The content for most user generated content sites is pretty easy to make. Just shoot a photo for Flickr or record a video for YouTube. But when it comes to the user generated games on Kongregate, you’ll need to acquire some basic programming skills before contributing anything.
Instead of relying on its users to go out and buy O’Reilly books on Flash development, the two-year-old startup has put together a series of tutorials for a new section of its site called Kongregate Labs. The tutorials (nine planned but only three available today) hold your hand throughout the entire process of creating a spaceship game – from downloading Flash CS3 for the first time to adding advanced power up and boss elements. At each step of the way, you can play the game as it should be played (and how it should function if you’ve following the directions closely).
CEO Jim Greer says the new Labs guide is primarily intended to give Kongregate’s devoted players more things to do onsite by helping them become developers for a change. Ultimately, Greer also hopes that the tutorials will spur a greater general interest in amateur game development, which in the long run could persuade would-be developers to create some of the hits that draw crowds to his site.
Of the 3,000 developers that have contributed 8,000 games to Kongregate, the vast majority of them are garage developers who don’t work for companies. Greer estimates that only about 1 in 100 games come from professional studios.
After launching 18 months ago, Kongregate now attracts 4.5 million unique visitors worldwide, according to internal statistics. The average player is 19 years old and male, with developers tending to be just a little older.
The launch of Labs also marks Kongregate’s biggest advertising campaign to date, for Toyota’s Scion line of cars. Branding for Scion not only pervades the Labs section; the startup is also running a developer competition in which Scion is giving a few hundred dollars to the best sample spaceship game enhancements.
Kongregate will release additional developer tools in the future, such as a hosting service for multiplayer games and a micropayments service for in-game transactions. When asked about the mobile gaming space, Greer insisted that Kongregate was focused on the desktop experience right now and does not consider mobile a priority.