Does Hosted Games offer better royalties?


#1

There are a lot of Hosted Games authors on the forum, so if you can advise me on what percent of royalties you make, that’d be great.
I keep hearing it’s 25% for CoG (or less). I believe that’s 25% of what players spend on the game, but some people say it’s only 25% of what CoG gets after Apple/Google/Amazon take their cut, which would be more like 17.5%.
I understand why CoG takes a large cut:

  • It’s their engine
  • They’re the ones putting it in appstores
  • They offer a clientele from the popularity of their other games
  • The edit the story ($$$ spent)
  • They have to pay an artist for like 4 different pieces at least. (icons, cover art, etc) ($$$ spent)
  • They advertise your game ($$$ spent)
  • They give out up to $10k even before the game is finished
  • They have to customize purchase screens and free trials, etc
  • Probably some stuff I’m missing

I’m not really that interested with publishing with CoG. I’d rather us Hosted Games.
If you use hosted games:

  • They don’t advertise (I’m pretty sure)
  • You have to do the art yourself
  • I’m pretty sure hosted games has less recognition compared to CoG
  • They don’t edit or even so much as spellcheck the story
  • No $10k advances
  • You can’t have the word “choice” in your title

Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven Discussion Thread 1
#2

Hosted games authors get 25% of what CoG makes after platform fees are taken out which is 17.5% of the sale. It is still there engine, they put it on the platforms. If your game is released near a CoG game they will advertise your game in the release mail they send out.

However if you wish you can submit the game yourself (I.e pay the platform fees, submit it to them deal with any problems) and you just have to pay CoG a % for using their engine. I’ll see if I can find the document that discusses it.

Edit: if you publish it yourself you need to pay CoG a licensing fee for using choicescript and that is 25% of what you make. Then you have to pay the platforms their cut as well.


#3

Is it really even possible for someone to publish their game on mobile without CoG? I can’t even find a good way to host it online. I definition won’t be spending years programming an engine to execute my choicescript files on mobile.
I believe it might be possible, however, to create an app that will embed a webpage that hosts the game. That still leaves a ton of work to be done with making people have to pay2play on the website or making it so the webpage is only available to the app and charge for installing the game.


Thinking on it some more. I suppose 17.5/52.5/30 isn’t incredibly horrible, but:
Platform fees are bogus, period. (can’t help that though)
52.5% for CoG vs 17.5% for the author still seems cheap though. Sure they made the engine and have to spend time to set up your game on platforms, but surely authors who put in hundreds of hours (I don’t know the real average total time) deserve most of the left over 70% when compared to a fraction of CoG’s work on the engine [imagine all 52% of all CoG/Hosted stories income put together to have already paid for that one hundred times over] added to the pay for publishing, advertising, because-they-like-money, because-they-can, because-you-can’t-easily-do-it-yourself, and cuz-it’s-their-engine.


As a hosted games author, you would probably know: are royalty rates negotiable at all?


#4

Royalty rates are non-negotionable for hosted games authors but CoG authors can choose from 25% and a $7500 advance upon completion of the the game or 10% and a $10000 advance.


#5

As an HG and CoG author, I can add to/comment your list.

They do put you on their site (which has traffic) and send an email blast.

Yes, but this is not as lopsided as you may think. HG has a following, and CoG funnels traffic to HG. It is a huge bonus that is not understood until you publish. You WILL get sales on the label.

They do run through your game and will make sure it works. Otherwise, correct, they do no fixing of grammar/spelling.

This isn’t really an advantage. An advance has to be paid back from first sales, so you will make it as CoG or HG. It’s a difference in how long it takes to reach 10k.

They also handle customer service (triage/tier 1 support) and handle all merchant accounts/distributor platforms, which is work we don’t have to do.

The other major selling point is that they will publish your game if you meet their basic requirements. I don’t know many companies that do so and pay you as an amateur writer.

Obviously I am biased, but the publishing world doesn’t have many proven tracks to make a mark as an unknown writer. To me, if you have the resume/fan following to write for CoG then there are strong motivations to pitch to them. If you want freedom to write a game with no editorial input and/or do not have resume/fan following yet, Hosted Games is a great way to get a break into publishing.


#6

I wonder what sales figures look like for both the mainline Choice of Games and the Hosted Games brand. However, I don’t know how viable is that level of transparency, considering CoG’s needs for privacy and authors’ likely not wanting their incomes public. Are CoG authors allowed to reveal what they earn from games, or is that prohibited contractually?


#7

@JimD Thank you. That’s really insightful and helpful.


#8

This is something that cannot be overstated. Traditional publishing is almost impossible for an author who has never published before and does not have an agent. Usually the only choice is those shady vanity presses, where YOU have to pay to get the books made and then hope like heck to sell enough thus to break even And as far as indie games, for every Five Nights at Freddy’s there are dozens of games that take in just a few hundred dollars in total before fading away, and that often split between multiple people who worked on it. Yes, the CoG/HG cut is deep. True, they could likely afford to give a bit more to the author. But in the end they are giving what no one else really does: a way for true amateurs to get their material to a wide audience and get paid, rather than pay, for the privilege. It may not be wholly unique in the world, but it is plenty darn rare. Me, I feel pretty fortunate to have found the place. Beats amassing a railroad spike’s worth of publisher rejections (bonus points if you know who that references) any day of the week.


#9

As somebody who publishes books as an academic, and a HG authors, I’d like to start by emphasising that CoG is (by a long length) the best publisher I’ve ever known. Period.

Let me elaborate… aside from vanity publisher, no other publisher will publish untested authors (unless they believe you’ve got the next Harry Potter in your hands). CoG give the possibility of getting published to EVERYBODY (in fact, if anything there was once a thread about HG authors wondering if CoG shouldn’t be MORE restrictive. I completely understand their philosophy regarding this, and it is great credit to them that they continue to allow everybody their game).

With regards to royalties… 25% is VERY good!!! I doubt any publisher offers anything better than that, and the other publishers I normally go for (very reputed academic publishers!) usually only offer 10%. Once again, I’m personally AMAZED that CoG gives 25% royalties to any untested author. Don’t forget that they have fixed costs for getting a game out, so on many HG they don’t recover their investment (in terms of people’s time). Obviously, I have no clear numbers, but my guess would be that they probably don’t make much profit out of HG (the good games probably just about pay the staff costs of those that work on HG), though of course some authors will start as HG and progress to CoGs, which is probably where they make their money.

From my part, I’ve hugely enjoyed being a HG author, and will continue to be so as it gives me the freedom I want when making my games. At the end of the day, I was just happy to get my first game published, which was like a dream come through for me. And, I reiterate my point, they are BY FAR the best publishers that I know.


#10

I agree with all of that, for sure. Hosted Games is a fantastic opportunity. I will say, though, that I think I remember Jason saying that most HGs cost about $1,000 to publish, so the vast majority of HGs would more than return their invest. And then the best sellers like Life of a Wizard, Zombie Exodus, Way Walkers, Lost Heir, etc, have probably all made tens of thousands.


#11

I always love seeing authors and content creators tackle subjects while dancing around contractual limitations on what we can disclose about the process. Let me join in on the konga line here.

Regarding the share of proceeds and platform costs, Hosted Games obviously wants to recoup their costs, pure and simple as that. It costs money to submit an app to the store they submit to, likely over a thousand dollars at that, and while the audience on the stores is large the real audience for Interactive Fiction is relatively tiny. It’s bigger than I thought before I first published with HG, but it’s still very very small when compared to even some quick-buck asset flip game apps you can find. Unless you in fact do have the next Harry Potter in your hands and the title starts selling like hotcakes, then recouping HG costs can take from months to over a year despite them not having put much editing or artist muscle behind it.

It’s not entirely fair to say that portion of the HG cut would be due to the folks simply liking money. Well, everyone likes money. That’s why we’re even discussing this kind of a subject, right?
We’re creating extremely niche products with Interactive Fiction. While there’s a loyal and seemingly growing audience for titles, it is not a big one - as I already said above. As far as I’m aware still a year or so ago this was essentially a one-man operation on the publishing side, but recent hires obviously tell us that CoG and by extension HG have grown now to the point of being at least sustainable. That doesn’t meant that Jason would be exactly rolling in money now though.
As far as I’m concerned I’m more than happy with the cut. First I was happy because it was a far higher rate than a budding writer might get anywhere else. Now I’m happy because the way the revenue is split will only work to grow the quality and audience outreach of both brands. That will mean inevitably that there will be more eyes on my new titles, better possibility of communications with the staff (since it’s not just Jason pretending to be a siwtchboard operator anymore) and there’s the likelyhood of developing the HG brand further as well. By that last point I don’t mean a full editorial process or anything, but surely some of the know-how and support will trickle down in any case to newer authors.

Also it is not entirely true that Hosted Games does not offer any kind of editing. If I do remember right, and this was also stated somewhere on the forums a few times if I’m right, titles that go on Steam receive at least some kind of a copyediting look-through. But getting your first title on Steam is going to be a bit of a leap of faith on HG’s part if it happens in any case.
Do correct me if I’m wrong.


#12

@Goshman, entirely agree on all your points!

@Samuel_H_Young I think you underestimate their costs, and how much money they make. If you go to the hosted game page, and look at the list of games (scroll to the bottom, not the top…)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Hosted%20Games&hl=en

you’ll see that many of them (which you might have not have even heard off) have limited downloads and poor reviews. Note that downloads also don’t equal sales… so on many titles they probably lost that $1000 USD. I’m also not sure how Jason got to that figure, but assuming a charge rate ofUS$30 per hour, that would mean that to publish my Tokyo Wizard somebody spent 30 hours on the game. I’m sure between Rachel and Jason they spent more than that time reading my game (although they don’t offer feedback they do read it to ensure that there is nothing wrong in it, I know this for a fact as they suggested some changes to me), preparing the contract, replying to emails, etc.

So, I’d say they lose money on most games, which is partly compensated by the best sellers that you indicate, Doomsday on demand, Life of a wizar, Hyuga, CCH, etc. This has allowed them to grow, but given the additional staff they have taken on, my feeling is that things are mostly balanced, rather than them making money. Basically, what I want to say is that I doubt anybody in CoG is swimming in money, and my overall feeling is that many things that they do are a service to a community they seem to believe in. I’m happy that they probably make enough money to have made this their full time jobs though, as this allows the rest of us to do something that we enjoy, writing these games!


#13

I think most of the problems with these titles is that they’re either too short (the playthrough is not long enough), too cliche (funny when it’s not, dramatic when it isn’t, etc.), the decision made by player doesn’t affect the story that much, and they’re locked behind a paywall (rule of 3 chapter trial).

But most of those titles are actually old titles, so I’m kinda understand with the hype of where you can submit your own story, resulting in fairly poor testing on that time.


#14

I agree with some of the reasons of why games “flop” (though there are more reasons, though I don’t want to veer off-topic as this has been discussed at length elsewhere…), though it is not just old titles. If you go through the releases this year (and I don’t want to give names) there are several games that have done very poorly. You’d hope that they’d be less of those, but Jason did mention in a thread elsewhere that sometimes they are very surprised by which are the games that do well (which are not exactly the ones you would expect…), which is why they keep on giving HGs authors a large amount of freedom (I guess it is their “experimental” platform…)


#15

I’m wondering if some of these bad reviews could be avoided by the simple measure of changing the “Play now for free” text to something like “Play free demo now”. And yes, I know the games specify that it’s only the first two/three chapters that can be read free of charge, but there are so many negative reviews about it that it’s pretty obvious that far too many people don’t read that and games’ ratings suffer because of it, which could end up resulting in fewer purchases, and less money all around.


#16

Personally, I believe that 25% + $7500 for CoG is rather high, though I think they could afford to give 30% for HG. The reason they kept it same for both is that a number of games in HG lead to losses, as opposed to CoG. The system is a bit flawed though - a famous author can afford to publish the game themselves, thus paying only 25% (Assuming that “ChoiceScript” refers to the app and webpages creating software too), whereas a new author can’t.


#17

I think the problem is that all of CoG titles has this line on their store description.
"Play first 3 chapter for free"
while not every HG titles has that line.

The problem with ppl when they see that green button written as INSTALL instead of $X.YZ, their mindset will be automatically changed “Oh! It’s free! Or at least pay to remove the waiting time or the ad banner!”

But nope. It’s a trial or demo.

The problem is, Google Play don’t facilitate “trial or demo” kind of apps. They only show you if an app is downloadable for free, or pay to download. (I use the term download as it’s literally downloading from the Google Playstore)

The only radical solution I have in my mind is to include a pic with a large text saying “PLAY FIRST 3 CHAPTER FOR FREE” on the preview image :confused:


BTW, I’ve a feeling if we’re going off-topic. So let us continue this one elsewhere, shall we?


#18

But, how many hours did it take you to write that game?
At 17.5% (which seems to be the figure after other things are taken off, correct?) that would mean for every $1000 made, the author would receive $175, every $10,000 made (oh, that would be a nice thought, lol), that would amount to a mere $1750- that does seem rather low.

Outlay costs I imagine are quite a bit, and they must have to account for games that don’t sell well. But, it’s still a business, and they must be making some profit, or it just wouldn’t be viable and no point in having the company.

I’m not knocking what Choice of Games offers. I think it’s incredible that they give people a chance to release their games who may have never done anything like this before. But, I still think there could be more of a balance? Hosted Games seems quite popular because of the freedom in games that is offered. And, a lot of work does go into the games, whether it be amateurs or not. I spend at least 4 hours per day on my game, and have done for 5 days a week for the last six months (give or take a couple of weeks for time off :smiley: )- surely that is worth more of a balance in royalties? They offer a brilliant service, but the authors are still the ones doing a huge amount of the work.

But yeah, I think the Hosted Games label is really great and it really does give people a chance to get into this where doors may have been closed off before!


#19

I think it should also be added that in addition to all the initial set up costs, COG continues to support the games, even years after they’re released and making far less money than in their initial year. (As the games get older, most from what I’ve heard and seen, do tail off in their earnings.) So you’re also paying for their support to continue to keep the games up to date and working in the app stores. I’m guessing it’s similar with COG, but someone else I know with their own app (that doesn’t manage the app store stuff themself- they pay someone else to do it) told me they had to pay for updates to be made to their app so it’d be compatible with the new releases, particularly in the apple store (and it wasn’t cheap either). Unless you need to do an update for bugs or whatnot, COG basically handles everything including dealing with the stores after it’s up and running.

Unless you have an established audience, I’d also challenge anyone starting out to self promote their own app and get the same kind of traffic you get from publishing under the HG label (and lets face it, exposure = increase chance of sales). Most choice apps self promoted, would be buried under the 1000’s of apps that get submitted to the stores pretty quickly. You could potentially do it, but again- time, money and/or know-how (or luck) required.


#20

You make good points. But let me make a couple of other points that complement what you said and bring things forward a bit.

CoGs needs to make a profit to stay afloat. Of course, it is a business, if they can’t make money, they can’t eat. Having said that, my perception is that CoGs is re-investing everything they make into hiring more people, not inflating their own paychecks (if this makes sense?). I could think that the idea might have been “if we hire more people, we can relax a bit more, and not be so busy all the time” (this is the same foolish way of thinking that was in my head whent when I started accepting PhD students, and I’m sure at CoGs they are all as busy -if not busier- than what they used to be).

So, they have their business model, which is necessary for them to stay afloat. It is a VERY generous deal that they give to authors (and I will continue to emphasise this point, I only get 10% royalties on my academic books… and to get to write those books I had to publish countless journal papers throughout a period of 10 years, so I was not a “first time” author…), but I’ll move onto my next point.

Yes, I spent around 600 hours to write Tokyo Wizard (my estimate was that it was 3-4 hours per 1,000 words of code and text… typically 1 hour per 1,000 words of text, plus 1 hour to code it, plus another hour to tidy it up, plus another hour for post-processing, reading it all, etc. I didn’t keep exact track, but that was my feeling, and I’d be interested in what others have to say about this). So, that would have been 15 weeks working full time (about 3 months). My game hasn’t done so badly (probably it is a middle range game that sells nicely enough, but not one of the famous games around here, though ratings on it are not so bad), but so far I would have made more money working in McDonalds (eventually as sales continue this feeling will probably decrease, and maybe by the time I publish several games each of them will bump the others, but you have to keep a long-term perspective in life. The established names around here, like Lucid, Jason, etc, have all slowly built up their reputations!)

But, that is NOT why I originally wrote the game. It was a hobby, I really enjoyed writing it, and it was a LEARNING experience for me. My next game might sell better, and it might start to all make more sense financially. However, not all of us are amazing writers (and I want to emphasize that I’m aware my writing style is NOT the best around here, as we have some VERY talented authors in CoGs and HG), so you should take all these things into account (in CoGs and HG you are starting to compete with games that are getting better all the time. Something that might have passed as a good game years ago might get slammed by readers, who have grown used to reading things of ever increasing quality. And this is a good thing overall!)

So, to conclude: CoGs offers a very generous deal, but writing is a difficult business! Making money in life isn’t an easy thing, and it is not here either. I think most authors here are still doing it as a hobby, though I believe one or two might be making enough money that they can be semi-professional (professional?) by now, but that takes time and dedication (like everything else in life!)