July 22, 2008

Filler at 6+ Months

[Editor's note: lots of old/broken links have been removed]

As of earlier this month, Filler has been out for exactly six months–definite long tail territory for a flash game. I did post-mortems at one week and one month, so I thought I’d continue the trend with another look back. I’m a bit of a stat-hound, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the numbers so far, as well as various other comments on the game.


Total gameplays are now over 9,000,000 (at least on Mochibot enabled versions), though the actual number is surely much higher than that. Roughly 5,000,000 of those gameplays came on licensed versions (AddictingGames being the biggest single contributor) while the other 4,000,000 or so came through ad-supported versions on Kong and the Mochi network. Daily gameplays are down to around 12,000/day but seem fairly stable around that number. Of those gameplays, ~35% are from site-licensed versions (Gimme5Games has actually been gaining steam with their Facebook version, which is nice to see), ~50% are ad-enabled version (either the distributed Mochi version or Kongregate), and around 15% of the eyeballs see traffic-share ads on the Mochi network–roughly 1/3 of my own site’s traffic comes from traffic-share. I haven’t gotten the game on MindJolt yet, though I expect to at some point in the future–from what I’ve heard, that usually gives a pretty nice bump in traffic. I’ve done a total of 13 different licenses now, and I still git an email every so often asking for a new license. From pure Filler income, the game has cleared over $10k. See the chart below for how that breaks down.

Filler Income Breakdown

Though not the best-labeled chart in the world, you can see how things roughly break down. The biggest chunk, single-payment site licenses, make up 47.6% of the income. The next biggest chunk, what I call “Incremental” (Mochiads, Kong, anything with revenue-sharing), makes up 31.6% of that income. Contest winnings account for 11.5%, while the original sponsorship makes up for the final 9.3%. Not reflected in the chart above is how much Kongregate is contributing to the pool (as they contribute to 3 of the 4 categories). That one site makes up for 30.8% of my total take, which I think is pretty telling of their intentions (i.e. to enable people to do this for a living).

[Editor's note: image lost]

My expenses for Filler are sitting just over $200, mostly from PayPal transfer fees. It’s a bit of a pain, but worthwhile in the longrun just for how easy it makes record-keeping on these sorts of things. Miniclip was one of the very first people to contact me about a site-license (within a week of launching the game), and they were offering a pretty nice sum for it. I built it for them and delivered it… and then heard nothing. I emailed them in March, and my contact assured me the game was being tested and that it would release soon. I emailed them again in May, but they didn’t even bother returning my emails at that point. I’m not super-chapped at the fact that they welched (it’s their business, they’re free to continue hawking referral links to Puzzle Pirates and Club Penguin as much as they’d like–if I had that many eyeballs, I’d do the exact same thing), but I am a little annoyed that they never bothered to send me a courtesy email saying something to the effect of “Whoops, we’ve decided not to go with your game. Better luck next time.” For any license under $500, I think a contract is pretty much a waste of time. In the future, though, I think I’ll go for a contract on any deal larger (this one was quite a bit larger) before building it for them.

Cashing In

I’m a firm believer that you should invest in yourself. Most of the money for Filler was coming at a really opportune time (right as I needed to fund my IRA and literally days before my old car decided to call it quits). Moving in May also meant some out-of-the-ordinary expenses, but I’ve finally settled in enough to start spending some of my loot. A new 24″ iMac was delivered over the weekend, the first component to my new home office. I used to be a die-hard Windows guy, but now I pretty much just need a text editor and Firefox to function. I also picked up a copy of Parallels, though, just in case I got the urge to do some XNA or Torque development on a bigger screen than my 8″ Fujitsu. Having a bigger computer around means I can also do a little more 3D stuff (my copy of Lightwave runs on my laptop, but who wants to model on a screen that small?). I’m thinking about upgrading my Lightwave 7 license to the newer version 9 (~$399), and I’m seriously seriously considering picking up a copy of the Swift3D plugin, which would let me render stuff from LW straight to SWFs. It’s basically a toss-up between doing that and getting an actual version of Flash to create game assets. I’m leaning towards the LW side because I’m already intimately familiar with it (not that Flash is rocket science).


Since Filler’s release, every so often a friend of mine sends me a link and a comment to the effect of “OMG this guy ripped you off!” For the most part, it’s an exaggeration. This version over at Sims Carnival is more of an homage than a clone. Several friends sent me Biolabs: Outbreak!, but I wasn’t too cheesed about that one. The game mechanic is the same (and even the sort of underlying physics sim), but the goal is different. I thought it was an interesting twist, but I also thought the graphics were a little rough around the edges. I was looking at the rest of his games, though, and his Ladybug game kind of bugged me. It’s eerily similar to a prototype I did a few years back–one that I showed to a bunch of portals who asked what I was going to make next (and probably would’ve if I hadn’t done Boulder Blast). It’s close–but not identical. Just as Biolabs is close to Filler–but not identical. I’m chalking it up to coincidence (I’m not big for conspiracy theories), but I did find it mildy interesting that there’s another developer out there who “thinks” like I do. Someone sent me Colorfill, saying it was pretty similar. I thought it was closer to Jezzball than my game, so again–not too cheesed.

This morning, though, I actually found a clone that sort of pissed me off: Panfu Balls. Not only is Panfu a cheap knockoff of Club Penguin, it seems they’re also cloning as many popular games as they can. All of the games lead directly back to Panfu with a referral link from the “game portal” hosting it (AGame in this case). I can’t help but think portals like AGame (and to some extent, even Miniclip) are desperately holding onto an outdated business models predicated on taking advantage of as many developers as possible. The “new breed” of portals (like Kongregate) who actually view developers as resources instead of cattle are gaining popularity with both developers and players, so it’s (hopefully) only a matter of time before the old portals either follow suit or wither up.

What’s Next

I’m mostly taking it easy–I’ve been tinkering with XNA and have a rough version of Filler working on the XBox. I’ve been putting a little bit of time into some of poorly neglected web projects. I’ve got about six “solid” game ideas sketched out in a fair amount of detail. Two of them are fairly trivial (and already prototyped), so I may just knock them out if I get a surge of motivation. The other four are on a MUCH larger scale. Other than perhaps prototyping and doing some concept art for them, those aren’t likely to see any serious development until the web economy supports games of a slightly larger scale. Depending on how the XNA port goes and whether or not Microsoft ever announces the revenue model for the Creator’s Club, I might build them as XBox games at some point (unless there’s a benevolent VC out there somewhere who’d like to help me set up my own game studio).

EDIT: What do you know, Microsoft just announced their pricing. There aren’t a whole lot of sales numbers available for XBLA, but I can imagine doing a version of Filler for $2.50… figuring ~50% take, I would only need to sell 8,000 copies to make as much as I’ve gotten from 9,000,000 players on the internet.