Looking Back at 2009: Trends and Statistics

Hi guys, FGL_Eric here! I used to put my trends-and-statistics posts in the forums, where they always got lost. Now that we have a blog, putting them here makes more sense. So without further ado, here’s a look back at 2009, especially contrasting it to 2008. All these stats are pulled from FGL’s database of games and sales. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a limited picture of the Flash market, because we’re only watching one of many revenue streams here. But it’s still pretty interesting, so here we go…

How Many Games Get Accepted Bidders?

First up is the most common question newbies ask: what are the odds my game will find a sponsor? Well, first we ask, how many games are there?

  • Total games put up for bid during 2008: 3225. During 2009: 4087.

Then we ask how many games got bids they liked?

  • Total accepted bids during 2008: 588. During 2009: 1196.

That gives us…

  • Number of games that had accepted bids in 2008: 18%. During 2009: 29%.

(Those last numbers aren’t quite accurate since some games have multiple accepted bids, but it’s pretty close.)
Games that sold in 2008Games that Sold in 2009

This is a great trend! From 2008 to 2009, your odds of a sale on FGL went up by over 50%!

How Much Are Games Going For?

The range of sale prices is HUGE. It can be hard for a few statistics to convey this, but let’s give it a shot:

  • Average (mean) accepted bid during 2008: $1295.80. During 2009: $1484.10

But like I said, that really doesn’t tell you much. Let’s break it down by Admin Rating. We give most games a rating between 1 and 10, which some sponsors use as a quick-gauge tool. But it’s also one (semi-arbitrary) way to break up our games by quality level.

  • Average sale of games rated 1-4 in 2008: $482. During 2009: $350.
  • Average sale of games rated 5-6 in 2008: $444. During 2009: $639.
  • Average sale of games rated 7 in 2008: $889. During 2009: $999.
  • Average sale of games rated 8 in 2008: $2017. During 2009: $2126.
  • Average sale of games rated 9-10 in 2008: $3897. During 2009: $5567. *but see below

So what does all this tell us? The biggest gains are clearly in the highest-quality Flash products, but even medium-quality games are seeing a good growth rate.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that other revenue streams such as ads, microtransactions, and exclusive site-locks are not shown in this data. These other revenue sources can be very big money makers. In general they have a dramatic curve — middling-quality games (those rated 6 or less) tend not to make much money from other sources. Games 7 and above often make a modest amount from ads and a nice chunk of money from non-exclusives. The very best games can make a HUGE amount from each of these revenue streams.

* In fact, the top-end games are the least well represented here, because the best quality games have yet another revenue stream: they get performance bonuses from their sponsors, which can yield a very large amount of money, but aren’t recorded in our database here. It is not uncommon for a game that gets $6k in direct cash to also earn $15k to $20k when they reach performance goals. The best-quality games make a lot of money. But of course, very few games can be “the best quality”. Which brings us to the next topic…

How Good Are These Games?

The last numbers showed us that the top-end games are worth a whole lot more than the other games. So how many games are “top end” (in FGL’s subjective opinion)?

2008 Ratings Pie Chart2009 Ratings Pie Chart

  • Number of games rated 1-4 in 2008: 18.3%. During 2009: 10.4%.
  • Number of games rated 5-6 in 2008: 49.3%. During 2009: 36.7%.
  • Number of games rated 7 in 2008: 24.6%. During 2009: 35.7%.
  • Number of games rated 8 in 2008: 6.5%. During 2009: 16%.
  • Number of games rated 9-10 in 2008: 1.1%. During 2009: 0.9%.

Some of this data reflects how we rate games — we tend not to use the lowest part of the curve; if a game is so bad that it would get a 1-4 rating, we encourage the developer to go back and work on it some more before we review it. This is a policy we’ve been much more strict with this year, so many fewer games fall in that category.

But more generally, the bulk of games are starting to trend upwards in rating, which is slightly due to an increased pressure on our reviewers to rate games higher, but also points out that sales-quality Flash games are, in general, getting better. The competition is getting tougher, and more and more games are looking really good when they launch.

It’s also important to keep in mind that our ratings are not infallible. We’ve had a game we rated “6” sell for $8,000. We’ve had a game we rated “9” sell for only $250. These things happen. I am not trying to say our number is all that important — it’s just the only numerical rating we happen to have that applies to all our games, so it works well for these statistics.

How Big Are Games, in File Size?

One question we see a lot is, “How big are these game files?”

  • Average Sold Game Size in 2008: 1.6 mb. In 2009: 2.13 mb.

So games are getting larger on average. But this single data point doesn’t tell a complete story. Here’s another illuminating data-point:

  • Average Sold Game Size for Games Rated 8+ in 2008: 2.68 mb. In 2009: 2.76 mb.

This second statistic tells us that the highest-quality games have always been larger than the lower-quality games. But these top-end games aren’t getting a lot larger than they already were, while the lower-quality games are growing larger pretty quickly. (Remember this is a mean average, so the actual size of successful games varies quite broadly — anywhere from a few hundred kilobytes up to ten megabytes, which is the maximum size FGL allows.)

How Big Are Games, in Screen Size?

Another question asked often in the forums is, “What screen size should my game be?” Our data on successfully-sold games shows that the typical successful Flash game has a screen resolution of 640 by 480. There are some much larger and some much smaller, but for both 2008 and 2009, most successful games stuck pretty closely to this screen size.

ActionScript 2 versus ActionScript 3

Yet another constant forum topic is whether ActionScript 2 is dying out. Well, here’s some data for you:

  • Percentage of Sold Games That Used AS2 in 2008: 63%. In 2009: 38%.

AS2 versus AS3 in 2008AS2 versus AS3 in 2009

As you can see by these pie charts, the ratios flip-flopped — in 2008, the significant majority used AS2; in 2009, AS3 took the lead. At 38%, AS2 is not at all dead yet. But it does seem to be dying off. For 2010, that probably means that AS2 games are still fine. By 2011, we may start to see sponsors who only support AS3 (e.g. with their logos and banners and APIs). So our recommendation is to switch to AS3 for new projects, but if you’re working on an AS2 game now, don’t rewrite it — your AS2 games will still sell just fine, for now.

Can I Make This A Full-Time Job?

Sometimes seeing these sorts of statistics can be pretty depressing. The average top-quality Flash game makes only $5500 in sponsorship money? If you have a partner that splits those profits with you, then that may not seem like a lot of money, especially if you’re trying to do this full-time. Before jumping to that conclusion, there’s two key things to keep in mind. First, these are all mean averages, so a couple games in 2008 and 2009 made more than $50k in a single sale. But there are other top-quality games that just didn’t find a big buyer and ended up being sold for only a few thousand. There are many variables in determining a sale price. But if you were to make a few dozen top-quality games, then you would probably find they average around $5500 each, when you factor in the bigger and smaller sales.

The second thing was mentioned earlier, but bears repeating: this is only one of several revenue streams. The higher quality your game is, the more revenue options become available to you. Your top-end game will make some nice money from ads (CPMstar ads can earn you several thousand on a top-end game), and often you’ll have performance deals or bonuses for reaching certain goals your sponsor makes. A game that does well and uses the Primary Sponsorship model can also make several thousand from exclusive-sitelock deals for other portals. Some games fit into the microtransaction model well and can make extra cash with GamerSafe, too. All of these options require effort, but you can often double your money (or quadruple it, for the best-quality games) by following up on all the revenue streams available to you. Our numbers above follow only one source of revenue.

In the end, is it enough money to live on? That depends on lots of things — where you live, if you have a family, and most importantly, how many high-quality games you can make a year. We’re now seeing several small teams who make enough top-quality games to live nicely on the profits. On the other hand, it’s also highly variable — sometimes you may not make much money for months at a time, if a game doesn’t do well — so this a risky full-time job if you don’t have some money to fall back on.

We are also seeing a lot of top-quality games coming from hobbyists — people who spend a whole year on just one game, but they make that game count. This can be a very rewarding and lucrative part-time job or hobby. If you’re a hobbyist, keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity, because if you make a top-quality game, all sorts of money opens up for you, whereas middle-quality games will be stuck with fewer revenue sources. It’s definitely true that making one high-quality game is a lot harder than making multiple medium games, though. And just think, making this into a full-time job requires making multiple high-quality games each year. This requires extreme dedication and a lot of effort. In some ways it’s like painting or novel writing — you can make it a full-time job if you try hard enough, but it has to be your dream job, or you just won’t have the motivation to reach your goal.

The best news these numbers show is that the average sponsor sale price is going up pretty quickly. If this keeps up, we expect to see more and more people able to make this a full-time job in the coming year, and especially in 2011. Of course, game quality is going up just as quickly as sale prices are. It’s now very hard for one person to make a top-quality game, because most people aren’t good at the programming AND the design AND the artwork necessary to make them. Teaming up with another developer is now the best way to get top-end games quickly and efficiently.

The Wonder of Numbers

I could go on with tons more numbers and statistics, but I think these are the biggies — statistics that might help you plan, organize your game, or even consider whether making Flash games is right for you. But if there are other statistics you want to see, please let me know in the comments!

25 thoughts on “Looking Back at 2009: Trends and Statistics

  1. Awesome stats, thanks for sharing. I’m glad that sponsorship prices are rising, it’s good to see developers getting a more reasonable cut of the earnings.

  2. Terrific info… but I’m about to damage your stats for a ‘7’ rated game :)
    Seriously though, Flash game development is just now beginning to look like a real alternative to an office job for me – thanks FGL, you guys rock!

  3. Wow, this is exactly the kinda of data that I love to read about, thanks for the time spent presenting it all.

    Quite a positive improvement in most areas, especially in the “percentage of games sponsored” chart.

  4. Nice info!

    it’s true that whether or not you’re able to live being flash game developer full time is really depend on where you live. From what I read it seems like $5000 is little money for you guys but it’s big bucks here in where I live 😀

    btw, I know someone in my country who is good at coding, drawing, designing AND composing and that makes him soo filthy rich >_<

  5. btw, is there any statistics about the players demographics? like their age or their occupation, and what genre is the more oftenly played than the other?
    this could helps us design our games

  6. Very nice information. However I would love to see the sold percentage of the games in the different ratings as well. It would give us an estimate on the probability getting our games sold depending on their current rating.

  7. If you record this data , some might be interested in an average time of sale, from publishing to first sale, and perhaps a min/max period .

    Might encourage a few devs who’ve been waiting for a few months to see that someone waited longer and sold a game.

  8. Thanks so much for this wonderful 2008-2009 summary. A ton of great information here. I can’t wait to see what 2010 holds for all us Flash game developers. Keep on rocking FGL–I hope to catch up with some of you all at FGS and GDC this year and thank you in person for this awesome website!

  9. Great, great, GREAT stats info. Mirrors some of the stuff I see on my site. People don’t realize how useful this info is for developers and publishers alike… Thanks for the great read!

  10. > Daggio wrote
    > it’s true that whether or not you’re able to live being flash game developer full time is really depend on where you live. From what I read it seems like $5000 is little money for you guys but it’s big bucks here in where I live

    Hey, in Ukraine (Kirovograd), where I am from, the average monthly salary is $200-300. My friend gets $150 and live a month with it! :)

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