GDC 2015 Recap

Once again we had a blast hanging out in San Francisco with a lot of really great people. It was awesome to meet new faces while reconnecting with old, both at GDC and the various after parties.

We hope everyone had a chance to stop by our booth to learn more about our exciting new product and we look forward to working with all of you to better monetize your products as the gaming marketplaces continue to grow and evolve.

Please let us know if there’s anything we can help with and be sure to check out next month’s newsletter for more information about Enhance, the last SDK you will ever need.

GDC booth 

GDC booth

GDC booth

Until next year!


Indie Giving 2015 Recap

What an amazing Indie Giving!  It was great meeting you all (many of you, for the first time) and working beside you during the event.

Every year we are amazed by how hard working and compassionate the indie game community is, and this year was no different. From serving food to the homeless and less fortunate, to painting and cleaning, everyone did such a great job that we even surpassed the expectations of Hands On Bay Area and ECS.  In fact, we received this message shortly after our event from Hands On Bay Area:

“the staff and residents of the shelter were thrilled with the results and were impressed with the amount of work the team accomplished.”

And of course, the connections and community we built among each other was also great.  We ran into many of you during GDC and we hope there were likewise interactions throughout the week between all the Indie Givers.

We try to improve this event every year, so your feedback is greatly appreciated!

Indie Giving 2015

Indie Giving 2015

If you have pictures from the event, please send them our way.  We’ll be putting many of them up on the Indie Giving website.

Thank you all for making this such a great event!Indie Giving wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for the support of those who sponsored it, so be sure to check out all the companies who helped make it possible: 


FGL and HTML5: an update

Last year FGL made a huge push for HTML5 and HTML5 game development. We partnered with companies like Amazon, Samsung, and Big Rebel. We helped push HTML5 games to large audiences through kik, iWin, PlayPhone, multiple mobile-web portals, and more.  We helped push the first ever HTML5 game to Yahoo games.  We had over 100 HTML5 games featured by Amazon in their app store.  We paid out over $800,000 to HTML5 developers.

To accomplish this, we built many new systems.  We now have a very cool HTML5 game shop, where publishers can upload their branding, buy games, and download the games with their branding within minutes… without even having to contact a developer.  We have a distribution system that not only pushes games to our current distribution channels, but is built to automatically support future channels without a developer having to update the game in any way.  We have a QA system and team that ensures games work on dozens of the most popular devices.  We built a “Portal in a Box” framework to allow anyone to easily host HTML5 games on the mobile-web.

In all, we had over 2,000 HTML5 games go through our system.

We are proud of what we’ve accomplished.  And we’re even prouder of what the developers we’ve worked with have accomplished.  We were very fortunate to work with so many amazing developers and their games.

However, as we mentioned in our Q4 Developer Earnings Update, after a couple of boosts, revenue from HTML5 games dropped, then stagnated near the end of 2014.  This trend has now continued through the beginning of 2015.  We have tried several things to bump HTML5 revenue back up, but to no avail.

Due to this, we have decided to stop onboarding HTML5 games into our distribution system or HTML5 Game Shop.  This does not mean we will stop support of these services, but we will no longer accept submissions to them.

Also, we will continue to support HTML5 game uploads to our traditional Marketplace and Game Shop.  In fact, this is the one area where we’ve seen some minor growth for HTML5 games as there are still many companies licensing content for the mobile-web.

To reiterate, in order to be clear: FGL will continue to support all of our systems, and will continue to push the games we’ve previously onboarded (in fact, we still have a couple of big deals in the works).  Nothing will be “shut down,” but we will not be building any of the systems out or focusing on growing any of them in the near future. FGL still believes the mobile web is a great platform to build for.  We see all the benefits of a market that is open, without a company who can control both what gets in and what is featured.  We also think the concept of a game working on both mobile and desktop devices with one code base is a great one.  But, for us at least, HTML5 and the mobile web’s time hasn’t yet come.  When there is a market for an abundance of great games on the mobile-web, we’ll be ready.  And we’ll do everything we can to help developers take advantage of the new market.

FGL 4th Quarter Developer Earnings Update


Q4 of 2014 was yet another good quarter for developers and publishers working with FGL.   Though, we were so busy focusing on making everyone so much more money that we did a horrible job of letting everyone know about it.  We didn’t update our blog as much as we had hoped even though we helped several more games reach top ten spots on Google Play, and even had a game make the number 1 spot in the “Top New Free” category, since the last update.  We will work on getting an updated post about that in the near future.

Below I’ll break down the earnings graph.

Native Mobile: As it did in Q3, revenue from native mobile games lead the way in growth in the 4th quarter.  The misleading rise, then fall, in revenue from the 1st quarter was explained in our last developer earnings update, but in short:  Some of the earnings in the 1st quarter came from a few large one-off licensing deals we secured for developers.  Even with that factored in, though, developers working with FGL had a record quarter for Mobile revenue.  Our biggest hurdle right now is a bottleneck for onboarding new games.  It pains us every time we have to turn away a developer due to the backlog of games we have.  We’re working on tools to lessen the manual load we have right now to onboard a game so that we can work with more games and developers in the future.

HTML5: We were disappointed with HTML5 performance in the 4th quarter.  We had high hopes in September as cpms were high and we saw over 2,000 HTML5 games come in through our new distribution service.  The main issue was that many of our large partners stopped focusing on HTML5 in the last few months of the year, so even though we were able to monetize the games well, we didn’t see the game play numbers we were hoping to see.  Licensing also leveled off.  We don’t expect much change here for the first half of 2015, at least, unless something drastic happens.  FGL has everything needed to monetize HTML5 successfully, so as soon as adoption from publishers and gamers grows we’ll be ready.  But, until that happens we expect to see most growth continuing to come out of native mobile.

Web: Revenue from web (mainly Flash and Unity games) remains stable. We’re still seeing decent cpms on the web through our adsorb service.  This is an area we plan to grow in the next few months.  If you have a game or website and you’re hoping to increase revenue from ads, please contact us (


FGL Community Spotlight – Talking Mobile with Rolltower Studios

The Community Spotlight returns this week, and we’ve got a very special guest.  We caught up with Patrick Goncalvez from Rolltower Studios to discuss their recent success in the mobile space

Q: Welcome to the Spotlight, Patrick!  Let’s start with a quick introduction for those who may not know about you or your studio yet

Patrick at Rolltower: I’m Patrick and I run Rolltower Studios, a development studio primarily creating “freemium” Hidden Object games.  I’m currently the only full-time employee and contract out certain other parts of the business ( like artwork ) as needed.

Q: What made you decide to become a full-time game developer?  Did you start with mobile gaming or other formats?

Rolltower: Long ago when I was in grade school I got into programming because I like video games and wanted to make them on my own. I decided to study programming and work in the field later on, but didn’t really expect to end up working in the industry. But my first job out of college ended up being at a social gaming startup called Playdom, which made Facebook games. They were later acquired by Disney and I continued to work there for another year or two.

I always wanted to run my own business and felt I had a good understanding of the gaming industry and knew how the business worked, so I took a shot at running a small development studio and it’s worked out! This was about two years ago now, and the primary focus has always been mobile gaming as I see that as a huge, growing field.

Q: That’s great.  So how did you wind up working with Tamalaki for your most recent projects like Hidden Object Blackstone?

Rolltower: Blackstone was about a six month-long project of mine that I eventually released to several markets including Android. As its success started to pick up on some smaller markets like BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8, i noticed the Google and Amazon versions were just sitting there, pretty stagnant. Android is of course a huge market and I decided it made a lot of sense to find a publisher who could help me distribute a game that had been proven to be a success on other markets. I looked around at similar games in the Google Play store for publishers and came across Tamalaki that way around June or so of last year.

I introduced myself over email to Martine Spaans over at Tamalaki and explained my situation and it really seemed like a perfect publisher/developer fit. We met up in person at Casual Connect and moved forward with publishing plans from there, making some tweaks to the gameplay model for the Amazon and Google markets. Blackstone released through Tamalaki soon after that and has done quite well, and it’s been great working with Tamalaki. :) Since Blackstone did so well, I doubled down on the Hidden Objects genre with Mystery Society, also with Tamalaki and FGL on the android platforms.

Q: Like you said, it has done really well!  What was the original montization plan for Blackstone, and how did you have to adjust it to reach this level of success?

Rolltower: Blackstone’s original monetization plan revolved around selling in-game coins and gems through in app purchases. Those coins and gems could then be used to purchase hints, collection items, access to more levels, etc. that could otherwise also be earned by playing the game and collecting them over time.

That worked okay, but FGL and Tamalaki had a lot of success with the ad-based revenue model, around which users view and interact with advertisements to earn in game rewards.  Since Blackstone has a flexible economy, these offers could be easily added to the existing game as an additional way for users to acquire coins and gems faster than grinding and without making an in app purchase.

Q: And from the reviews, it seems like your players really appreciate that option

Rolltower: That’s right! Since some types of players prefer to pay a premium for an ad free experience while others prefer viewing advertisements for in game rewards, Blackstone’s monetization plan now involves both options. Users do seem to enjoy this option and it also increases revenue for the developer. Our overall revenue per user increased 2-3x!

Q: So, what’s next for Rolltower?  Any new projects, or are you going to continue updating Blackstone with more new content?

Rolltower: Blackstone and Mystery Society are going to continue receiving new content and features throughout the year. Mystery Society is playing a little bit of “catch-up” as a new game without as many scenes and collections, so it’s getting most of the attention right now. But the goal is to set up a regular set of content updates between the two, so long term players don’t run out of things to do.

There are definitely going to be new games this year, too. I haven’t quite decided on the next set of plans yet, but I do like to add some big improvements with each new game. There will probably be a new Hidden Object game in next few months with some new gameplay aspects that really make it stand out.

Also, we’re in the process of translating Mystery Society into a few different languages. We think its a game with fantastic potential international appeal, and we’d really like to increase the game’s audience that way.

Q: Those sound like great additions.  You’re really keeping busy!  We usually like to wrap up these spotlights by asking for some advice you can give new devs.  Are there any tips you can give a new Mobile game developer about developing in the mobile space?

Rolltower: The main thing that really comes to mind is to take a look at what successful games are doing. You’ll find a lot of very different games are doing a lot of the same things, whether it comes to the core gameplay loops or monetization or icon design, etc. When I worked for larger companies in the game dev industry, we called a lot of these things “best practices” – game design techniques that many developers have come to realize after a lot of trial and error work better than others. Some simple examples are in-app purchase pricing points, in-game sales, gameplay session length (for games with energy or lives that come back over time) , and features like achievements and leaderboards.

I think sometimes as an indie developer there is a tendency to want to innovate on every part of the game in order to stand out. But as a newcomer to the field you have an opportunity to learn from the experience of a lot of other developers, and save yourself a lot of time and headaches.

So really take a pause and analyze what successful games are doing and try to emulate them while you add your own innovation on top of that. Your game will still stand out on its own appeal, and you wont make the same mistakes thousands of developers have already made before you.

Most of these things are usually learnt through experience and a lot of trial and error, and I did my fair share of that too. But if there’s any shortcut to learning from your own mistakes it’s to learn from other peoples’ mistakes.


We’d like to thank Patrick and Rolltower for taking the time to share their experiences with us.  Be sure to follow Rolltower on Twitter at and comment below with your questions!

Take the game dev survey. Meet FGL at GDC. Charity event. Game Jam – FGL Developer Newsletter January 2015



Meet the FGL Team at GDC Booth #2405 and help decide on the Unofficial Meet & Greet!

Learn More…



January Game Jam

Flex your game dev muscles in the next FGL Game Jam and win bragging rights, a badge, +points!

Learn More…



Indie Giving Filling Up

$350 for GDC Pass, 2 nights hotel, charity event participation, t-shirts, and more. Don’t delay!

Learn More…


December 2014

Dungeon Screener

6 feet under
Iskander Aminov
Brain Bunker


Indie Giving 2015. $200 HTML5 Offer Ending. Developer Survey – FGL December 2014 Dev Newsletter

$200 Offer Ending Soon

The $200 HTML5 Opportunity endsDecember 31st. Get your games in soon to qualify! 

Learn More…


2014 Game Dev Survey

Help us improve. Take a minute to complete our 2014 game developer survey.

Learn More…

F2P Is Here To Stay

Check out an awesome 3 part series by an experienced pub regarding F2P psychology

Learn More…

Join us for the next FGL Game Jam on January 2nd!

November 2014
Broken Turrent
Friendly Fire
Don’t Shoot
Brian Bunker


$200 HTML5 Advance Opportunity Ends 12/31

Due to the overwhelming success of the $200 advance opportunity for HTML5 games that integrated our sdk, we’ve decided to end this promotion while we focus on building out the tools that will be needed to get them distributed to as many platforms as possible. We are currently distributing HTML5 games to Amazon, the new HTML5 Game Shop, Portal in a Box, and more; all with no additional work from the developers. We are actively working to improve our sdk’s functionality while expanding out to other platforms as quickly as we can and will automatically start distributing the games that have given permission.

If you are currently working on an HTML5 game and want it to be eligible for the $200 advance, please be sure to have it submitted for QA before the end of the year!*

Not to worry, though, we will continue to accept new HTML5 games in 2015, and will run them through the same QA steps,  distribute them to all available platforms where we have been given permission, and continue to maximize earnings for developers.

Please let us know if you’d like to review or change the distribution plan for any of your games and we’ll get it sorted as soon as possible.

*Games submitted must be complete games.  No partially finished games will be eligible.  Games do NOT have to be fully QA tested by the end of December to be eligible.  If your game is complete, but still in the QA process, then your game will still be eligible.  FGL reserves the right to reject any submitted game, for any reason.

FGL Community Spotlight – A Chat with Matthew Bowden

The Community Spotlight returns this week, and we’ve got a very special guest.  We caught up with indie triple-threat Matthew Bowden to talk about game development, publishing, and his writing projects.


Q: Can you introduce yourself to our developer and publisher audience?

My name’s Matthew Bowden and I’m an independent HTML5 game developer, publisher, and author. I was one of the first developers to start selling commercial HTML5 games all the way back in 2011. I currently run my online business from the comfort of my home in Brisbane, Australia.

I differentiate myself from other developers by publishing an online income report at the end of each month. In these reports I openly discuss my online earnings and growth strategies, and try to inspire hobbyists to make a living out of game development like I do.

Q: What drives your commitment to financial transparency?

Money is a taboo topic that I’ve had to approach very carefully. Personally, I’m always inspired when I see the success of others, but that’s not how everyone reacts.

When I started making games for a living I knew I wanted to use my experience as a resource for other developers to learn from. My financial transparency has helped me build an audience, but more importantly it has influenced the lives of others. I have helped dozens of developers turn their game development hobby into a career which is more than I ever aimed for.

I’ve found that while openly talking about money polarises people, it can also be influential in all the right ways. It’s also a great way to hold myself accountable – I share my bad months too!

Q: You mentioned that you took an early interest in HTML5 as a game development format. What was it that excited you about HTML5 back in 2011?

I could tell the technology had tons of potential. Adobe had just announced that they were discontinuing Flash on mobile, and had called HTML5 “the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.”

I already had an interest in web games and mobile games, so when HTML5 presented itself as an opportunity to combine my interests in a new niche market with no competition I committed all of my time to it. I’ve been a leading proponent of HTML5 ever since.

Q: FGL recently launched its HTML5 Game Shop, and the SDK now includes support for GameMaker – an engine you’re quite proficient with. Tell us a little about GameMaker for those who may not be familiar with it yet.

GameMaker is a primarily 2D game development engine that has been used to produce indie hits such as Hotline Miami, Gunpoint, and Spelunky. The current version allows developers to export their projects to many different platforms, including Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, HTML5, and plenty more.

I’ve been using GameMaker on an almost daily basis since 2005. When I first started using the engine, I had no programming experience whatsoever; now I gladly attribute much of my success to it.

GameMaker is often underestimated (and even ridiculed) by the game development community. But if you’re making any kind of 2D game, it would be a mistake to dismiss GameMaker. It’s one of the best engines out there when it comes to rapid multi-platform development.

Q: You have an impressive social media footprint, even including your Klout score in your online income reports. How important do you think it is for developers to have a socialmedia presence?

All independent developers need a social media platform, especially when they have a minimal or non-existent marketing budget (as is often the case). I have invested a lot of time and energy into establishing my social media platform and it has paid off in spades.

When you have a social media presence you’re able to put any message you want in front of thousands of people at the click of a button. Plus, it’s free. There’s no downside to that.

Q: You recently hit a milestone with your book ‘Making Money With HTML5’ reaching$20,000 in total sales. Why has this book resonated with game developers?

I never expected my book to be as popular as it has been, especially since it’s self-published and only available on my website. The main selling point has been the market itself; compared to other crowded markets HTML5 is incredibly accessible. However, that’s changing as competition grows.

Making Money With HTML5 is the perfect starting point for developers who are interested in joining the market as easily as possible. Reader feedback has been extremely positive and it honestly just sells itself.

Q: Thanks for your time. Where can people find you?

You can read my blog online, and I’m on Twitter and Facebook as well.

Free-To-Play vs. Customer Happiness – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 (Currently Reading)

The following is a presentation created by Martine Spaans, owner of Tamalaki Publishing and frequent contributor on Business Development matters here at FGL.  Martine has 8+ years of experience in the online gaming industry and has served as Licensing Manager at Spil Games, worked in Online Marketing at Ubisoft, and is a Marketing Advisor at CFE.


Part 3 – What Can We Do?

In retail, 6 to 12% of goods are returned. Returns are also on the rise—up 19% from 2007. For every $1 spent on merchandise today, 9¢ is returned. ( Online retail 60% of goods are returned. Crazy high numbers! Retails Return Policies are on a counter-movement of becoming more strict again, to protect themselves from all the abuse and costs. Compared to that, our Free-to-Play problems are nothing. Compared to that, our audience actually loves us, right?

Also, most people who are silent are just silently enjoying your game. Sometimes the biggest complainers are the most loyal players. Don’t be shocked when you see lots of bad feedback. Compare it to the hard data. Your analytics. Follow the trend of your players instead of listening to the ones with the biggest mouths.

So…if Free-to-Play is nothing new, and is apparently a problem that is not exclusive to the gaming space, how can we learn from examples outside of our own industry? I have one for you.

Several large North American cities have attempted zero-fare systems, but many of these implementations have been unsuccessful. A 2002 National Center for Transportation Research report suggests that, while transit ridership does tend to increase, there are also some serious disadvantages. This report suggests that, while ridership does increase overall, the ultimate goal of reducing emissions by enticing drivers to take transit instead is rarely met: because fare-free systems tend to attract large numbers of hooligans, vagrants and other ”problem riders”, zero-fare systems often have the effect of frightening potential riders back into their cars.

When we translate this to F2P, this is an example of a badly executed F2P design. Originally designed as premium multiplayer, then suddenly transformed info F2P. Because of the bad design, trolls can take over, and create a bad experience for the nice paying players.

When we think if the primary goal of games, it’s to make something fun. Something people really enjoy. This counts for any type of game.

For educational games, learning should be the secondary goal.
For dancing games, physical benefits should be the secondary goal.
For multiplayer games, social interaction should be the secondary goal.
For Free-to-Play games, Monetization should be the secondary goal.
For any of these games, if Fun doesn’t come first, the second goal will never be met. If you design your goal to get maximum monetization, you increase the risk that players will not think your game is fun, and they will leave the game before spending a dime. That’s how many badly executed F2P games came into this world and failed.

Skinner Box: Don’t condition your players that they will suffer a disadvantage when they don’t pay. It worked in the beginning of F2P, but by now there are too many competing games out there who focus on fun, that a punishing system is not immersive enough anymore to keep player attention. Focus on making a game fun for everybody, and reward the players who do go out of their way to pay in your game.

Payment wall: Don’t design your game in a way that players have no other option than paying when they reach level X. People will just abandon your game and play something else. There are plenty of alternatives out there.

Gaming Medium: Be aware of the short game sessions. Try to keep that in mind when designing your In-App Purchase options. People should be able to play for free for 5-10 minute sessions if they like. Or special premium content shouldn’t force them to sit through long sessions either. The hardest thing of mobile design is to make it possible to play a game for only 5 minutes, but to also make it possible to enjoy a game for a few hours.

Overwhelming: People need to get the feeling that they only scratched the surface, and that unlocking content and getting to higher levels faster will open up more gates.

Spending cap: When people can spend $20 max on in-game items that will never expire, you’ll never get more out of your 2-3% payers. Even though they might want to. When you build in some purchase items that expire, or they can stock up, you open up a way to spend more. However, be careful that you don’t make it feel unfair by taking away their purchase. For example, a system where players can “rent” special armor for 24 hours only works when there is a clear incentive, like a special quest they can use it for.

Ownership: Character customization, gender specification, naming, building a house or town, etc.

Generosity: Something they desire, that helps them in the game. Something that makes them feel good. Take away that fear that you only want to earn money from them. Give them a cool gift for free.

Easy: Very attractive discount. Turn off advertisements. Add exclusive goodies.

Different: Various flavors of the game. Some people go for customization, some for high scores, some for collecting achievements. Make your In-App Purchase options attractive for everyone.

Gifting: A mechanic that not many games have tried out yet. Do you know that feeling when you see a silly gadget and you feel ashamed if you’d buy it for yourself, but you think it would make a perfect gift? Same with the emotion behind In-App Purchasing. Works well in multiplayer games in Korea. Works in immersive co-op worlds. When you’ve captured a certain audience in one game, try to transfer that audience to your new games. This is a lot easier when you stay with the same genres. It might be fun to try out new things, like building a racing game, a puzzle game and a shooter. However, it will be hard to capture an audience that shares this scattered love. This way you have to re-invent your audience over and over again, and you might end up spending a lot of budget on buying users.

Tamalaki publishing focuses on Hidden Object games, and sometimes we publish something slightly different for a similar audience, like a Match-3 game or a Time Management puzzle. This might be less challenging for the developing teams, but this way it’s easy for us to always capture the attention of our audience and serve them new games they will probably like. We don’t have to spend a lot of marketing money trying to find our audience, because we already have them. The snowball of users keeps on growing this way. -> subscribe and get a free F2P forcasting sheet that allows you to calculate the financial success of your F2P model.


We’d like to thank Martine Spaans for sharing this presentation with us.  If you have any questions or comments for Martine regarding Free-To-Play games, monetization strategies, or any of the other topics touched on in this series, feel free to leave your comments below!