I've successfully sold an MMF Flash game! CannonBob is now available to play on Newgrounds, complete with sponsor branding. I said that I'd detail how it happened when the sale was complete - this is going to be fairly long, but you can also read it in a non-forum layout here if you think it'll help. http://davidn.livejournal.com/415602.html
Clickteam's inclusion of the MochiAds feature in the Flash exporter is a very welcome way of making a bit of money back from your Flash games - you sign up for an account with the service, add the Mochi advertisements and then collect a portion of the revenue for each view once your game's out on the Internet. But there's another way of getting something back from your creations if you don't mind waiting a little longer for the process - finding someone who's willing to sponsor your game.
When you upload a game to Mochi with no site links in it, you get paid for the adverts shown in it - each view of the game pays you a small amount of money, so your interest is in getting the game out to as many people as possible. The more people play it, the more you'll make, and Mochi aren't really interested in anything that happens after the advert's gone and the game's started. Your revenue comes from each play of the game, on Mochi's site or on anyone else's.
With a sponsor in the picture, things are a little more involved. The sponsor, like the developer in the first diagram, is interested in getting as many views as possible for games with their branding on them, so that they can get the advertising revenue. However, because they get the revenue for all their sponsored games as well as from adverts on their site, their primary interest is what happens after the game's been loaded - if they can get traffic back to their site through one game and direct it on to some of the other games that they've sponsored, they'll earn more money from the combined game plays.
The owners of Flash arcades sponsor games that they think will make them more than their outlay in total effective revenue, through getting people to click the links back to their site and explore more of it. From their point of view, they're buying permanent advertising space in your game - from your point of view, you receive an amount of money in one go instead of having it build up over time through your own advertising (you might also retain the ability to submit to other sites such as Mochi, as long as the sponsor's branding stays intact - in general, the more views of the game there are, the better for them).
FlashGameLicense - http://www.flashgamelicense.com - is a site that connects developers of Flash games to potential sponsors, providing a way for developers to provide feedback on games and for sponsors to bid on them. It's free to get an account, and you only pay a 10% commission fee when a sponsor and price are agreed upon. I've just completed my first sale of an MMF Flash game through the site, and wanted to pass on my experience of the entire process.
Making a Flash game
Just after doing the Flash version of Treasure Tower, I came up with and sketched out an idea for a smaller game - the idea was to keep the concept quite simple so that I could just plug levels into it, relying on the average Newgrounds user's love for blowing things up and firing people out of cannons for its appeal. With the aid of a whiteboard, I got together an engine that could move a "cannonball" icon around with the aid of fastloops, and dropped in some balloons to use as targets, exporting the game to Flash at several points along the way to make sure that it behaved identically to the EXE version. This first rough prototype of the game is still up on my journal, entitled "Flash cannon balloon game engine test thing" ( http://davidn.livejournal.com/405653.html ) - titles have never been my strong point. After it began to take shape, CannonBob took about ten days on and off to make, as I added a couple of extra target types and filled out the level count to 25 to arrive at something that I considered good enough to show off.
In the version that I put up on FGL, I had no preloader or other MochiAds - it's best to leave these off because sponsors will likely be turned away by adverts already existing in the game. FGL offers a free service from Kindisoft that adds its own preloader and locks your game to their site when you upload it, and you can also buy a licence to use it on your own Flash games if you want secure site-locking and anti-decompiling obfuscation. With the game up and open for bidding, the majority of your work is done and it's up to the developers and the sponsors to give you feedback.
The Feedback and Bidding Process
Depending on how long the game took to make, this may be the longest part of the process, or it may just feel like it. Very little action from you is needed during this stage unless you want to update your game in response to suggestions - you're encouraged to leave a game up for about a month and a half to let it get noticed and bid on before accepting anything. I uploaded this game on the 17th of July and the sale completed at the beginning of September, making the whole process fit this time period almost exactly, but there are also games that can take much longer times to get an accepted bid.
When a game is put on the site, it's made available to fellow developers, who are encouraged to give their feedback on uploaded games to suggest how to improve them or otherwise make them more attractive to the sponsors - by playing, rating and giving feedback on other people's games, you may also increase your own visibility. CannonBob seemed to be quite well liked, with a couple of suggestions for interface improvements coming in, though I didn't update the game at this stage - thanks also to the people from the Clickteam community who posted in the feedback thread. After a period of approval time, the game is approved and is made visible to sponsors - I'm unsure how long this usually takes or what factors affect it, but CannonBob was approved in just under a week.
On day 7, one day after the game was approved, the first bid came in at $100. Though it's tempting to get excited and accept immediately when offered your first sum of money, the best thing to do is to keep on waiting until you're pretty certain that you won't get any more offers, and most sponsors start out with $100, which is quite low compared to average - indeed, another bid for double that amount came in later the same day. Each bid has a length of time it's valid for, after which it's considered rejected - these were both offered for a few weeks - and they also have a list of conditions, such as putting the sponsor's preloader or splash screen into the game, or adding a site API or CPMStar adverts. So the most attractive offer in the end may be a balance between the amount offered and the extra requirements laid out by the sponsor - on the FGL bid list page, you can choose a bid to mark as "Best", and let other sponsors know what conditions you like about it.
I left the game up for a while longer and sort of forgot about it at this stage, but a new bid of $250 suddenly arrived on day 25. This one simply asked for sponsor branding and links, and CPMStar adverts. I exchanged some messages back and forward with the potential sponsor, warning them that the framework that I was using may not make it easy to include CPMStar or external APIs, but they messaged back saying that they could add their own preloader to my SWF if it turned out that was necessary. I was pretty confident about going ahead with this bid, so a week later on day 32 with no new activity, I put the game on Last Call.
Last Call is a feature of FGL which you can activate once for a game when you have a bid that you're about to accept, and bumps the game on to a special list where it's more visible to sponsors who might want to outbid at the last minute. The trade you make for this is that after the three-day Last Call period has ended, your game is no longer promoted - it's assumed that activating it means that you're ready to sell. After 2 days and 23 hours in this state, I decided that I was happy going forwards, and had literally just opened FGL to message the sponsor back when another email notification came in to tell me that someone else had just offered higher.
This bid was for $350, and had the fairly standard requirements of CPMStar adverts, logos and links and an API for the specific arcade site, but when I asked the bidder for further details about the API he said not to worry about it because he hadn't had time to get it together yet. So after leaving it up for an extra few days just to make sure all bidding was finished, I finally clicked the "Accept" button on day 42, and messaged the sponsor to let him know that I was ready to proceed.
Finalizing the game
The last job on your part is to make the adjustments to the game needed to suit the sponsor - this could be adding CPMStar adverts and the sponsor's logo and links in as described above, or making more dramatic changes to the gameplay according to their suggestions. I was lucky enough this time to have accepted a bid where the sponsor had also volunteered to pay the FGL commission, which was a nice bonus.
At this point I should mention that I'm indebted to Looki for making a CPMStar extension within about an hour of my posting the request for it. CPMStar is an advertising service that's only open to register for if your game already has a sponsor, and the API is apparently a closely guarded secret even though it turned out to be just a scrap of ActionScript that loads an external SWF. When you accept a FlashGameLicense bid with CPMStar adverts, you're given an account there automatically and given a couple of IDs that you can use to show adverts in the game, but the adverts aren't like Mochi's television-style fixed duration ones - instead they're more like Flash banner adverts that you might find on a web page, and so they need to be treated slightly differently. I chose to put them on the between-level announcements in CannonBob - with CPMStar, you're relying on people clicking on the advert rather than just looking at it.
A couple of days after I accepted the bid, I received a ZIP from the sponsor containing a licence agreement to sign along with a couple of PNGs of small and large logos for his arcade, and details of where they should link to when clicked on. Also, because the game had no main menu in its FGL incarnation, he sent me a Photoshopped idea of how one could be put in and how it could include the crucial "More Games" button (as directing traffic to the arcade site is what the sponsor is most interested in). He was most pleasant to work with, and I emailed him back a couple of screenshots of how I'd arranged the game as I spent a couple of evenings putting in his required logos and generally polishing the game up a little - I also used Jamie's linking example for the Flash Haxx extension to make sure that the links weren't popup-blocked. Something else I had to do at this point was to give the game an ending, because on the version I uploaded to FGL, it just sort of stopped once the last level was over with.
And with the game finished, I exported it, gave it a last complete play-through, and then sent it off along with an invoice and the signed agreement that summarized the details of the licence. We went back and forth a couple more times because he'd forgotten to mention the correct background colour for his logo on the splash screen, and thought that there should be a little delay when adverts were shown, but after those, that was the sale complete - he actually paid the bid amount into my Paypal account before I'd given him the final corrected copy, which seemed very trusting! When he started distribution of the game, he sent me a copy of the package (with an SWF of the game that he'd encrypted) and said to upload it everywhere possible (including Mochi after a two-week delay to let the CPMStar version get a head start). Therefore:
Play CannonBob on Newgrounds!
So I've made my first sale of a Flash game (and am still allowed to sell non-exclusive site locked copies to other people, so the returns on it might not be over yet). Thanks to Clickteam and everyone who I mentioned above for making it possible - I think that this is a sign that the price of the exporter, a fraction of what you would pay for Flash, is well worth it