Pimp My Portal: Introduction

Pimp My Portal

One of the most popular series of articles i’ve ever written was called Pimp My Game. It was an experiment in game monetization, back before i’d ever released a game of my own. i wanted to know how much money i could earn distributing a game, so that i’d know the amount of money i could invest in development in order to break even, at the very least.

Pimp My Game

The results were … abysmal. The Pimp My Game feature predates a number of tools and tricks that have made it far more possible for Flash game developers to earn money on their creations – most notably Flash Game License and microtransactions (GamerSafe/HeyZap/Mochi Coins).

Even with those services, it struck me that the amount of money required to develop a game of significant scope and scale to catch the attention of the average portal-goer, versus the relative risk of not landing a large enough sponsorship or earning cash back through scant ad rev share, was not a racket i really wanted to be in. Untold Entertainment makes custom games as a service for a number of clients, and i feel we’re paid appropriately for our efforts. i’ve never developed a game for a client on the off chance that they’d pay money for it.

Pimp My Game

“Hopefully, we’ll land a great sponsorship once we’re finished paving this road.”

i’ve been told numerous times, not least of all by the Flash Game License operators themselves, that game sponsorships can get up into five figures, with $20 000 being thrown around most often by people trying to impress me. Who’s paying these sponsorships? The buyers are mostly game portal owners.

The Cake is a Lie

What’s a game portal? It’s a websites that aggregate games and sandbags them with assloads of ads.

Pimp My Game

Jacksmack.com is a typical free-to-play Flash games portal.

So a portal can pay out $20k to sponsor a game. What’s in it for the portal? Usually, portals require the game developers to incorporate the hyperlinked portal logo in the game pre-roll, and possibly other promotional hooks – a “more games” button on the title screen leading back to the portal, portal-specific high scores – that sort of thing. The idea is that players play these free Flash games, which are distributed far and wide to tens of thousands of sites, and the players may purposely (or inadvertently) click somewhere in the game to be brought to the sponsoring portal. Sponsors will often pay extra cash for exclusivity rights.

Gimme5Games

Gimme5Games is known as a high-rolling sponsor in the Flash game developer community.

And how does the portal make enough money to pay a sponsorship? Unless i’m missing something, the most significant source of revenue for a game portal is advertising. There are some smaller, secondary streams – for example, Mochimedia kicks 10% of Mochi Coins sales to the portal when players spend Mochi Coins in games hosted on those portals, and Mochi also cuts the portal in for a small percentage of Mochiads revenue, but there we’re talking about fractions of fractions of pennies. The bread and butter of any games portal is advertising.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em …

At this point i began eyeing the portals themselves with keen interest. $20 000 for a sponsorship? Again, unless i’m missing something, that must mean that at some point, a portal earns more than $20k in advertising. And game portal advertising revenue is passive income, that elusive majestic money creature that i’m constantly persuing. You just have to throw up a portal, stick some games on there, surround the games with ads, and kick back while waves of money roll over you like a stinky cash tsunami. “Beautiful”, i thought. “Let’s do this thing.”

Here are the steps i followed to set up my first portal, WordGameWorld.com:

  1. Register the domain name – $10
  2. Pay for hosting. i’m paying $33/mo to a company called 1&1 to host a VPS (Virtual Private Server), which is essentially like having my own (underpowered) web server computer. i originally started renting the VPS so that we could power Interruping Cow Trivia using the multiplayer ElectroServer software. You can probably get away with paying a regular web host less than $10/mo to host a portal.
  3. Install WordPress, which is very popular free blog software. The Untold Entertainment blog you’re reading now runs on WordPress.
  4. Purchase a WPArcade theme and plugin. These guys license a WordPress theme (skin) that makes your site look like a game portal. The plugin they provide enables you to enter the game distribution rss feed address from MochiMedia and, with the click of a button, inject ten thousand free Flash games into your portal site.
  5. Set up a Google Adsense account. This was the trickiest step – at first, Google denied my registration because WordGameWorld.com had zero traffic. WordGameWorld.com was live for a long time with no advertising, until i got a hot tip from a Twitter friend that once Adsense approved one of my sites, i could use Adsense ads on other sites that i owned. i leveraged the traffic on UntoldEntertainment.com to get my account approved, and then placed the ads around the WPArcade WordPress theme using their tool.

Step 4: Proft?

At this point, i had contractors come in to widen my front door in anticipation of the deluge of cash that would no doubt come blasting into my living room from men with money guns, all owing to this most brilliant idea of mine. It wasn’t long before i figured out that setting up a game portal is easy … driving traffic to it ain’t.

For the remainder of this series, i’ll document my madcap methods i used to try to drive traffic to my game portals. My journey takes me from dating services for gay nerds, to bikini-clad women in Brazil, to the very bowels of The Internatz itself … all in the name of making money off the backs of the free Flash game developers that i never want to become. i promise it will be lurid, sleazy, and informative. But mostly lurid.

Pimp My Portal

10 thoughts on “Pimp My Portal: Introduction

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention untoldentertainment.com ยป Pimp My Portal: Introduction -- Topsy.com

  2. Bwakathaboom

    I’m curious about the performance difference between WordGameWorld and ZombieGameWorld. It looks like Zombies outperform Words by about 8:1?

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Do you have something to go on, or are you just guessing? i’ll be posting the traffic stats for ZombieGameWorld.com in the next article. Against my expectations, Words actually outperform Zombies by 2:1.

      Reply
  3. Brennon

    What was this about a $100 marketing strategy?
    For fun I checked up on the flash game I made a year ago, total Kongregate revenue is $1.
    Flash download stats are down, Apple is continuing its genocide against Adobe, honestly I think Flash is fading, to eventually replaced by dhtml and Unity. Seth Godin made a point in one of his books that the big Flash era came and went around 2004-2006.
    Not to say your business model is down the toilet, but its hard to imagine that in 10 years Flash will still be in use.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      i’ve seen it coming for a long time, but that doesn’t mean i’m able to react to the change very quickly. It took me about three years to learn Flash really well. It’s extremely difficult to turn on a dime and get another technology under my belt very quickly. If i just had a cache of cash for training, i could spend a few months off the grid learning something new. But i don’t have that – i need to keep trying to drive sales on Flash games to stay afloat, and since the money’s disappearing, it’s very difficult to book enough jobs so that there’s a surplus i can apply to training. It’s a bad spot to be in.

      Beyond that, what do i learn? HTML5? i started working with Flash SPECIFICALLY so that i wouldn’t have to use HTML. Too many variables – browser type, browser version, computer platform, screen dimensions and resolution … i honestly can’t be arsed. That’s why i didn’t dive into mobile in the early days. WAY too many variables, with a million different handsets and different inputs and different screen sizes. Ugh. To quote Shakespeare, “i’m getting too old for this shit.”

      Writing a book on Unity was one step in my master plan to diversify my offering. i have my fingers in a lot of pies, because there are a lot of pies out there. It’s anyone’s guess which one will end up the tastiest.

      Reply
  4. Colm

    Oooh, nice. I still have an analysis post on our attempt at a portal in the works (hey it’s only, like a YEAR overdue man, get off my back). Interestingly I made the exact same mental jump you did: “portals are paying megabux to sponsor games, ergo they are where the cash is”.

    Problem is, with web ads you need loads of traffic before this gets worthwhile. I’d say the top 20 flash portals are making megabux, while the other 10,000 (yes) are scraping by.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      i suspect that those few successful portals had a significant pot of startup cash to burn in order to reach critical mass, and have just kept that momentum going ever since. i *suspect* – don’t know for sure.

      The 20/10000 ratio you mention applies to a lot of ventures. There are a few people making out like bandits in the App Store, and many more who are not. Should everyone, therefore, just stop making iOS games? Is it impossible to be one of the successful ones?

      Take a look at those 10k unsuccessful portals. Most of them just siphon games indiscriminately from FGD and Mochi. They’ve got no style – no charisma. They may as well be like those blogs with random, unrelated entries on them written by no one in particular. i think that despite not having seed money, i can still cook up a few tricks that will set my stuff apart. Dunno if i’ll ever be one of the success stories, but i’m trying to learn more about marketing, so count these articles as a journal of my web marketing R&D.

      And let’s see your follow-up post! You’ve got me on tenterhooks!

      Reply
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