as business model goes, I wonder: many freemium models, let’s think about the latest gemcraft, seem to be well received by aggregator sites (I think of kong, newgrounds, armour games and the like).

    Surely having a hefty portfolio of successful games, a good fanbase and overall a decent brand name helps, but still it is were I’d point if I were you (and I wish I were, at least considering your game developing skills).

    I agree with the little interest in FB or the pay-to-have-an-insane-advantage model typical of the boring browser game, but consider that they are all the rage with novice gamer like your average 50 yo stay-at-home housewife. Some eye-candy no-brainer can be very profitable, if you make it to a larger audience. And that’s a shame, as it is in every occurence were a not educated public is called to give an opinion.

    I agree also with the lack of rationality in asking for absolutely free flash games, than having your wallet bleed over silly tons of stuff for your mobile, but that’s a fallacy I’d exploit as well.

    Oh, well, apart from this rant, I wrote while waiting an endless loading for the full SMH (it is taking more than a hour, is it alright?) and to compliment you for the very good work :)!

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