March 13th, 2013 HTML5 Gaming Meetup: Making Money With HTML 5 Games in 2013

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, OLC attended HTML5 Games Meetup at Viacom. The meetup revolved around making money with HTML 5 games. The panelists were Jesse Freeman, Windows 8 Game Evangelist at Microsoft; Jamie Hall, co-founder and President & CTO of Mocospace; Elle Chen, License Manager of BoosterMedia; Robert Grossberg and Vincent Obermeier.     

Nate Altschule moderated the event. He first asked the panel, "If you're a good developer, you have a lot of options. Why would you use HTML5 versus a native OS?" Jesse Freeman answered first. "On Windows 8, HTML5 is native. Flash is dead. For me, the most appealing thing about HTML5 is how easy it is to use and it's a lot less daunting. For casual gaming, it's great. You're going to see HTML5 games come out of the browser and be native," he said.

"At Tresensa," Robert Grossberg began, "we saw on the app space that it was difficult to be seen on the app store. To be discovered, it's having great games then spending thousands of dollars to promote it. It's not good odds. We tested with HTML5 on the mobile web, tested games and every six months, they would come out and be better and better. Suddenly you're not just limited to one platform.

"HTML5 versus native argument is about performance," Vincent Obermeir said. "On the performance perspective, there's a reason to compare native apps. The bar is getting high and higher for HTML5 and the gap is getting smaller between HTML5 and native. To build a native app means you will fail. There's a huge incentive for mobile carries to invest in HTML5."

"It really depends on what type of game you are building," Jamie Hall said. "It's trying to escape the evil gatekeepers in the native ecosystems. I think it's the future, for sure."

"If you can make it in native, there's only two app stores. With HTML5, there's more than only two app stores. There's actually more than 100. BoosterMobile helps you discover more venues," Elle Chen said.

"Let's talk about addressable market style," Altschule said. "Can you talk more about what you see as a market size?" he asked. "What BoosterMobile does is create market reach for existing brands," Chen said. "So they need to have existing users. We see that 45 to 50 percent are iOS and the other 50 percent are Android. Our main focus is in Europe and South America," she said.

"It's the largest market in the world," Obermeier said. "It's anyone who has a browser. It's hard to quantify what the market is, even. The channels are being built, but it's ultimately building and playing HTML5 games," he said.

"As carriers and companies start launching, we see a huge opportunity," Grossberg said. "Being we're in New York, the media companies see it—we think it's a media opportunity," he said.

Altschule asked about cutting out the gatekeepers, "the taxing 30 percent middlemen."

"It's not just 30 percent that developers want to circumvent," Grossberg said. "It's also updating your app. That transaction—it's more dealing with bureaucracy," he said.

"With apple, they're completely arbitrary with their policies," Hall said.

"The one good thing about the Apple Store is the frictionless payment system," Obermeier said. "I think the 30 percent is fair. They're creating a safe system and have a lot of users," he said.

"I see it all as vehicles for distribution," Freeman said. "The app store versions are paid, but the apps I distribute are free. No one is going o buy stuff on the web. On the native platform, you can offer more levels, but the language, the code base should all be the same. That's the beauty of HTML5."

"The power of HTML5 is being able to disperse yourself while promoting the game," Grossberg added.

Altschule asked, "For indie developers who've used Flash, why would they switch to HTML5?"

"Everything is reciprocal," Freeman said. "Everything that drives computers is games. For me, HTML5 is a future investment. JavaScript is a very marketable skill, so why not build something—learn something that will help you pay the bills? Another skill is knowledge. Being able to teach others how to build goods is very lucrative," he said.

"You can use Adobe AIR and package it up to run native apps. We feel like Flash developers are low-hanging fruit," Obermeier said. "It's a pretty easy jump from ActionScript to JavaScript. There's going to be more tools to bridge that gap between the two."

"What do you guys think about Facebook as a platform?" Altschule asked. "Should Facebook be part of the conversation?"

"I feel like they got pressure from Apple to make a native app," Freeman said. "The problem with iOS is that they can lock out specific parts from your Webkit and Webview. On the web, no matter how many mobile devices are out there, there's more PCs out there. There's a whole different demographic. You can still market your HTML5 game now, except Facebook isn't making a big deal out of it," he said.

"I don't think HTML5 stopped Facebook," Obermeier said. "Their approach now is the wrong one. They don't have to embrace it now, but they need to realize a lot of people access Facebook through mobile web and HTML5 would be a great way to be used. But a lot of people pick Facebook—I don't see it as a negative for HTML5, I see it as a negative for Facebook," he said.

"Facebook is too big to ignore," Grossberg said. "It's also a great market. It's being able to challenge your friend and using leaderboards. There are other social networks, but we've been doing a lot of work and testing with Twitter. It's a great opportunity to play snackable games without downloading too much," he said.

"Twitter is like an asynchronous gaming engine," Obermeier said. "You Tweet you turn and your friend Tweets their turn at you."

"Facebook is basically a platform" Freeman said. "It's also a piece of the puzzle."

"Are there considerations for marketing strategies?" Altschule asked.

"I think you should distribute your game through the smallest amount of money spent, but with the largest reach," Obermeier said. "You should get your game on every single platform where people will play it."

"You can do it yourself," Freeman said. "It's a low cost way to market. I think it's best if you put your games out there in a cost-effective way, but on as many platforms as possible."

"How do you distribute your games?" Altschule asked.

"You need a very good distribution company to help your game enter multiple channels. It's very difficult to do it alone," Chen said.

"What about good revenue models for HTML5? There's ad-based, IAP virtual models, licensing models, work-for-hire models and the indirect revenue model. Which is the best model?" Altschule asked.

"Doing it as an individual, doing ads, I had no success at. The best way is to build your game and write about it. You can't put a price on self-promotion," Freeman said.

"From our perspective, we've had business with ads. For games, we tell developers to build their games and not focus on marketing. Subscription makes sense, in-app purchases and work-for-hire works too," Grossberg said.