My Portal Experiment - CutiePlay - Part 1

Listening to: Nothing.


So I've decided to try a new Flash portal experiment. I had a good time with Casual Weekday, but realized that with my limited time and Flash abilities (though the latter really isn't an excuse), I had nothing new to offer to the general gaming public that NewGrounds or Kongregate couldn't. I decided that I would try my hand at a much more interesting angle in terms of Flash portal sites.

I would focus my energies at creating the ultimate tween girl Flash portal. Your one stop to play all the coolest dress-up games, Mania/Dash/Rush games and even jigsaw puzzle games! Spot the difference? Sure we got them!

The reason I figured tween girl was a viable option was simply because of the influx of games I've recently seen hit the handheld console market. Ubisoft has been releasing, like it's going out of style, their Imagine Line of games for the Nintendo DS at an alarming rate. Aside from the possibility that Ubisoft can print money like Nintendo does, I believe there is actually a market for this. Ah, gold star!

Then I started thinking about the tough economic times the good old United States is currently in. Parents can't afford to drop $30 for a new Imagine game for their kids, but the kids want to play something new. Free girl games have been available online for quite some time and are widely popular. I mean if you're stuck at a library all afternoon and don't have a Nintendo DS, what else can you do? Read a book? Bah! Ridiculous! You hop onto a computer and play free games (to the dismay and irritation of others actually trying to do research). What can hold the five minute attention span of a tween? Why, tween games of course. Gold star #2.

I do possess the ability to create dress-up games in Flash. It's a chance for me to showcase my cute drawing abilities and practice writing a dozen lines of code at a time. Gold star #3!

So, what was there to do?

Step 1: Come up with a name.
A lot of great domain names, as any domain hunter knows, have been taken. I wanted to avoid anything that used the word "girls" as I didn't want to have people to think the site contained adult material. I decided sticking to things like "cute" and "having fun". So with a little creativity and a huge stroke of luck, I registered CutiePlay.com.

Step 2: Build the site.
I spent a few hours Wednesday night building the site. This essentially meant creating some simple graphics, coding a little HTML and CSS, finding a proper layout that worked (well enough) and building a very simple PHP/MySQL interaction to store the games. The reason for the latter was that I didn't want to have to create new HTML pages for every single game that got added into the system. I also wanted enough pieces to be modular so I could make one change that populated itself across all pages on the site.

I also didn't want to have too many different categories. The idea wasn't to be the place where you could play everything. It's supposed to be the place where you can play a lot of what you like. I stuck to three categories: dress-up, puzzle and fast fun. The first two are pretty self explanatory. "Fast Fun" basically consists of arcade type games, your Diner Dash type games or anything that involves faster reflexes than a "Match 3" or "Spot the Difference".

I also created a "Free Stuff" tab because, well, everyone likes free stuff. This basically would just have free wallpapers, artwork and buddy icons for all players. I mean enough of the "cutesy" stuff I draw is stolen off of deviantArt, so why not get a few ad views from it?

Step 3: Install some ad code.
The given path to go with ads was simply becoming a publisher with MochiAds and Google's AdSense. MochiAds offers free content to publishers. The rate isn't terribly high, but it's free content. In the olden days, I'd have to "save as..." this content from other sites and I'd be making 0% per impression instead of the 10% I earn now. Google AdSense? It's a given. No complaints here.


Step 4: Populate the site with games.
This basically consisted of me finding games in the MochiAds database and throwing them up on the site. This will take time as the front page showcases five (5) games from each category and the main category pages showcase twenty-five (25) at all times. These games are randomly selected from the overall database.

The reasoning behind this is based on my "thinking as a tween girl" gaming experience. I would come to this site to kill time. If I come back everyday and see the games keep changing, I would think there was always new stuff to try out. Also, I expect the bounce rate in the "dress-up" category will be extremely high, which also supports my theory that they want new content all the time as opposed to extended stays with the same content from last week. I'm curious as to see how the "puzzle" and "fast fun" category pages will do.

So, if you go and visit CutiePlay.com, you can see all of this working. What's next?

Next Step 1: FULLY populate the site.
As of now, there aren't enough games to fill the category pages. Because of that, the category pages just shuffle the games around as opposed to showing completely new ones. It should be a sense of "something new to discover", not "someone messed around with the things on my desk".

Next Step 2: Create some original games.
Another reason that Casual Weekday didn't have the stickiness of an Armor Games is because there wasn't enough original, "play it here", content. It was just stuff from the MochiAds library. So the next step is to create original games that have a proper introduction Splash sequence that points back to CutiePlay.com.

These games will always receive top billing on the site, never to be lost in the shuffle of the rest of the site. These games will also earn a much higher cut of the CPM for ads displayed. Outside of sponsoring games, this is pretty much the way to go.

Next Step 3: Additional revenue streams.
There are already ads running on the site. What else can I add? I'm planning on implementing a portion that will showcase great new tween type console games that are available for purchase on Amazon's Affiliate Program. To make sure to keep the trust of both the playing public and their parents, I will make it very clear that the links are links to the product page for purchase with actual money.

Next Step 4: Drive traffic.
I've already inserted a traffic share ad on the MochiAds network. Now I need to find another way to drive traffic to the site. The introduction Splash sequences may work, but more needs to be done. MochiAds now offers self-serve ads, so that may be an interesting investment to try (targeted at dress-up games, of course).

What I hope to see from this is that a player will eventually use that page (most likely a clearly marked section on the "free stuff" page) to show their parents. They can point to the page and say, "Mom, I want this game! Can I get this?" They don't have to search Amazon.com's site to find it because it is clearly displayed on CutiePlay.com.

What I'm not trying to do:
I'm not planning on creating a site that has persistent user data like logins, virtual currency or virtual goods. It's meant to be played from anywhere by anyone. You can enjoy it in spurts. You should come back everyday to see if there's a new game you haven't seen yet. It's a discovery process. It's free entertainment. That's the goal.

I understand that creating that community is important, but I'd also like to get the approval of the parents of these tweens. If they can trust the site, then allowance to play on the site is secured.

Anyhow, that's it for now. I'll keep you updated on how it goes! Wish me luck!