Still no clear monetization path for game creators

Payment platforms such as Facebook Credits as well as in-app purchases and advertising are means for developers to monetize their games, but no proven strategy yet, says Adobe Systems exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--There are still no clear revenue paths for game developers except to hedge their bets and utilize the various monetization platforms available today, says an Adobe Systems executive.

U.K.-based gaming evangelist, Mike Jones, told ZDNet Asia in an interview Friday that the games market is experiencing a "renaissance" and a "second coming" currently, helped in part by the proliferation of devices that allow consumers to access the games.

Casual and social games such as Bejeweled and Farmville, in particular, are drawing more people to online games that are being made available on smartphones, tablets, desktops and even TVs, he added.

Monetizing conundrum
Despite the rising popularity of games, though, there is still no proven strategy for developers to make money out of their software, Jones noted.

For social games, networking sites such as Facebook with its Credits payment system and game platform operators and aggregators such as MochiMedia with its MochiCoins are viable options to either sell the games or earn money through in-app purchases for virtual goods, he explained.

Smaller, indie developers, he added, tend to gravitate toward conventional in-game advertisements though, as this method provides a "safer, more guaranteed" source of revenue compared to its alternatives. The bigger game publishers with a portfolio of games, on the other hand, can afford to implement in-game purchases to entice consumers to part with their money, the games evangelist pointed out.

Quizzed if in-app purchases for paid games are gaining traction, Jones said there will always be people willing to pay for add-ons although this demographic size varies depending on the type of game. Citing Angry Birds as an example, he said while he would personally play until he completes all the stages in the game, there will be others who would be willing to pay for the use of the Mighty Eagle, which is a "soft way" of getting past a tough stage.

Another challenge for game developers is discoverability of their apps, and to address this, Jones said that Adobe has been providing "guidelines" and "best practices" on its online forum sites.

However, he stated the company will not take on the role of a games aggregator to directly help Flash game developers promote their games on an Adobe-branded distribution platform.

Creating cross-platform games
"Our role is to provide the tools for developers to create games that have the same experience across multiple platforms and devices," the executive explained.

To fulfill that role, Jones pointed out that its Flash Builder compiler helps developers create Flash games that can be easily ported across Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry Tablet mobile operating systems (OSes). Other than resolution and graphic tweaks, the code is the same across the platforms, he said.

Other mobile platforms will be added to the list depending on user demand, he added.

Additionally, with Adobe's Flash Player 11 set to be launched later this year as well as its Stage 3D software, formerly known as "Molehill", Jones said developers will be able to create richer, more dynamic apps that can tap the device's graphics card, or GPU.

"While Stage 3D's name suggests that it is only for 3D software, it can be used by 2D developers too," Jones revealed. "What it offers is a performance boost across the board."

According to an earlier report by ZDNet Asia's sister site, CNET News, the Stage 3D/Molehill interface is a big deal for Flash. This is because while Flash has a stranglehold on online games, it faces competition from an emerging Web standard called WebGL.

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