In-Game Payments with Flash and Social Gold

Gaming is obviously a huge part of the Flash marketplace and luckily this year we as a company have started to acknowledge that and hopefully address developers needs. Part of that was the Flash CS5 support for creating iPhone applications. Another is the “Shibuya” try/buy service that we have which allows developers to much more easily monetize their AIR applications (and thus AIR-based Flash games). But the coolest thing is seeing the ecosystem grow up around this. A great example is Social Gold.

Social Gold takes the monetization of Flash content to the next level by allowing users to make in-game purchases. They’ve got an API that lets you do everything from micropayments to recurring subscriptions. They’ve got a good demo of the workflow on their site. They handle all of the credit card processing so it’s relatively straight forward to include the Flash code in your application and start accepting payments. The revenue split is about 90-10 so seems very fair.

All of the samples are for games, but there’s nothing to prevent this from going in any other type of Flash application so it’s a very interesting way to monetize Flash content in the browser or on the desktop with AIR. One of the main issues is security. Because SWF files can be decompiled, there’s the potential for problems if you try to embed secret keys inside of your Flash application. This can lead to a spoofing attack where a malicious SWF file gets your information and authenticates against Social Gold’s system. Social Gold attempts to solve this by keeping the keys on the server only and just passing session variables back and forth. I’m not a security guy, so I won’t comment on the implementation, but it seems like a reasonable approach considering the security constraints of Flash.

We saw with the iPhone how important it is for developers to monetize content and so it’s great to see more opportunities to do that come to the Flash Platform. I think 2010 is going to be a big year for small Flash shops or individual developers who want the freedom of making a living on the Platform.