FGS 5 Advisory Board Interview Series, Take 1
We have decided to bring back the popular FGS Advisory Board Interview Series once again this year! This is your chance to get to know the folks who determine the content of FGS, getting their thoughts on both the conference and the games industry in general. My first interview is with Dom and Yowan of Juicy Beast. This is the first year Dom and Yowan have served on the FGS Advisory Board. Last year their game Burrito Bison won the Mochis Award for Best Action Game.
For more information on Flash Gaming Summit, including passes, speaking submissions, or Mochis Award Show information please visit the conference website.
Introduce yourself- who are you, how big is your team, and how do you participate in the Flash games industry?
We are Juicy Beast, a small indie studio based in Quebec (Canada). Our team is composed of 5 dudes and we started making Flash games around 4 years ago.
What did you do before?
We founded the company right out of college, so most of us didn’t do anything before that. One of us worked at Gameloft for a year though.
How did you first get into the Flash games industry? Tell us about your path.
3/5 of the team studied Multimedia Integration in college, so we played with a bit of everything (graphic design, web development, Flash animation/coding, SFX, VFX, etc).
We did a bit of game programming in Flash, but we never studied game design specifically. We simply liked doing games enough that we decided to give it a shot and found our own studio to do so!
J-P , our illustrator / animator, studied classic cartoon animation in college and also joined the team right after graduating. Pretty much no one on the team had experience in the market and it was a huge gamble for all of us. Dom had worked at Gameloft for a year before, but it was still pretty far from what we do today overall.
We learned almost everything we know about the Flash market the hard way. We didn’t make a single dollar on our first game, in part because we just wanted to test the team’s skills, but also because we had no idea about licenses and sites like FGL.com.
Luckily for us, our good friends from Berzerk Studio helped us a bit later on by sharing some of their knowledge about the Flash market and how to make money with our games. It helped fast-forward our learning process a lot!
What has been your proudest moment since joining the Flash gaming community?
That would probably be the players’ response to our games. We managed to hit the front page of the biggest portals with almost all of our games, and received a lot of great comments about our games, but also about Juicy Beast in general.
We’ve received a lot of player comments about how much they like Juicy Beast’s style in general and how they think we’re amongst the best Flash devs on the web. It might sound pretty selfish coming from us like that, but we are super proud and honored to receive such comments!
What was the biggest challenge for you in the early going? How does that compare to the challenges you face today?
The biggest challenge we faced so far is probably trying to figure out how to generate revenues with our games. It may sound a bit greedy, but the reality is that we need to get paid to continue making games. Unfortunately, we need a roof and food to live!
Until we really understood how to sell game licenses to sponsors, we were making little to no money with ads and viral versions. We also learned how to negotiate with sponsors and what is the value a good Flash game. In the beginnings, we often sold licenses for a ridiculous price, and we weren’t really strategic about it either.
We didn’t know about FGL.com, neither about primary licenses and such, so we would end up selling site-locks right away, thus losing a lot of potential revenues by making the game available to everyone at the same time. For those wondering, a better option would be to limit visibility of the game before selling a primary license to a sponsor. That way, the primary sponsor is guaranteed to host a fresh and brand new game, which should generate more traffic on his site.
Today, the biggest challenge we face is to bring our games to more audiences / markets, and to do it faster. For instance, we want to bring our games to mobile devices, and maybe even PC gaming platforms, like Steam or the Mac App Store.
We’ve already released Gobtron and Burrito Bison to the iPhone App Store, but we had to team up with other developers and publishers because of our lack of technical knowledge. After all, the only tech we have used to make games so far has been Flash.
We now need to raise the bar a little bit and learn how to publish our games to as many platforms as possible, which we know can be a lot of hassle for simple Flash game devs haha.
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?
When we first started, we weren’t thinking about mobile devices and other platforms, and we were focusing on Flash (because that was all we were able to do). Now that the mobile market has exploded, we think it’s a great opportunity if you want to extend your audience and generate extra revenues.
We’re thinking about the mobile market and other platforms much more now, especially because casual games (like the games we create) tend to work really well on mobile devices. That is, of course, biased on our personal experience, since we weren’t making games 4 years ago.
These days, you’re not simply limited to ads as a revenue source. You can negotiate pretty interesting sponsorship deals, you can play with micro-transactions and you can port your games (or have them ported) on other platforms and devices to really extend your audience and generate more revenues.
In terms of technology, we’ve seen awesome examples of games being “tested” on the Flash market, and being ported to consoles later on. We’re referencing games like Super Meat Boy, Fancy Pants, and Alien Hominid. There are a lot of other examples on the mobile market as well.
What is it that you love the MOST about the Flash games industry?
What we love the most about the Flash games industry is how open it is. You can create a game, publish it yourself on multiple popular websites, and it’s now easily available to anyone with an internet browser.
Such visibility potential also brings another advantage to the table: player feedback. Each time we release a game, we receive tons of player feedback about it (what they like, what they don’t like, what could be improved, etc).
It might not look like it, but being that connected to players is a huge advantage, especially compared to other platforms like mobile devices, where you don’t hear a lot from players, unless your game gets really popular (again, it boils down to visibility).
You can easily become aware of what could be improved in your games, and gain experience from it. It’s also super useful when you’re planning on releasing sequels. We used a lot of player feedback and tracking stats to improve Burrito Bison and create Burrito Bison Revenge, for instance.
What do you like the least?
I think what we dislike the most is how much we depend on sponsorship to generate revenues. The Flash market is great for how open it is, mostly because it’s free, but the downside of that is that you depend heavily on sponsorship to generate decent revenues.
On the mobile and PC market, for instance, you will generate more revenues if your game gets popular and is downloaded often. But on the Flash market, sponsors are taking risks by paying for games that haven’t proven themselves yet, so it’s natural that they keep extra revenue that they make from the games.
The system works well for what it’s based on, but it has certain limits to it (at least on the revenue side). Even though we might dislike this aspect of the Flash market, we totally understand why it is that way, and we’re not planning to stop making Flash games because of it.
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?
We’re at a point where indie developers are exploiting a bunch of different platforms, and there are simply too many good games on the Flash market to limit their exposure to web browsers. The next logical step would be to exploit different markets and see how they each respond to the different kinds of games.
“Evolving” your game to a new platform isn’t only about the technical aspects, but also about game design. Game developers will eventually design their games with multiple platforms in mind (thinking about controls, player types, circumstances under which the games will be played, etc), so they don’t need to readapt them for each platform they chose to target.
We think we’ll start to see the effects of those adjustments in Flash games as more and more of them get ported to different platforms.
Where do you see the Flash games industry going? What’s in store for the future?
We’re starting to see more sponsors like Armor Games and NotDoppler publish Flash games on other platforms like the iPhone. Logically, Flash devs should start receiving more offers to get their games on mobile devices and whatnot. If the sponsorship deals are interesting enough, we should see more developers making the switch and developing their games for other markets as well.
Since the Flash market is strongly driven by ads and sponsorship, we think sponsors will play a big role in the evolution of the market by publishing and propelling these games to other platforms.
We also think we’ll see the effects of the Flash market being the starting point of these multi platform games. We’ll be able to estimate how much a dev can benefit from also releasing a mobile game on the Flash market, compared to the mobile market only. We are anticipating a lot of interesting statistics, thus a wave of new ideas and strategies. Pretty promising if you ask us!
What part of FGS do you enjoy or look forward to the most?
Meeting other developers and sponsors you’ve been chatting with for a while is always a pleasure. We think it really strengthens the developer community and facilitates the sharing of ideas.
In your opinion, why should people come out to FGS 5? What should they expect?
The multiple speeches are always a good way to see what others have experienced and maybe avoid repeating their mistakes. You can also learn a bunch of new strategies and their outcomes.
If you’d like to get better at making and selling Flash games, it’s definitely the place to go, as it focuses mainly on Flash games. Other conferences like GDC and Casual Connect are much more spread across the other platforms, so it’s really cool to have an event where you can discuss Flash games with other Flash devs!
Thanks Dom and Yowan, see you at FGS 5!