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[qi:115] For years, developing web-based casual games was little more than a hobby, a means of creative expression for game enthusiasts.

Then advertising revenue started to reshape the casual gaming landscape — now, multimillion-dollar deals, flourishing startups like Mochi Media and Kongregate, and the attention of media giants Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are the name of the game.

Sustaining the stream of quality games to play is now a business venture in itself, and with ad revenue streams at their disposal, developers stand to make a real profit off of their work.

But just how much money can these new revenue streams bring to casual game developers’ pockets?

Ad revenue usually comprises only a small portion of a game developer’s revenue, acknowledges Ada Chen, product marketing manager of Mochi Media, but there’s a growing ubiquity to web-based games “that’s become extremely interesting to advertisers,” she tells me.

Advertisements paired with web-based casual games have remarkably high engagement rates, according to Chen: In-game ads have a click rate of up to 5 percent, while most Internet banner ads have click rates of less than 1 percent.

The unique advertising landscape already makes it possible for some games to quickly become profitable.

As an example, she cites Bloons, created by Ninja Kiwi, which she says rakes in $30,000 or more a month through various ad revenue streams.

Emily Greer, co-founder of Flash game portal Kongregate, remains skeptical as to just how significant advertising revenue could become — at least for the average developer.

She points out that for the vast majority of web-based game developers, sponsorships alone comprise 50-70 percent of any income they earn; these days, a good game can net between $1,000 and $3,000 in sponsorships and a great game — something like Desktop Tower Defense — can take in as much as $20,000.

By contrast, only one or two developers within the Kongregate community earn $1,000-$2,000 a month from ads; some five to 10 of them earn roughly $500 while between 40 and 50 take in a mere $100 each month.

And that’s out of a community of about 2,500 developers.