3d browser games, 3d social games“Browser games are dead! Long live the browser games!” – that’s how we can best describe today’s state of once extremely popular browser-based games (aka HTML5 games). While experienced game developers are working hard to revive old mechanics, young and ambitious developers are casting their eyes on 3D technology and games with simultaneous gameplay. And the practice shows that the social networkers are more than ready to accept this new gaming content, and play PvP straight from their accounts without going to the app stores.

These ambitious developers are about to start dictating their agenda to the whole gaming industry and keep ignoring some common social marketing rules. Let’s try to figure out why browser-based games are entering a new stage of evolution and how the 3D technology will help them gain new momentum.

1. High Virality Potential

When did you last hear about a game getting 10-15 thousand installs a day without any advertising? I believe, long time ago. Lately, almost all of the social networks have “put the screws” on viral channels in order to entice developers to use a more profitable (for the platform) traffic generation method – ads. But social networks are still based on social connections, and that’s what some indie developers have in mind when choosing to build browser games. If the game is really cool, any social networker will be happy to share it with others for no reward. Word of mouth is a top driver of browser games installs.

When it comes to 3D games, your goal is to wow the audience with cool looking characters and backgrounds and, while the player is euphoric about it, make them spread a message about the game and invite friends for a PvP duel. That said, 3D effects spice up any browser game and make it stand out of the crowd of similar looking games.

For instance, Drakensang Online boasts over 23 million registered users and around 700,000 new users every month which generally marks a great deal of international success.

2. Unity3D engine

In their early days, browser games developers faced the lack of technological solutions to enable most of features any good game should possess to attract users and be able to monetize. It was very difficult to make anything work seamlessly in a browser without freezes and FPS slumps. Yet, few managed to build own engines and create their gaming projects with them. For instance, the aforementioned Drakensang was first built with the self-made JAVA-based engine.

But now when you have Unity3D you can forget about developing auxiliary tools and can actually spend all your time on the core development and functionality improvements. Unity3D gets regular upgrades, has a broad user community, and tends to instantly improve customer support and partner relationships.

The fact that dozens of popular browser games such as King’s Road, Prime World or CSR Racing are built with Unity3D gives hope that this technology has a promising future ahead.

3. Dramatic increase in web player installs

Any browser game needs a web player to play. It means you have to get your player’s buy-in to both play your game and install a player to enable it first. And a few years back the latter could cause you a big trouble, since not so many users agreed to install just another yet unknown program on their PC. As such, the bounces at the player installation stage reached almost 70%!

As the time passed, Unity kept pushing their web player plugin to users who, enchanted with the beauty of 3D browser games, eventually gave their consent to install it. Once again, Unity just broke the ice and reduced the web player installation bounce rate to around 15% now!

It’s also possible to decrease your web player installation bounce rate by customizing its landing page. Make it look “sexy” by featuring cool 3D graphics screenshots and your game trailer – anything to warm up your players and motivate them to play your game. Once its beauty and key features are made clear to users, they’ll be OK to install a player plugin – it’s a rule of thumb!

4. Good bang for the buck!

It’s clear that your browser game development budget depends on its scale. But here’s one tip – you don’t really need to launch a fully featured game with the meta-gameplay and high-level amusements. Try to apply a more iterative approach and polish up your core gameplay first. For instance, if you want to release a shooter with wall jumping, start with just one map, one unity class, a couple of arm types and the feature mechanics (wall jumping in this case). Iron out all quirks and launch a top-notch beta version to Facebook (or any other most popular social network in your area). Test your game as well as your server capacities on the first 300-500 users and continue to the large-scale launch if the feedback is positive. Otherwise, fix your issues and come back with an upgrade.

To develop a basic playable demo of high quality, you’ll need a team of 3 to 5 specialists and 2 – 4 months of their work. Now let’s calculate the monthly cost of browser-based game development in the United States vs Ukraine (as game development is often outsourced there):

1) Unity C# developer (on average, $6,500 / month in the US; $2,000 / month in Ukraine)

2) Server developer (on average, $7,000 / month in the US; $2,500 / month in Ukraine)

3) GUI artist (on average, $6,000 / month in the US; $2,000 / month in Ukraine)

4) 3D artist / animator (on average, $7,000 / month in the US; $3,000 / month in Ukraine)

5) Game designer (on average, $7,200 / month in the US; $2,000 / month in Ukraine)

So, keeping such a development team will cost you roughly above $30,000 / month in the United States, or less than $10,000 / month in Ukraine (of course, it depends on your state / city in both cases).

Further, according to Superdata research, the average rate per daily active user (ARPDAU) benchmarks for different browser-based games are as follows:

  • $0.01 – 0.05 for social puzzles and simulation games
  • $0.05 – 0.10 for poker games
  • $0.3 – 0.5 for 3D games

Facebook reports that the average daily active users (DAU) of its top 10 grossing browser games make 670,000. Most of browser-based games follow a freemium model and monetize via in-app purchases. In their 2014 study Swrve found that only 1.5% of all DAU spend their money in the game. Of those who pay, 50% make a purchase within the first 24 hours, and 60% of your total revenue per play is collected within the first 14 days.

In China, browser games account for 15% of the total gaming revenues, i.e. $2.11 billion, while mobile games account for 13.5 percent. This is just some food for thought.

5. Multi-platform coverage

Since social networks traditionally have very broad gamer audiences (but obviously not the most paying ones), it may be worthwhile to target them with your browser-based game first. Once your game goes viral and gets a sufficient base of loyal gamers ready to be your brand advocates, you can actually remake your game for mobile platforms and push it to the app stores with better paying audiences. A good example is Epic Arena by Travian Games that was first launched as a 3D browser game, gained popularity among the Internet gamers and was eventually re-developed for iOS and Android.

To wrap it up, today’s social networkers account for the lion’s share of the global online gaming community, and all they want to do is playing their favorite games everywhere and seamlessly. While the vast majority of game studios and startups are focusing their efforts on mobile development and allocating rather huge budgets on app store promotion, you can buck the trend by going social first. According to FGL, “there seem to be companies popping up every day interested in investing in [HTML5 games] in one form or another.” So, hurry up to get on the bandwagon now while the door is still wide open and the entry barrier is not that high!

Sources: Bigpoint, 2014; GamesBrief, 2014; Forbes, 2014; Indeed.Com, 2014; FGL, 2014; GamesIndustry.Biz, 2014; Intersog Salary Stats, 2014; image courtesy of Intersog

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