It was the second year when we had Web Monetization category in the js13kGames competition, and we can already see the progress in how the developers implement extra monetization features.
First of all, the number of entries submitted this year is lower than in 2019, both to the category (48 in 2019, 36 in 2020) and overall (245 vs 227). You could imagine people would have more time to actually code new games given the unusual situation with the pandemic while mostly staying home, but I received a lot of feedback that it was actually totally the opposite.
Many devs were affected on various levels, from getting sick, having difficult situation in their life, to blatantly being fired from work, so “making games for fun” wasn't a top priority anymore. From the huge amount of tweets sharing development progress using #js13k hashtag this year you could imagine we'd end up with another record number of entries, but it wasn't the case after all. I've received way more messages this year saying that someone couldn't finish and submit their entry than in a couple of previous years combined.
Ok, now that we have this cleared out, let's focus on the entries. There are a few “false-positives” in those 36 submitted games, which didn't happen last year. One or two entries don't have any monetization at all, a few only added the meta tag – it's unclear if the reason behind it was getting free Coil memberships, or maybe something else.
Entries with the proper Web Monetization features implemented seems to have those better integrated into the gameplay, compared to previous year. In 2019, this concept was brand new, and it revolved around adding bonuses, while in 2020 there was a few good, well executed ideas.
Of course those might seem “obvious” after you learn what they were, but this have to be discovered through experimentation first, right? Let's look at the top10 best entries from the Web Monetization category this year:
1. Ninja vs EVILCORP by Rémi Vansteelandt
2. OFFICE 404! by Tricsi
3. Symmetry Not Found by Sirxemic
4. RESCUE not FOUND by David Brad
5. Johnny Smiter III by Paul Brunt
6. The Legend of Yeti-404 by Richard Munn
7. Track not found?! by Xem
8. Big Movie Hacker by Daniel Cohen
9. Ned Snow by Juankz
10. Universe Not Found by Cameron Manavian
The entry that got the first place based on how well the feature was implemented, Ninja vs Evilcorp, offers... the lowest possible difficulty level for Coil members: Practice.
Isn't this brilliant? If you're lazy (like me, especially lately), or tired, or have only a couple of minutes to spare, but you still want to try the game, you can go straight through it without worrying that you'll lose immediately. I'm guilty of lowering the difficulty levels of way too many games I've played, only for the fact that I'd like to enjoy the story behind it.
It's the exact opposite to Dark Souls where dying dozens of times because of the insane difficulty level IS the gameplay, or Flappy Bird type of games where you can lose after a second and you repeat and repeat and repeat until you get it perfectly right, and then the single gameplay lasts for, maybe, 30 seconds total. This approach is of course totally correct for many players, but others will find the slow pace with no distractions and unnecessary dying simply more enjoyable.
The second place was Office 404!, where monetized users were offered a discount when buying items – this made the game slightly easier without affecting the gameplay too much. If you're not a paying Coil member, it takes only a little bit longer to buy stuff. The feature was balanced enough to not ruin the core game mechanics, and offered something extra on top of it.
The third place was taken by Symmetry Not Found, a game where you solve puzzles by moving shapes to achieve perfect symmetry – active Coil membership doubles the available time a player have to solve each puzzle. Again, it makes the game easier to enjoy without too much pressure from the time running out. Lower difficulty level for casual experience, just like in Ninja vs Evilcorp, but adjusted to the different gameplay.
In the Rescue Not Found game the extra monetized feature goes in the opposite direction – you can decide if you want to have a level 2 crew member from the start or not, since it comes with slightly higher difficulty level as you might end up with more challenging tasks from the beginning. It feels like you can have a head start, but it comes with a price, so you have to know what you are doing.
Fifth game in the category is Johnny Smiter III, which is actually a fourth installment of Johnny in the js13kGames competition by the same author, who constantly plays with various game mechanics and styles. In this episode, the main character can get some help from The Great Mage Coil, who will assist them in the journey and allow to see sacred numbers within the shadows.
Make sure to check other entries from the category, as you'll find more interesting takes on Web Monetization. From those in the second part of the ranking one main issue arise – the bonus is not clear or visible enough. Many entries mention this only on the entry's page, and not in-game, which might be confusing if someone jumps into the gameplay directly.
Another case is bonuses that you don't get immediately – extra level at the end of the game is something not too many will actually experience, even more if it's a surprise to the player. Clearly stating what is the difference between the regular gaming experience and Coil-boosted is something more games have to incorporate if they want to be successful.
Make sure to check the top5 picks from the experts, and best entries from given criteria as well. The voting app is full of comments from the developers themselves on each other's games. Lots of positive feedback from the experts can be found on the pages of given entries as well. The Web Monetization category got more expert comments per entry than the competition average (4 vs 2) on purpose to award developers who decided to participate.
I also decided to offer a Nintendo Switch for the best entry on top of free Coil memberships, since WebXR category had hardware prizes in the past few years, and it made sense to award something “big” here as well, beside standard software licenses. This combination of easy to get, guaranteed prize for everybody and something unique for the best games seems to work the best.
Last year's Web Monetization category was supported by Coil directly, while this time it was covered by the Grant for the Web program, for which I'm really thankful for – it would be a lot harder to run the competition and spend months of work on it without their help.
Overall, I think it went great, and I can't wait for 2021 as it'll be a tenth edition. I'm excited to see what people will come up with after another twelve months of experiments with Web Monetization!