FGS 5 Advisory Board Interview Series, Take 5
Welcome to the fifth edition of the FGS 5 Advisory Board Interview Series! This is your chance to get to know the folks who will determine the content of FGS 5, getting their thoughts on both the conference and the games industry in general.
This time around I chatted with Chris Hughes, Co-founder of FGL.com and Flash games industry veteran. FGL.com has established themselves as the marketplace to buy and sell games, providing game developers with great monetization opportunities. FGL.com is also a consistent sponsor of FGS, and a consistent partner in fielding the industry’s annual market survey. This is the first time Chris has served on the FGS Advisory Board.
For more information on FGS 5, including passes, speakers, or Mochis Award Show information please visit the conference website.
Interview with Chris Hughes
Introduce yourself- who are you, how big is your team, and how do you participate in the Flash games industry?
Howdy. I’m Chris Hughes, Co-Founder of FGL.com and other FGL properties such as FlashGameDistribution.com and GamerSafe.com.
There are around 15 of us, and you can probably pick us out easily at FGS as we’re the loud ones laughing a lot and poking fun at ourselves.
As for our participation in the industry: In short, we are the industry’s marketplace. Developers, sponsors, publishers, buyers, and others in the industry come to FGL.com to participate in the community and monetize games. We’re best known for being the place to find games to license or publish on the web or mobile.
What did you do before, and how did you first get into the Flash games industry? Tell us about your path.
I’ve been an indie Developer for a long time, but I never made much money at it. To pay the bills I’ve worked at a sporting goods store, been a website designer, taught at ice hockey camps, and various other odd-jobs. After getting my Masters in Computer Science I was an Engineer at Qualcomm, where I helped test microchips for use in cell phones, and a Software Developer at UC Davis where I built the online system and interface that every student at the school used to manage his or her financial aid. But my passion was always games. I was making Flash games on the side in 2007 when I started talking to Adam (who would end up becoming the other Co-Founder of FGL). After a few talks about trying to make money in the Flash game space a light went off… why not build a place to bring developers and buyers/sponsors together? So Adam and I built FGL.
What has been your proudest moment since joining the Flash gaming community?
It’s hard to pick any one moment, since there have been so many great experiences for me. I have really loved working with the Flash gaming community in general. Two moments that made me extremely proud were seeing members of the Flash gaming community come together for Indie Giving the last two years to work at a charity event. With a group of people as creative and passionate as this community, it is moving to see them apply those same talents to helping others.
What was the biggest challenge for you in the early going? How does that compare to the challenges you face today?
Convincing anyone and everyone outside of the Flash game space to take the Flash game community and industry seriously. There was a stigma against Flash games and Flash game developers when we first started. I remember meeting with some very large companies early on who laughed at me when I told them that we were trying to grow the Flash game space. Some of those very companies are now among the biggest spenders on FGL. I’d say that today the challenges are similar, but for different reasons. Large companies and publishers are so entrenched in the way they’re currently doing business that they aren’t open to seeing how they may be able to improve their business by working with developers and games that are creative and innovative because they don’t follow the exact models of their current cash-cow games. That’s one of our goals for the future, to disrupt that way of thinking, as we did for Flash games in the beginning.
Describe the climate as a game developer today in terms of technology and monetization opportunity. How does it compare to being a game developer 2-3 years ago?
There are definitely many more ways to easily tap into revenue streams. Sponsorships and licensing remain strong. In fact, secondary licenses like site-lock licenses have more than doubled on FGL in the last year. We’ve also had the record for most up front money spent on a single game broken in the last year. So sponsors are paying more than ever for game sponsorships.
Also, third party technology and monetization platforms abound. Systems for in-game ads and microtransactions have become much more easy to implement, and feature rich. Many portals have their own systems as well, tailored to their communities. The flip side of this is that fragmentation of these systems make more work for a developer as well. To me, though, it is a fair trade off and balances out nicely as long as you’re smart in which platforms you choose to work with. And, of course, these options can be combined with sponsorships and licensing.
As for technology, I don’t want to just repeat what the other interviewees have said, but it is obvious there have been huge changes in the last 2 – 3 years.
What is it that you love the MOST about the Flash games industry?
The community. I think people often take for granted what a great thing we have with this community. A close second would be the innovation. But I think that’s also due to the way the community works. New ideas are supported and advice is easy to come by. This industry has fueled much of the innovation we’ve seen in games in the last few years.
What do you like the least?
How has the industry changed since you first joined?
There’s way too much to list. There are now easy ways to communicate with sponsors, publishers, and other developers. There are various ways to monetize games. There are ways to port your game to other platforms (though there’s still a ways to go with this). And on and on… oh yeah, and there’s a conference I’ve heard about where everyone in the industry can get together every year and have a great time.
The theme for FGS 5 is “Evolve Your Game”. How do you think Flash game developers are evolving their games today? What could they be doing better / differently?
Developers are evolving on many fronts. Technically, I see developers trying new things, and using new tools. Creatively, I see developers innovating and rethinking how games are played, and how to make games easier to access. I see developers testing the waters in different markets and marketplaces. As for what they could be doing, my big advice would be not to be afraid to fail. Right now there is a lot going on, and this community is what will drive things forward. Failures will happen all around, but we can’t advance without learning from where we fail. Try new things, try new markets, push yourself past your comfort zone. You may fail, but that will only help you succeed later.
What part of FGS do you enjoy or look forward to the most?
There are two main things I look forward to: 1) catching up, face to face, with all of the people we work with all year and 2) meeting new people in the industry we haven’t had a chance to work with yet.
In your opinion, why should people come out to FGS 5? What should they expect?
There are many reasons. As I said, I personally like socializing and catching up with everyone in the community, but the lectures are also often educational and interesting. And checking out all the new offerings from companies is fun as well, when doing the rounds of the booths. I’m sure what a lot of people look forward to is hanging out with the FGL crew ;)
Thanks Chris, see you and the FGL.com crew at FGS 5!