Kongregate is an anomaly in the casual gaming business. Where many Flash game sites feature card games and are frequented by a diverse population with a good percentage of women, Kongregate has hardly any solitaire-like games and has demographic of about 90 percent men and boys. It's where the shooter players go when they want to blow off some steam without firing up the console or the gaming rig, according to Kongregate CEO Jim Greer.
That focused demographic may be narrow, but it's also marketable. To engage this group more fully with the site -- and with sponsors -- Kongregate is launching a series of tutorials to help its users become game developers. The first series, sponsored by a youth-oriented automotive brand, walks participants through the steps of building a side-scrolling space-themed shoot-em-up in Flash.
The tutorial itself is not revolutionary, but I respect how Kongregate is layering in the elements that its demographic can relate to. Even though Greer does not really expect any Kongregate-schooled developers to build one of the few games that makes it to the top of the site's charts, he does think that the program will bolster the site's community and help lock users into the site.
Many of the current games on Kongregate are also available elsewhere, but Kongregate gets its users to come back by tracking achievements and rewarding users badges for meeting challenges. It also has a social angle.
The strategy for the gaming site is to move beyond advertising and sponsorships, though. As Greer says, "You can make pretty good money on an ad-supported game, but it tops out at $40K to 50K." That's why Kongregate allows users to submit their own games; nobody knows which ones are going to be the $50,000 winners; most of the submissions barely get noticed. It's also why Greer's company is building a system for in-game micro-transactions (for tarting up your avatar or buying power-ups) as well as a subscription platform for developers whose games are so compelling users will pay for them on a monthly basis. Those are better avenues to big revenue.
Lee Uniacke, Kongregate's chief revenue officer (isn't that normally the CEO's role?) says the male, 18- to 24-year-old demographic is "quasi recession proof," which sounds a bit sketchy, although that group of young job-holders will like always spend a bit more of their income on discretionary expenses, than, say, 40-year-old parents. The 20-person company still has "a lot" of its $9 million of funding left.
See also: What fun: Popfly gets a game builder.