When it comes to gaming, the most popular platform isn’t the Nintendo Wii, but Flash, the interactive browser plugin that now boasts 99 percent market penetration on nearly a billion PCs. (Flash game advertising network Mochi Media currently counts 100 million players across its system alone.) That huge audience has led to a lot of games, but most of them are rudimentary at best, the product of amateur enthusiasts working with limited resources. That’s why I was excited to hear about PushButton, a Flash game engine from a team of seasoned game developers that’s free, open source, and associated with an innovative revenue model that should help spur its adoption.
Quietly released in open beta to friends and family last week, it already seems to be gaining an enthusiastic following; Ada Chen of Mochi told me she’s also heard a lot about it from developers at Sunday’s Flash Gaming Summit, and “the feedback has all been overwhelmingly positive.” It comes from Push Button Labs, a new startup led by Jeff Tunnell, founder of Dynamix and co-founder of GarageGames. (The latter company was acquired by IAC to become InstantAction, the web-based 3D gaming platform we wrote about last month.)
Tunnell and his team briefed me on PushButton at this week’s Game Developers Conference, including explaining their business model: Since the engine is free (and distributed under the extremely liberal MIT license), the company will instead make money by selling premium components and assets that PushButton users can buy to improve their games. Developers can also sell components they made on PushButton’s open market — sort of an App Store for Flash game makers — with the company collecting a 30 percent cut on each sale. Sounds like a smart way to leverage and empower a growing community of Flash developers and other startups interested in making a living from casual games. For consumers, that should also translate into better games coming to their browsers soon.