Kongregate: Site Review – A Eulogy for the home of incrementals and more.

Hello, I’m Kinglink and this week we’ll be doing a Site Review for Kongregate.

If you’re a fan of Kongregate, we’re going to reminisce about it, but if you’ve never heard of it, let me quickly explain the site.

Kongregate is a video game portal, at least that’s what it’s called but really it’s a site for hosting web games, much like youtube is a host for videos. Developers can upload their flash games and players can browse, play, and enjoy any game for the minor inconvenience of a few ads.

This is very similar in a lot of ways to Newgrounds and still very different. Newgrounds is an artistic portal with videos, pictures, and games. Kongregate is just for games, and that is the big difference.

I personally joined Kongregate in August of 2007, and I love playing on it. But before we get deeper into what Kongregate is and was. Let’s talk about why. Why am I talking about Kongregate today?

Well, 2020 is having a ton of changes, the latest as of last week has Kongregate announcing some big changes. They are taking down a LOT of social media systems but the more important line is highlighted, they’ve stopped accepting new games.

So this is going to be my eulogy for a site that has meant a lot to me. It’s not dead yet, and I’m glad I can eulogize it before it officially dies because everyone should go check it out. It’s a fun site, and if it lasts another five to ten years, great. But it’s probably not.

The grim reaper for Kongregate that’s hanging around is Adobe Flash. Rather than make a ten-minute video on Flash and why it’s dying (it’s horrible for security is the short version) I’ll keep it to basics. The important part is Flash will be ultimately dead at the end of 2020. There are a few programs and movements that will try to keep the format slightly relevant for archival purposes but for the most part, Flash sites are not going to work.

That doesn’t mean Kongregate is dead, though they do have a large number of Flash games. I don’t have actual statistics but I would bet it’s a majority of the site, and likely a large majority at that, just to throw it out, at least at some point it was over 80 percent of the site.

So let’s go back and talk more about why Kongregate mattered and still does. Kongregate did something essential for the gaming market, it provided a new place to play games. Flash, Shockwave, and even Javascript predate Kongregate. Way back then, people made games with each of these formats. Some were good, some were bad, some were adult, these games ran the gamut of quality, size, and scope. Most of the time there wasn’t a way to find each game without someone telling you about it.

Kongregate offered a one-stop-shop. If you wanted to play a game, you went to Kongregate and you could not only find games, but using social media features you can find out what’s popular, what’s rated highly, or a game of a specific type.

But more importantly, there was no upfront cost. You can run Kongregate games on anything that can run a browser with the required plug-ins. Rather than needing a specific brand of tablet, console, or even a Mac or PC, almost any browser will run many of the games, with CPU power being the only real factor.

As a developer, Kongregate offered an amazing platform. There was no hosting cost. A developer could upload a game for free to the site and start sharing it. There are minor rules, nothing too adult obviously, but compared to even Android which is one of the cheapest options, that still costs 25 dollars right now.

Kongregate allowed developers to upload games with no cost and if that wasn’t enough, developers started earning ad money from players playing their games. If you had a remarkably popular game this could become a decent amount of money. The rate varies but it’s about on the scale of youtube, a couple of bucks for a thousand views.

With no cost to update your game, or even uploading a new one, development could happen far faster on Kongregate and that means some games actually can have changing gameplay every couple of days as well.

That’s why Kongregate exists, and the strategy behind it. Kongregate is essentially a platform so let’s talk about some games you can find on it.

Kongregate has a lot of variety. While it originally was small web games, developers have taken the format far farther than you would imagine. There’s everything including FPSes, RPGs, platformers, and more. Some games will take less than 5 minutes, and some games that will last forever. And then there’s even MMOs and multiplayer games.

My favorite category and one of the major draws of Kongregate is the incremental or idle section. This type of game is best known by the site Cookie Clicker, or Clicker Heroes, the latter is also Kongregate and mobile, but there’s an entire category of these games on Kongregate.

I’ve done a video on incremental in the past and while it’s a bit dated with my format, I want to hit on this topic again because it’s one of my favorite types of games.

But I also see Incremental or Idle games for a microcosm of what Kongregate has given the gaming community as a whole and the problem with it closing.

Recently incremental games have become problematic with companies trying to make a quick profit from the style of gameplay. Kongregate incrementals are usually pretty good, focusing on simplistic mechanics with addictive but repetitive gameplay. They are often high quality and interesting. The problem is these incremental games, when moved to other platforms, have fallen apart almost immediately.

While you can play Realm Grinder, Idling to Rule the Gods, Clicker Heroes, and others on mobile, the marketplace there has contenders whose gameplay is far weaker and usually pushes microtransactions to the user in the hope of making a quick buck rather than making an amazing game that includes microtransactions.

A big reason for this difference is because there are no easy ways to monetize games on Android. You can show ads, but players don’t like them as much, or you can demand money for features that are far more profitable so that’s what’s done.

Why was Kongregate better? Well, it’s what we already talked about. Every view was a small percentage of a cent in a developer’s pocket, so a game having 17,000,000 plays could earn serious money.

Admittedly, Kongregate does have functionality for microtransactions, but important enough it doesn’t have the necessity for them. If a game is popular, players will keep playing and each click on the games gives the developer some money.

Instead of producing masterpieces of monetization, Kongregate allowed developers to make money just by making addictive but free games and almost every popular game is just that, addictive. That’s something I think that the entire gaming infrastructure will feel because the loss of Kongregate, and ad run sites mean the industry will change. More and more companies will turn to microtransactions because… well, they work, perhaps a little too well.

But the other side and the real sadness of the closing of Kongregate is some games will essentially be lost forever. Sure, many projects are offering to produce a way to keep Flash alive, but it’s not the same. There’s a game I love called Anti-Idle. This is one of the largest games on Kongregate and perhaps my favorite. It has a ton of content, and a ton of features, and continues to grow.

But Anti-Idle’s time is limited due to it only being a flash game, eventually Flash will stop being supported by most major browsers, but options will exist. You can download the file and that may last forever, but the key to Anti-Idle was the huge game with rapid development.

That’s not even to mention that Kongregate had much more than the games. There are communities, comments, forums, and chat rooms. This all can be positive or negative experiences, but Kongregate was the place to get information on these flash games with developers usually talking directly to fans. You would sometimes see the developer drop into a chat room to say hi, and that was an amazing experience.

Some of Kongregate games have moved to Steam, and, yes, the forums there are still positive and work but Konregates forums are just as good as Steam and I’m glad they’ll remain even if they will be frozen in time.

Kongregate isn’t the only site out there, either. Even if it disappeared tomorrow, there are other choices like Armor Games, Newgrounds, AddictiveGames but none of these are as developed as Kongregate has been especially with the social features that have created a community not just for Kongregate itself but for the individual games. There are even sub-communities beneath that, with some of the different chat rooms for the same game acting differently and many players returning to the same rooms for some purpose.

Ultimately losing Kongregate will be a real blow, but around July 22nd, when they officially close the Kongregate social features, it’s going to change the site. You’ll still be able to play many of the same games, but with no new games being uploaded, and no new discussion to be had there, the writing is on the wall, and Kongregate’s time is limited.

I want to give my take on Kongregate’s timeline and why we’re at the point we’re at. I think Kongregate is a bit of a parable about the dangers of success and the failure to innovate correctly. When the site started, it grew rapidly.

Early on Kongregate added Badges around 2007 which was a new system that mimicked the Xbox 360’s achievement system, and it was one of the better moves by Kongregate.

The problem is that it was one of the few major steps Kongregate made that worked. After that point, Kongregate made some strange choices. The addition of Quests, which were a series of Badges was an interesting move, but not one that paid off in the long run. You can see the biggest and best games of each year on Kongregate in the form of a quest which is a pretty good way to see what’s on the site but that’s all they became.

Then Kongpianions came out and these are just character sprites. I believe the original idea was games would be able to include them as they wanted. It’s a nice idea, and the API works I believe, but it never took off, yet there have been weekly pets, but it wasn’t enough to get me interested in the site again and felt like an attempt at grabbing some of the Neopets market, which didn’t work and never evolved beyond a handful of games

There was also Kongai a Kongregate Card game, and no, Card is spelled with a C. This kind of died out when Gamestop purchased Kongregate, and it was abandoned. That’s the story of many features of Kongregate. Kongregate itself searched for a purpose beyond the games they already had, and I think that’s where they failed.

There were other attempts, such as Kongregate Arcade which allowed mobile users to play some Kongregate games, but again it was sadly abandoned. The problem is the market has changed. While kids used to play on computers, they now play on their phones and a web portal for web-based games doesn’t have the same strength. While it can run on a Chromebook, it’s also competing with a very different market and while you can browse to Kongregate, it’s far easier to grab your phone and just download an app.

There was a final move they made, called Kartridge which was a downloadable PC platform for games and, again, this was confusing. Kartridge was downloaded where Kongregate was on websites, Kartridge was limited to just PC, and they started charging for games you could play for free on the website. It’s a bizarre business decision and unsurprisingly it didn’t work out.

But if there’s one thing I can say, that has been Kongregate’s MO. Kongregate has been a great site if someone wants to go play a flash game, but it’s never been able to move beyond that, and that’s part of the reason I think we’re at the place we are. Kongregate is never going to be the next big thing, and perhaps it never was, but for the last 13 years, they’ve been an amazing site to check out games on.

Ultimately, I think Kongregate has seen the writing on the wall, I have a feeling AdVenture Capitalist, AdVenture Communist and the rest of their published games are probably far more profitable than their website, Kartridge and the rest. They’re moving to be more of a publisher because being a portal for ads isn’t as profitable, and with Flash dying Kongregate will be a lot harder to attract new players too.

I imagine being a middle man for microtransactions also becomes problematic so that too must be a struggle.

You probably should still check out Kongregate while you have the chance, and there are so many games, I’ll make a few recommendations.

I’m a fan of Idle games, just to name some of them, NGU Idle, Clicker Heroes, Idling to Rule the gods, and crusaders of the Lost Idols.

There are entire genres that got developed on Kongregate due to the fast turn around on games, such as the tower defense series, which has games like Kingdom Rush and Cursed Treasure, and the launching series. Toss the Turtle, which was originally on NewGrounds, which led to Learn to Fly, Paper, and Curl up and Fly.

Speaking of Curl up and Fly, that’s made by my favorite developer, JMTB02. Check out some of his games, I love Achievement Unlocked for the obvious reason of chasing achievements, and There is only one level. Both of these games have sequels that are worth checking out as well.

Just a few others worth checking out are Anti-idle, as I mentioned, Bloons, and Gemcraft with a reminder that quite a few of these games are also other platforms like mobile and steam.

Kongregate also has hosted some major names such as the original prototype of Surgeon Simulator, or the original prototype of Thomas was Alone, which sadly has been pulled, but many developers got their start on Kongregate.

Hopefully, I’ve opened your eyes to this site and gave you a couple of games to check out, I’ll put a link to my favorite list from the site in the description, and I’ll add many of the games we talked about today and more there.

That’s what I have for today on Kongregate. I hope I’ve interested you in a new site or reminded you of a site you used to visit. I just wanted to give my opinions on a major change in my life. Personally, every time I heard of a new game on Kongregate I would often find myself playing for hours on it. Even making this video I’ve spent far more time on the site than I should, while recording footage because I have enjoyed myself.

Thanks for watching this far, if this video has interested you let me know in the comments, likes, or just share this around, I’d appreciate it. I’d love to do a few more sites I’ve been a fan of, such as talking about Neopets and Kingdom of Loathing, though those are far more specific than Kongregate is.

Of course, consider subscribing it would help me and ring that bell if you haven’t already.

I’ll pop up my old video on grinding here if you want to see more of my thoughts on incremental games here and something else if you want to see more.

Until then, I’m Kinglink, and thank you for watching.