The Future of Flash: Premium Features

The Future of Flash tour hit Chicago last night so I had the chance to connect with Lee Brimelow and Mike Chambers, and Chicago’s Adobe User Group. It was an excellent and informative presentation about the roadmap for the Flash runtime that touched on Adobe’s definitive white paper resource located here: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flashplatform/whitepapers/roadmap.html

The biggest concern from Adobe users at the session was undoubtedly the new premium feature pricing model. Mike Chambers explained the shift as follows: First, the premium features model is targeted at AAA game developers desiring to combine Stage 3D and Domain Memory in a single product to create hardware demanding environments on the web browser (AIR desktop and AIR mobile do not require licensing). Second, the reason Adobe has opted for this licensing option is to protect their return on investment developing these advantages for the Flash Player.

The best example of Flash premium features concerns the Unity3D toolset. Adobe has worked with Unity 3D to allow developers to export 3D game content directly to Flash Player. This allows Unity developers to leverage both the performance power and the wider distribution audience of the Flash player over the Unity plugin. Because Adobe relies on the sale of tools like Flash Professional to fund the development of Flash Player, developers opting to use Unity instead of Adobe tools would cut off Adobe’s means to monetize and continuing supporting these advanced Flash Player features. The coalition between Unity and Adobe is a benefit for developers because it expands our options when it comes to creating rich content. The new premium feature model is what ensures this agreement can exist.

Many developers, while understanding of these points, still felt there would be a backlash amongst clients they develop for who might not understand why they might have to pay revenue to Adobe. Mike’s response was that we should consider ourselves interactive developers rather than just Flash developers. The reality is that many clients will ask for HTML5 or other technologies as they become available, and we should embrace these technologies as opportunities. The key to being both a successful developer and a good vendor for clients is understanding the right technology for the job and being able to explain the pros and cons of using a technology.

In a case where a client had need of a premium feature (say a AAA game) you have to ask yourself and the client the following questions:

  1. What tools might we use to develop our client’s high performance AAA game for the browser? Flash, Unity, and HTML5.
  2. What would the cost of development be for each tool? Flash $500K, Unity $500K, HTML5, $1.5M
  3. Would there be any obstacles a technology couldn’t handle? HTML5 might not be able to achieve desired performance due to lack of required APIs.
  4. What percentage of browser users would each technology allow our game to reach? For argument sake, let’s say Flash currently reaches 98% of browser users and Unity might reach 10%.  Let’s also assume that 50% of gamers asked to install the Unity plugin accept. This puts us at a point where Flash would allow us to reach 98% and Unity 55%. Perhaps HTML5, for the particular API’s required in this project, might only reach 25% of users.
  5. What average revenue might we expect per game install? Let’s use $5 per install as an example and also assume our target audience is 20 million people.

As developers and content creators, it’s important we diligently ask these questions for each project. This gives us the ability to come to our client informed and say things like:

We can build the game in HTML5, Flash, or Unity. Here’s what your costs and return on investment looks like:

HTML5

Cost: $1.5M
Reach: 25% of 20 million people
Revenue: $25M
ROI: $3.5M

Unity

Cost: $500k
Reach: 55% of 20 million people
Revenue: $55M
ROI: $54.5M

Flash

Cost: $500k
Reach: 98% of 20 million people
Revenue: $98M – 9% for Adobe = $89.18M
ROI: $88.68M

I can agree that many clients may have a hard time understanding the needs for Adobe’s premium feature model and that trying to explain this to clients already skeptical about Flash may be a challenge. Just remember that every client understands dollars and cents, and, at the end of the day, clients want the solution that generates the most profit. In my example, Flash will generate an expected return over $34M more than Unity and $85M more than HTML5. This dramatic difference won’t be true for every project, and, in some cases, it might actually be more profitable to go with HTML5 or another technology. This is why we, as developers, must take an active role to be informed so that we can provide quality service to our clients and deliver the best returns whichever technology we use.

About Ross Przybylski

Ross Przybylski is a game designer, Flash developer, and technical consultant. He is the founder of D20Studios, LLC and the creator of Hero Mages, a cross-platform, multiplayer strategy game. He is also the Director of Flash Development for Reflection Software, an innovative eLearning services provider company. You can learn more about Ross on his website and follow him on Twitter @RossD20Studios.
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One Response to The Future of Flash: Premium Features

  1. Kizi 3 says:

    This suggests that in the future, all game developers to use HTML 5