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Best Business Model Approach for HTML5?

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I am currently working on an HTML5 game and need some ideas on the most viable business model I should use to monetize. The game is a single player game which has potential for being split up into DLC.  It is being developed with both mobile and desktop in mind; the controls / mechanics work well on both.  I have no desire to take the "sell my game license to someone" approach.  


I am going to be honest and say that my game isn't amazing or ground breaking, but it is a solid game with potentially a lot of replay value.  It will probably take me a couple months of hard work to finish.  Because this is the first game I am trying to monetize, I would say my goal is to make $10,000 (a hopefully realistic goal for a first game).  I have read a lot of the articles on this link at http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-indie-game-business/, but not many of the address actually statistics comparing the different methods.


These are the main options I have read about and would be interested in using:

  1. Create a portal / website which has my game(s) and ads
  2. Sell game directly using either the chrome app store or make my own account / billing system using paypal
  3. Sell in game content using a in-game credit system
  4. Freemium approach (this is where the DLC might come into play)
  5. Ask for donations.
  6. Keep browser version free, but port to mobile app using http://phonegap.com/


Here are my thoughts on each:


  1. A portal can allow for a constant monthly stream of revenue generated via ads.  Because I don't many games to place on my portal, this revenue would be slim-to-none.  On the plus side, a free game has potential to become popular much easier than a game one must buy.  Unfortunately, this approach might make my fan-base undesirable.  I rather have 50 dedicated monthly players than 10,000 random players who only play my game once.  I could always fall back on this approach if my game is a flop.  Bottom line:  Making money off ads is hard from what I read, and my fan-base has potential to become a bunch of little kids looking for a free game to play.
  2. Selling the game directly would assure the fan-base is dedicated, or at least "more" dedicated than, the free-to-play fan-base.  There has been a couple successful games such as Don't Starve (I think it is HTML5) on the Chrome Web Store and they seem to be doing well, especially for being in beta.  They also released on Steam which helps a lot.  This approach would also guarantee me revenue even if someone doesn't "like" the game.  All I need is for them to buy it once.  Using the Chrome Web Store might also be good because many people are lazy and reluctant to take out their credit card to buy a game on some random website they have never seen before.  Unfortunately, this approach would require me to spend a lot more time marketing my game both before and after release in comparison to a free-to-play game.  Bottom line: This approach seems like it would work best for my needs.
  3. In game content seems to work best in MMO games, not single player games.  Correct me if I am wrong though.
  4. Freemium might increase my potential fan-base due to the fact that there is free content.  This would make marketing a little easier on me.  I could then sell an upgraded game / content (more weapons, more zones, more enemies, etc) for a premium.  I read an article about how DLC worked well for their game.  Bottom line: This approach might be beneficial since this is my first game; free marketing and potential for making money.
  5. I feel this has only really worked on dwarf fortress, but again correct me if I am wrong.
  6. Free marketing while potentially making money on mobile market.  Although, I hear the mobile market is a very competitive market.  I feel like if I put in a lot of hard work into my game, keeping the browser free is selling my game short.


I feel like there are large trade offs between each of these methods and I am not sure which one would work best.  I know the best thing I should do is just "try one" since this is my first attempt to monetize off a game, but I rather get feedback from someone who has been successful or failed with one of these approaches with their browser game


If someone that could post actual statistics on the revenue of their game and what approach they choose to follow, it would be awesome.  But if those statistics are not available, any feedback would be great!


Hopefully I didn't ramble too much.  There is so much I don't know and don't know how to figure it all out =P.

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The most common model with HTML5 games right now is to get sponsors and license the game out - similar to much of the Flash game market. Typically that's associated with really simple games that work well on mobile web - developers will charge a few hundred bucks for each non-exclusive license. The best place to find sponsors right now is MarketJS.


Close behind sponsorships is advertisements, but from what I've seen so far, the bulk of that has been with mobile advertisements. This blog has some good stats and tips on exactly how well advertising and sponsors are working for him.


Selling any kind of web-only game is *really* difficult. You need to have great content in your game to compete with the hundreds of thousands of web games already online (I'm including Flash games). That's not to say it can't be done, it's something we're trying to tackle at Clay.io to get people more used to paying for better quality games (and making that payment process as easy as possible, like you mentioned with the Chrome Web Store). 


If you decide to sell for an upfront cost, your best bet is to go with the various app stores: Android, iOS, Chrome, even Firefox OS. 


If you have great content, I would recommend the more common web (and more and more mobile) model of free with in-app purchases. 


HTML5 is still fairly new, so it's still to be seen what the common model will be, but my guess is ads, and in-game payments - I would like to see developers be able to successfully charge for their game upfront, but that's a big paradigm shift.


Hope that helps - just my observations from watching the HTML5 games market the past couple of years.

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Thanks for the mention, Austin!


@OP, I recently published an ebook called Making Money With HTML5 which documents the processes I have used over the past year to build an income from HTML5 games. It might be of interest to you!

Edited by True Valhalla

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