I get this question a lot via email. I’ve gotten a recent deluge of them in my inbox, so instead of answering each individually, here’s a summary answer for the public to my most common question. I know this is a bit of a deviation from my endless optimism, but I think it has to be said at least once in public form.
So, the question I get is:
I have a flash game that I am trying to find a sponsor for. How much money can I get for it?*
[Edit: I'm talking about commercial flash sponsorship; selling your game to portal sites. I'm not talking about government sponsorships or kickback programs]
What an easy question! Let’s lay it out for you. The amount of money you can make depends on a variety of factors, not limited to:
- Luck. Sometimes you just can’t predict ANY of this.
- What the market desires right now. Maybe there hasn’t been a good game of your genre recently. Or maybe there’s been too many of your game recently. Who knows? Well, you could, if you did some market research.
- The google-ability of your game’s name. Many sponsors bid on getting google hits; if you already own every google hit, or if there are millions of competing similar titles, your property isn’t worth all that much.
- Target audience. Some sponsors want a game that can be played with one hand on the mouse. Some cater to a keyboard-only crowd. Which one are you targeting? How many sponsors fit your game? If you don’t know, why haven’t you looked into it yet?
- Thematics. Is it christmas-time? Does your game feature santa and snow? Why not?
After you’ve settled on a baseline there, and you are doing the BEST you can, here are some nice metrics:
- 80% of games never find a sponsor. Keep in mind that the barrier to entry for game making is REALLY low, and the quality of these games is almost universally horrible. To get an idea of the shitty games that never find a sponsor, just look at whatever gets banned from Newgrounds, or the dregs of other aggregation sites like Kongregate. These games may never find any money, either due to content, marketability, or just plain.. quality. I don’t think most people that manage to make their way to this blog fall into this 80%.
- Of the 20% that DO find a sponsor, the MEDIAN price these days for a sponsorship is $600. This isn’t lifetime revenue; this is for your first, one-time, up-front deal. But it is going to be your biggest deal, so yeah. $600 is “normal.” Spend your development budget accordingly.
- Keep in mind that of the 20% of games that get sponsors at all, yours is probably not going to be “above average.” As the common saying goes, “80% of people think they are above average.” That means the most you can hope for is $600 for your first payment. Anything else is gravy.
- If you have a really excellent game (not on your own metrics, but on the sponsor’s metrics, which is an important distinction), you can fairly easily pull in $1K-5K for your game, with a median being around $2K. I would wager a guess that any of my talented game-developer-friends that attend GDC and know all the ins-and-outs of the industry would make $2K as a bare minimum. Again, if you fall into this category (almost nobody does!), spend your development budget accordingly.
- Keep in mind that I’m speaking right now to the (almost a hundred?) people that have asked me this question, and most of them did not make any money. I have put several games myself up for bidding and gotten absolutely nothing in return.
- There is a chance, albeit small, that you are indeed a beautiful snowflake. If this is the case… I have confirmed cases of sponsors paying up to $200K for titles that I, personally, consider kinda “shitty” games. But they were well polished.
Notice how I didn’t have to play your game to make these judgements? Because your actual game is kinda secondary to all these other factors.
One of the best metrics I’ve been able to come up with, for if a game will find good sponsorship money, is these questions:
- How many local meetup groups for game development have you attended?
- How many GDCs have you attended? (x10)
- How many games have you released? (x10)
- How many beers have I bought you? (x100)
If you total all those numbers up, and you are over 100, you’ll probably get a good sponsorship. And probably wouldn’t even read this blog post if I didn’t link it to you at some point.
OK. I’ve said my piece. I stand behind it. I know there are outliers, and I know that almost everyone (including myself, at first!) pretty much revolts when they hear “bad news” like this. Or maybe you’re yet another reader that thinks they are, indeed, one of those beautiful snowflakes. The bad news is, if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t. I’m a nobody. Why are you reading this blog? If you lack the self confidence and need this tutorial blog post, you probably aren’t going to make it, this time around.
But to steal a phrase, IT GETS BETTER.
Keep making games. Keep cranking them out. Your first game might not be a success. Your second might not. Several of my (successful!) friends believe in the “1 in 10″ rule: you have to make ten games to find out which one is the hit.
Angry Birds was Rovio’s 11th iOS game, all the previous were flops. Outside of iOS, Rovio made close to 50 games and barely scraped by before they found their hit.
Be absolutely wary of any success stories. The press likes to latch on to them. You never hear about the dozens of failures.
Me? I’ve made about two dozen games. I bet you’ve heard of around 1. That says something.
Keep trying. You’ll make it. Keep learning, reach out, attend events, participate in groups and forums, and you’ll learn the way to riches.
And if you find it, let me know! I’m still in the woods here! D: