Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Option C: Give the Game Away, Get Money from Ads

Seth shot me this article yesterday from Wagner James Au at GigaOM regarding the financial success of Desktop Tower Defense. DTD was being passed around a few weeks ago, and while I tried it out and got fairly far, I didn't really even blog about it - even though it's one of the better Flash-based free games I've played.

The game itself is free, and very little was done in the way of promoting it - as the article explains. And yet, the creator is making four digits a month off the game alone. How? Click-throughs on advertising. The site got between 9 million and 20 million hits in April. There's been a lot of chatter lately about in-game advertising - when you play Crackdown, for example, there are billboards in the game advertising the latest Dodge cars (although you cannot actually drive and crash those cars in the game.) And of course the potential for in-game advertising to both set off the costs of development and make additional revenue.

But DTD took a different approach; the game is free and contained no ads, but the page on which it loaded offered a pretty standard Google ads module. It's certainly a different way to tap into the Long Tail than offering the game for a fee on Xbox Live or a similar service. I'm still unconvinced you could make a viable business model out of this - after all, there are sites that have been doing similar things for ages, like Yahoo games - but on a small scale like DTD, it's a great way for an indie developer to help finance his next project. As a Microstrategy, it's solid.

I'd love to see this experiment repeated, but possibly with more promotion efforts behind the game in the initial stages. It would be interesting to see if the results would be the same.

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