We at 8bitrocket.com have been trying promote our games at a grassroots level for the past few months. In that time, we have met with some marginal success getting our games seen and played. If making your game is hard enough, getting people to see it and play it is even harder. If you plan on making money on your game, you will need to hit a critical mass of people who might be interested in playing and and/or buying it. Here are some ideas, roughly in order of least to most complex. The complexity of the method is proportional to the effect each method could have on the plays/earning potential of your game.
1. Blog it
Start a blog that describes your game development efforts. We did this at http://www.8bitrocket.com . We have had more success with people linking to our articles about making games in Flash and our tutorials than we have had getting people to play the games themselves. If you don’t have your own site, use something free like blogger.com or
2. Digg It
This goes for both your blog, and your games. Digg them, or (more effectively) have other people Digg them for you. If your game is good enough, it could stay on the top of Digg for a few hours or maybe even a full day. This can boost traffic to your game by 1000’s of visits.
3. Get A Post On Appropriate Blogging Web Sites
Serious bloggers on the subject of web based and casual games are just starting to appear on the web.
Jay Is Games is not a community site in the tradition of the the sites above. It is really a blog that allows you to suggest or review a game. I have it listed here because Jay Is Games is fast becoming one of the the most popular Casual Games sites on the web. The site has a clean, friendly design, and is constantly updated. The site allows you to suggest games that will be highlighted in the blog. You might not make it onto the site every time, but it is worth a try if you really want your game to be noticed.
Web Game Magazine is site similar to Jay Is Games. It does not allow you to submit games, but it does a community forum (at time of this writing it was not working). This is well-written, well designed site that looks like it has plenty of potential for the future. If if you cannot participate in it now, bookmark it for later reference.
Albino Black Sheep is another very cool site dedicated to indie games and indie game development. Blog highlights games that are a bit “left-of-center”, and if that is your sensibility, this might be a good site to join.
If these blogs won’t recognize you, you still have options. Research community web sites that might be interested enough in your game to post it as a news item. For instance, since our first game was a retro-inspired shooter named “Retro Blaster”, we contacted our friends at Armchair Arcade , who mentioned it in one of their blog postings.
Also, if you can’t get the owner of the site to post about it, you might be able to post a link to it on a community forum. Be careful though, as you cannot just do this willy-nilly, or join just any forum and spam about your game. This can take some considerable effort. You need to join the forum, contribute, and get a feel for whether a self-promotion style message will work. If you are unsure, email or send a private message to the moderator of the forum. The last thing you want is to get banned from a forum because you were trying to get people to play your game.
Some sites are now offering paid listing on their blogs. For a small fee site like FlashGameSite.com will allow you to submit a blog entry, images, links etc. If you are willing to trade $$$ for eyeballs, this could be an effective option..
4. Become A Member Of Community Based Game Site
In the past couple years, several community-based game sites have been created that allow users to post links to, and rate games.
The Great Games Experiment was created by the people at http://www.garagegames.com to help developers promote their own work, and help game players find the people who made their favorite games. Getting an account and listing your games here is fairly easy. If you make Flash games, you can upload them here (be sure to encrypt/URL protect your .swf files and add a splash page with a linking logo page back to your own portfolio site before you do so). You can also add links to games, images, describe the development process etc. The site is free and easy to use.
Millions Of Games is a site dedicated to collecting links and information about every online game in existence. At this moment, they have over 14,000 games listed, and the list keeps growing. By joining Millions Of Games you become a “MOGger”, with your job being to find and or rate as many new games as possible. There is no reason you cannot MOG your own games. If they are good enough, they will stay on the home page to be played by MOG users. If not, they will fall in with the other 14,000+ games.
Kongregate.com is a fairly new site dedicated to the creation of Casual/Online game community. Kongregate encourages you to suggest games, upload games, and become a part of their ever-growing community.
GameGum is another Flash games community that allows you to upload your games to get them noticed.
5. Traffic Trading/Link Trading
Many sites like this one offer you the opportunity to trade links with them. For every visit you send to their site, they move the the link to your site up in their list of links. Get it? It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme, and it only really works if there are not too many sites in the “link trading network”, but it is worth a try. If you are going to do this, be sure you trade links with like minded or like-content site to get the maximum benefit from the links. That way, the people visiting your site and the site you have traded a link with are more likely to click a link.
You don’t have to link trade manually. Sites like Clickz , Link Lister, and Link2Me have been created to help site owners trade links with one-another. I cannot vouch for any one of these services, as I have not tried any of them, nor can I state that they have any real value. However, they certainly seem like an option, as nearly all Flash games sites have some sort of traded link somewhere on their home page.
You can also try some paid banner sites like Arcade Banners ,and More Gamerz . However these sites are more suitable for game aggregation sites that have 1000’s of games listed. You you pay for your impressions, and you gain credit for links you send back to the network. For small developers with only a handful of games, this might not be a good model. You would be sending much less traffic back to the network than you receive, and pay accordingly.
6. Submit To Free Game Listing Sites
A couple years ago, most Flash Game sites were of this variety, including the king of them all, AddictingGames.com . I was personally able to capture 2,000,000 visits to one of my games, simply by having it listed on the front of AddictingGames.com. Those were the days! After being bought by Atom (owners of Shockwave.com) it is not quite so easy to get a listing there. In fact, none of the 30 or so games I have submitted to them in after the first one ever got picked-up. Some of these sites are now offering Paid Links. For a small fee, they will let you bypass the “waiting period” to have your game reviewed, and get you up on the site as soon as possible.
GameLinks.com is still one of the hold-outs in the game linking arena. You can suggest a game to them, and if it is suitable, they will list it. It can sometimes take weeks for them to get to your game listed, and it helps if you add a link to your site back to Gamelinks.com (kind of like a Link Trade).
Heavy Games and it’s sister site Kickin Games have been two of the best places I have ever submitted a game. Both sent traffic to my games, but Heavy Games in particular sent me 1000’s of visits in the first day. It tapered off after a week or so, but the initial impact was worth the effort. Heavy Games and Kickin’ Games, like Game Links, also want you to post a link back to them on your site.
I Am bored is a great example of a site that is not restricted to games only, that lists links to new web based games. Getting a listing here is not easy. they mostly like to list games that are funny, have some kind of shock value, or have an edgy feel to them. If this describes your games, you will probably have a good chance of getting a listing.
Wicked Small Games is one of the first game link aggregation sites. It doubles as community for reviewing web-based games. The crop of regular reviewers here know good games, and don’t have any patience for copycats, wannabe’s or crap.
7. Upload Your Game To Game Aggregation Sites
The larger game aggregation sites have now started accepting mostly uploads for the games they display. Most of the time, you retain full rights to your game after you upload it to one of these sites. (be sure check each site policy before you upload anything). The benefit to uploading your game is that people are more likely to see it. The down-side is that people won’t see it at your own site, they won’t see any of your other games, and you won’t be able to easily tell how many people have played your game. However, these problems can be overcome. Most of these sites will let you put a splash page at the beginning of the game that links back to your own site. As well, you can use a service like Mochibot (see below) to track how many people have played your game. If you are trying to make name for yourself, uploading games might be the easiest way to do it. Just be aware of main consequence: You will be losing control.
There are many sites out there that will allow you to upload games. Many of them seem to be fly-by-night based on some sort of template package sold to help lazy entrepreneurs create their own game site. Avoid those sites, if at all possible, and concentrate on the more well-known entities such as: Addicting Games, Arcade Town , AGame.com, Kongregate.com, GameGum.com , GameSloth.com , Flash Portal, FlashGames247.com and the grand daddy of them all, New Grounds.
It is also a good idea to protect your .swf file is you are going to upload your games to any of these sites. You can URL Lock your game (scroll to the bottom of the page for the code), to make sure it only runs on the site you uploaded it too, and you can encrypt the .swf file to help prevent de compilation of your code.
8. Enter Game Making Contests
While not always as easy as simply uploading your game, entering a game making contest is another good way to get people to see your game. The site Jay Is Games is currently running a competition and has a whole section of the site dedicated to game making competitions. Also, there are other independent games contest such as The Indie Games Showcase . Sure, it will be very difficult to win a contest like this, but most of them offer showcase of entries, so even you don’t win, people will be playing and rating your game. Some of game aggregation sites have contests of their own as well. New Grounds offers a monthly competition, while Flash Portal and Armor Games offers various contests and competitions through the year.
9. Try To Garner Game Sponsorship
Game sponsorship appears to be the “hot new way” for indie Flash game programmers to make money from their creations and get them seen and played all over the world. For the most part, all of the sponsorships work like this:
- You take a brand new, un played game that has not seen the light of the internet yet, and submit it to one of the legitimate game sponsorship sites.
- If the site likes your game, they will offer you a fee to sponsor your game.
- Said site give you a splash-page logo that advertises their won web site for you to put in your game .
- You give the site exclusive rights to distribute your game all over the internet.
- You retain the copyright on your game .
There are variations on the above (payment for plays and views, non-exclusive agreements, etc.) but they are all basically the same: you give someone exclusive access to put an ad in your game, and you get money for it. Most allow you to create a splash page that links back to your portfolio site, but that is about all the control you have over your game and where it ends up on the internet.
There are many sites that offer these kinds of Sponsorship deals. some of the best known ones are: Arcade Town, Armor Games , Kongregate.com, Flash Portal, and Crazy Monkey Games. However, don’t be surprised if you are not contacted the first, second third, etc, time you submit games. As you can imagine, these sites get loads of submissions. They have probably seen games like the one your are submitting many times before, or simply don’t have time to get to it. Be patient, and consistent. These sponsorships look like the wave of the future.
Also, just like other upload types, be sure to protect your work. URL Lock your game (if this is allowed by the site your submitting to),and/or encrypt the .swf file to help prevent de compilation of your code.
10. Submit Your Game For Game Publication
The Holy Grail of making an indie game is to actually get it picked-up by a publisher. The problem is, very few games go this far. You need to have something extra special to even be considered for publication. Your game needs to be top-notch, flawless, and unique. As well, some of these publishers will require a downloadable/installable version of your game. This can be created with software like MDM Zinc . Some might not even want the game in Flash, and will have to re code it in another language for another platform. Publication is a long-shot, but if you think you have what it takes, here are some places to check-out: PopCap, Alawar, Zylom, Big Fish, Miniclip, Shockwave.com
While not pure traffic generating strategies, here are six more tips and tools to help you get your Flash games played.
Mochibot is a service that lets developers of viral Flash games find out how many times they have been played, and on which sites they have been played on. After you sign-up for an account, you create a profile for each game, and Mochibot gives you a snippet of code to add to your Flash movie. The code calls Mochibot every time the game is played, and helps keeps track of where it is, and what people are doing with it. Also, Mochibot have a new system called Mochiads is beta. Mochiads will be a a bit like Google Adsense for Flash games. You will be able to put the ads in your games, and get paid for clicks (maybe even views).
2. Google Analytics/Adsense Integration
While the jury is still out on whether Good Adsense is lucrative enough to make you any money, it certainly can help with your search engine rankings within Google Search. Google Adsense coupled with Google Analytics index and spider your site often enough to make a huge difference in the search terms people use to find the content on your site. While this won’t necessarily get people to see your games, it can get people to your site, and their eye-balls are what you need to get your games noticed.
3. Play No Evil
Play No Evil is a fantastic site dedicated to game security, including many references to web based games. Check this site often for updates, tips and ideas on how to make your own game creations more secure.
4. Make A Game People Want To Play
I know this seems simple, but it has to be stated. You need to make a good game. Not just technically good, but also a designed well. In the current landscape, games need to be original, easy to play (though not necessarily easy to win), and addictive as all heck. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way.
5. Don’t Be An Ass
Most of the people that run the sites listed above know each other. They trade links, link to each other’s blogs, review each other’s games, etc. It does not behoove you to be an ass to any of them. They might know each other, but they don’t know you. Word can travel pretty fast, and if you are not respectful, you might find yourself black-listed fairly quickly. Remember, “being persistent” doesn’t mean “just this side of a restraining order”. Send ONE email on any particular topic. If your game is not accepted or gets a bad review, go with it. Use the situation as feedback to make an even better game next time.
6. Develop A Thick Skin
99% of time, you will never hear back from anyone. You’ll write a dozen emails, submit to a dozen sites, and the ensuing silence will be deafening. Don’t give-up. It might be the 23rd game you make that conquers the world. You’ll never know if you stop at 22. Even if the ideas you have right now are not interesting to people, your next idea might be genius. Experience will help teach to you the types of games that people want to play, and the more games you make, the better you will be at at making games. The one ingredient that is required is a passion for, a desire to, and love of making games. And remember, even if you never have a hit game, you will always have your own creations to play end enjoy, plus pride in the knowledge that you completed something worthwhile. If that is not enough to satisfy you, then you might as well get out of this hobby/business right now.
I’m sure I missed many sites and methods to get your game seen on the web. If you have any suggestions of things I have missed, feel free to send them to me here:mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: While writing this, I found some other very good articles on similar subjects. You can read them here: Flash Games – 10 Ways To Make Money From Creating Them! and here: Fun In Flash.