Flash Devs FTW!

Flash Devs FTW!

About a month ago I posted a little survey to a few sites to see if I could gather some data about Flash developers for an upcoming class I’m teaching. I left the survey open to any dev who wanted to take it, but since I was focusing on Flash in particular, the majority of people who responded did actually use Flash in some way. Over the last month I managed to collect 124 responses (way more than I was expecting) so I wanted to share the responses with the community so that we can all benefit from the (admittedly extremely unscientific) research.

So, let’s see what we have. I’ve visualized each question and I will point out my observations/caveats as we go.

Question 1: What kind of developer are you?

The survey allowed respondents to choose as many categories as they felt appropriate. The survey was aimed to game developers so I mostly wanted to see how many people self-identified with that description. In retrospect, I probably should have added a fourth category for web developers. Regardless, about 3/4 of the respondents identify as game devs.

Question 2: In the past 6 months, have you used Flash/Flash products in your job?

The vast majority of respondents use Flash for work. Obviously since I was targeting Flash devs in particular, this ought to be the case and doesn’t reflect the percentage of developers who use Flash in the whole industry, even specifically games. But it’s reassuring that some 100+ Flash developers exist and are willing to take surveys!

Question 3: In the past 6 months, has anyone at your work used Flash/Flash products?

This question was meant to determine if the studio/workplace had more than one Flash developer or if the person responding didn’t use Flash but a co-worker did. In retrospect this question was somewhat confusing and didn’t really yield useful results.

Question 4: If you used Flash, what did you use it for?

In my opinion, this is one of the most important results from the survey. The caveats: This graph is based on free-form responses from which I tallied keywords. Respondents usually listed a few applications for Flash (e.g. for the response “web-based game/app, a mobile game/app, create templates for projects”, I would count this as web game, web app, mobile game, mobile app, prototype/UI. A lot of people listed “game/app” and I made a decision to count one of each because it was unclear whether they were talking about a game AND an app or a game that is an app). There were a total of 196 keywords listed.

Here we can see that nearly half (44%) of the responses relate to games, either web, mobile or Facebook. As many respondents noted in their comments, Flash is well-suited for complex programs like games or web applications such as video players.

A solid quarter (23%) of responses related to mobile usage. One of the “myths” about Flash’s supposed death is that it isn’t supported on mobile devices. While it’s true that the Flash player for web isn’t supported on iOS (and for good reason), Adobe’s AIR can create mobile apps quite well. From personal experience, it has its quirks but if you already develop in Flash and you haven’t used AIR, it’s well worth checking out – it comes bundled with Adobe’s Web Premium or you can download it here.

Only 6.6% of responses still list straight-up website development or banners as a venue for Flash. If Flash is dying anywhere, it’s definitely in this area. When it comes to Flash vs HTML5, this is where HTML5 has a clear win, and I hope the current trend of Flash-based websites being phased out in favour of robust, adaptable HTML5/AJAX websites continues.

Finally, nearly 10% of responses related to using Flash as a tool for either creating prototypes or specific modules (like user interfaces) to be implemented in another kind of program. I’d like to point out that Flash has a lot of strength in this area because it’s very easy to quickly create working code/animation in Flash, even if it’s really rough. As an example, this spring at TOJam I created a XML-based level editor for our game in an afternoon, which we will probably still use even though our game is now built in Unity instead of Flash.

Question 5: Do you think you will use Flash at work in the next 2 years?

Over 4 out of 5 developers think they will be using Flash in the next 2 years. To me, this is evidence that confidence in Flash is still pretty high, and that it is likely still a robust tool in its areas of expertise. As a caveat: Many of the comments I received warned that exclusive training in Flash is not recommended, and that learning other skills (particularly HTML5) would be helpful. Developers who have been working in Flash for several years have said that they have cross-trained because their studios no longer deal only with Flash products. However, I also heard many comments that Flash is still a superior tool for creating web-based games.

Question 6: If you are an employer, do you think you will need to hire a Flash dev in the next 2 years?

Employers were less confident about whether they would be hiring Flash developers in the next 2 years, at just over half of the respondents. (To note, 53 of the respondents identified as employers, which is still a sizable sample). But at 50%, I would say it’s still a skill worth knowing in the industry.

Question 7: How many people work for your studio/workplace?

Although this question doesn’t relate to Flash, I thought it would be interesting for my students to see the distribution among respondents of studio sizes. My feeling is that most game programming students expect to find a job at a AAA studio, which will have tens, if not hundreds, of employees. And while the number of respondents who come from large workplaces is sizable at just about a third, micro-studios of 5 people or less make up nearly half (43%) of responses. This may not be reflective of the game (or web) industry as a whole, but certainly if Flash is a tool you are interested in, you may be looking at working with just a few other people. Small studios often expect employees to “wear many hats”; that is, they are expected to take on more roles and usually be more involved in the creative process of a project. For some people, this is preferable to life at a very large company.

Question 8: What kind of products does your workplace specialize in?

As expected, the majority of businesses focus on web games, social games or mobile games/apps (52% combined). The purpose of this question was to elucidate some of the less well-known industry niches. For example, kids (6%), education (7%) and healthcare (4%) are all growing industries for interactive media like games.

Question 9: Is your studio/workplace located in or near Toronto, ON?

This question was meant to demonstrate that Flash development is happening close to home for many of the students. 16 respondents (of 121 who answered) identified as being in or near Toronto. I was expecting to find a few more respondents from nearby but as it turned out, the two places that the survey generated the majority of responses from (Reddit and a friend of a friend on Facebook) were actually not related to the Toronto community.

The 10th question was just an open comment section. I’m not going to put them up online but if anyone is interested in seeing a PDF of the most interesting comments (both positive and negative), feel free to shoot me an email at tabby@axondigitalarts.com.

I hope this post has been at least a little bit informative! If you are a student and wondering if Flash is worth your time, I would say… it depends on your area of expertise. If you are a web developer, stick to HTML5. But if you work in games, UI design, or mobile/social app development, Flash is definitely a tool you should consider.

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