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Pseudolonewolf`s Avatar Buying Keys Wed 23rd Feb 2011 10:08pm

Category: Business

Clarence's Big Chance: Coming Soon! I hope!
Seems to be taking a while to get CBC out, since email communication is fairly slow. I'm just waiting for another email from my sponsor - Kongregate - now which I should maybe get tomorrow, or soon at least, and after that I'll be able to release it. I'll announce here when I have.

The slowness of the sponsorship stuff is what leads me to writing this post... amongst other things.

Recent Progress...
I've been working on Alora Fane lately... really slowly. I was so eager to work on it before I began; I planned it all excitedly and in great detail, looking forward to the day that I'd be able to actually start programming it.
Once I did, though, it all went downhill because it turns out that some of my ideas for various technical things (like how to have the engine draw maps) worked better in theory than in practice...

I've done most of the basic engine stuff now, I think, but I've not actually started making any of the story events (I have *planned* them though). I wanted to do that after all the structure was laid out, which isn't my usual approach (usually I make the technical stuff as I go along with making plot events).
I should be able to start them soon though...

Splitting a game into pieces
The plot is fairly long, it seems. I meant it to be short, but I also wanted it to be long enough to be satisfying... Like most of what I do, it's grown larger than it was meant to.
It'd be longer than MARDEK if I did it as planned. I've got all the story sorted out from beginning to end in event form, and amidst the events there'd be about fifteen dungeons. Fifteen! That's quite a lot...

I've divided the plot up into chapters, though not in the same sense as MARDEK's chapters. Some chapters would have one dungeon, others have four, some have none at all. So they're all of rather variable length, and mainly exist as a way of breaking the plot up into related chunks.

I intended to have all the chapters exist in the same game, like in Deliverance; they'd only really be formalities to remind you that your goals have changed, or something, rather than distinctly compartmentalised experiences.

However, I realise that it'll take me ages to actually finish them all and get the game 100% done... And my motivation to work on it has been poor enough lately, so I wonder if I could even handle it, see it through to completion? D:

SO. I thought to the 'premium membership' stuff I've mentioned before...

I want your money
I really HATE going through the sponsorship stuff, and I don't really earn all that much money from it anyway. Not enough to live off, anyway; nothing like enough...
It'd be so much nicer if I could just finish a game then upload it here directly... That way, none of us would have to spend months waiting for other people to tell me it's okay to show it to you.

However, if I did just upload them when they were done, I'd also like to get money for them or else I'd not be able to do this full-time...

The premium membership thing that I mentioned described a monthly payment system; you'd pay once each month, or for several months in one go, and you'd be able to play all the full versions of all the games on the site until that time period ran out.
That's all good and fine for games that constantly have new content added to them, but for games that are released once and not changed after that (except for fixes), it isn't really fair.

Keys and locks!
So instead, I wondered whether I could make it so that you'd pay to sort of... *activate* a game for your account, or something?
Let's call them 'Keys'.
Say for example I released Alora Fane a chapter at a time (if I did this, I'd reduce the number of chapters by combining some, so that each one would be long enough to be worth buying), I'd charge a small amount (say, a dollar or two, maybe) to buy a 'Key' for that chapter, which would be linked to your account... You'd get a special snazzy icon for that 'Key' on your userpage or something, and from that point on, you'd be able to play that chapter at any time (assuming you were logged in with that account).
I suppose it'd also make sense to allow people to pay for all the chapters' 'Keys' at once, at a discount.

For example, it could work like this:
- First, I'd release Chapter 1, which would be short and it'd introduce you to the settings and the gameplay. Either I'd charge a small amount for a 'Key' to it - $2, say - or I'd make this one free so then people know what to expect from the others.
- A few weeks later, I'd release Chapter 2, and charge $2 (or whatever) for its 'Key'. If you went to the page where you'd play chapter 2, or got that far after playing chapter 1, and didn't have a Key for it, you'd be told that the game and page were locked to you.
- Later, I'd release chapter 3 and you'd need to pay for that separately too... and so on, up to maybe chapter 5 or 6 or however many I decided to do.
- Or perhaps you could pay a one-time fee of around $10 or $7.50 or something to buy Keys for all the chapters... though if they'd not all been released yet, this would have to be a move made out of trust. Unless I only made the discounted 'buy them all' options available once they'd all been released... HMM.
(Or had a 'buy all currently released chapters' offer which changed every time I released a new one?)

I'd also do this when releasing Raider and Deliverance chapters, as well as other games.

I hope I'm making it clear what I actually have in mind...

Unfortunately I wouldn't allow you to download the games, because that way piracy lies, and I really do need to make money to survive. So you'd need to be online to play them (though not necessarily connected once you'd opened the game's page in a tab)... But that shouldn't be too much of an issue in this day and age.

In conclusion...
I'd really love to be able to do this, because it means I don't have to deal with 'middle men' and can release games as soon as they're done, and I only have to worry about editing the versions on my own site (since they wouldn't be released elsewhere).
I'd be able to react better to user feedback too, probably, since the games would be less 'set in stone'.

But what I need to know is whether people would be willing to pay for this kind of thing. If enough people would, then I might do it... It would certainly be much easier to manage my projects and I think I'd get a whole lot more released this way.
But if people are unwilling to pay, then SIGH, I might have to just go down the sponsorship route and we'll all have to wait months after a game's finished before it's publicly playable...

If I've not been clear about what I've been trying to describe, I'll try to answer any questions to clarify things.


49 Commentson 30 roots

kellus`s Avatar
Rating Orb kellus 21 Canada CholericPhlegmatic 2C 1F
7 years ago | (2)
This is a touchy subject for a lot of people, since things can get heated really fast when money is involved. To start off with, let me say that I am an enormous fan of your games, and would certainly pay through whatever system you set up, whether a one-time unlock or a monthly rate. The monthly rate seems a little more unbalanced, since its value would go up over time as more content is released. The advantage to it would be that people wouldn't have to worry about buying a new key every time a game came out, and could simply log in and play the game.

That being said, I'm not sure this is going to bring you as much revenue as you think. You have a small, devoted community that would, to be fair, buy almost anything you released. You've got name recognition to these people. You've got a little over a thousand active members. Of those, some would simply not be willing to pay for online flash games. That's a sad reality that comes from the fact that people expect things on the internet to be free. Your competition is not console games, but free flash games, and there are literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of them available on the internet. Your games may be, and in fact are consistently, excellent but with so many free flash games out there there is a nontrivial group of members that will not want to pay for them.

Then there's the group of members who are simply too young to buy your games. Although you encourage only older people to join your community, by and large you have attracted a younger audience based on the medium of your work. These members, even if they were willing to buy your games, probably do not have the means to, simply because they don't own a credit card or have control of their own finances. Thus, their ability to pay for your product is limited by an external factor, being whoever does control their finances, presumably a parent that probably has no incentive to pay for their access.

The last unfortunate aspect is that as time goes on, you are going to be relying more and more heavily on the same small group of people to support you. If you were to start releasing your games as pay-to-unlock right now, you would have hundreds of people buying them. A year from now, however, there are plenty of members who would be tired of having to pay to play your games. Maybe you released a game they didn't like. Maybe they found other things to spend their money on. But whatever the reason, once they leave they won't be coming back. Five years from now, how many members do you honestly think will still be willing to pay money for your new endeavours? How about ten years from now? Right now you have a lot of people saying they love your games and would pay to play them, but that's mostly because they haven't yet HAD to pay for them. There are a lot of people who suddenly start to have second thoughts when they actually have to shell out the money for something. A small devoted fanbase can only carry you so far.

Now of course it is always possible to attract more people to your site. But (and it's a big but) these people are going to be even harder to convince to pay for your games. You've already seen plenty of people complain about how they don't want to pay for your games. And these are your FANS. You're planning to do advertising, and certainly that would bring more people to the site. But if there are this many fans of your games who are hesitant to pay for them, imagine how someone that's never heard of you is going to feel when they load up the site and see that they need to pay real money to play games they don't know made by someone they've never heard of. You have no brand worth mentioning for these people. It's like someone were to start advertising a new cola drink tomorrow with a new name, a new logo, that no one's ever heard of before. Maybe they have a few fans that liked it from its hometown. But people that already like Coke or Pepsi or any of the other dozen cola drinks out there simply don't care. They're not buying, they're not interested, they're not your customers.

There are certain things you can do to alleviate this. You have your games out right now on Kongregate and possibly other sites, and people could well be attracted to your site through one of these sponsors. But these games have already hit the market. They've hit the market, and any customer they could attract they're already attracted. It's not like a commercial where you can air it in different time slots for mass appeal. You're appealing to the very small, very niche target audience of people who have both the time and inclination to play online flash games, as well as the willingness to pay money for something on the internet (see above). Maybe there are more people out there. Certainly there are more people that will join Kongregate tomorrow and potentially play your game. But their growth is small, because anyone who wants to play online flash games is already there. Kongregate, for example, claims to have millions of members. Of those millions, you've attracted a thousand active people to your site. While more people could come to you from there, you've already hit that audience. And they're really your only audience.

The other thing to help encourage prospective customers visiting your site to pay real money for your games is to have free demos for all the locked games available on the site. That would be both good and bad for your business. On the one hand, people that might have been on the fence about it could be convinced to pay money for it. But these people are already part of the very small group of people that were already willing to pay money for an online flash game. On the other hand, you run the risk of turning off someone who might have bought your game on name value alone (your real target audience) who tries the game and doesn't like it as much as something else you've made (such as MARDEK) and decides not to buy this one. Whether the advantages outweigh the potential loss in sales is really only something you can say, since you would have a much better idea of the numbers, but there is a very real part of your audience that would NOT buy a game if there was a demo released.

The sad part is that everything you've said is true. I believe that you should be rewarded for your work. I believe that you should receive money for your flash games, certainly more than the pittance you've said you get now. I would probably buy almost anything you put out, at least to start with. But I also believe that as time goes on you are going to be relying ever more heavily on a very small group of people for your income, and that this group will shrink over time. The smaller your customer base, the more fragile your situation is. Maybe tomorrow my taxes go up and suddenly my budget doesn't balance. I need to decide on something to cut back on. Maybe I order take-out less. Maybe I pay less for online flash games. Flash games are a luxury, and in tough economic times are not high on the priority list. As your customer base shrinks, in order to expect the same revenue you would be forced to raise the price of your games, which would have the simultaneous effect of alienating more of your existing fans and turning away more prospective customers.

There's no great solution unfortunately. There's really no business model that would ensure your livelihood in the long term. I can't imagine a scenario that would play out well for you in the long term if you cut out the middle man and try to charge your customers directly for your product. At this point, going through a sponsor like Kongregate, you're letting them take all the risk. You sell them your game, and it's up to them to convince people that your game is worth playing. If your latest game is a flop, maybe they lose money on it, because the game doesn't attract enough page clicks to cover them buying the game from you. But they have 50,000 other games, so they can handle it. If you're selling a single game directly to your customers and it flops, you could be in a bit of a situation.

The business model you've proposed might work in the short run, but it seems untenable to me and incredibly fragile. Sad as it is, I don't think it would be sustainable over a long period of time.
Pseudolonewolf`s Avatar
Rating Orb A β Pseudolonewolf 23 United Kingdom MelancholicPhlegmatic 2257C 559F
7 years ago | (1)
One of the main points of avoiding sponsorship and selling games myself is that I'd be trying to distance myself from the 'Flash game market', which is all about free, casual games that players expect to fully complete in a lunch break.
I make games in Flash, but I've always felt that they're completely out of place amongst other Flash games, and it wasn't even from playing other Flash games that I was motivated to make my own. I don't belong in this market.

If I stopped using the portals and instead advertised using Google AdSense (which is very effective), adverts for my site would appear on sites like my own which use Google AdSense (this is probably a lot of sites), and the sort of people I would attract would *not come here expecting free games*.
That is a significant thing. They wouldn't be coming directly from a Flash portal where all the games are free. I don't know where they'd come from, but asking them to pay wouldn't be as objectionable and alarming as it would be to someone used to playing free Flash games and expecting my games to just be one of those. I might even attract older people this way, if the adverts make it clear that the games are rather 'retro' in style.

There are a few other sites like this by individual developers which sell games made in things like RPG Maker, and they seem to do well enough to support those developers. While my idea is a bit different and going directly from being 'a Flash developer' to 'a game developer who just happens to use Flash'' gives me a disadvantage, this is something that has worked before.

The more money I make, the more I'll advertise, and that will bring in more people. I don't think that my userbase will just wither away; maybe you aren't aware of how effective Google AdSense is in this regard (I don't use it to attract people here yet since it costs money and I'm not selling anything yet).

I will probably *need* to do demos of my games in order to get people interested; the people I'd lose because they'd never played the game and got hooked outweighs the number who'd not play after seeing a demo. Since they're mostly story-driven games, that's compelling to a lot of people; gameplay aside, people might be intrigued about what happens next in the story, so they'd buy the next chapters (since I'm planning on releasing basically all of my games in this episodic format). Having peoples' 'Keys' that they've bought show clearly on their profile in some way would also give people a sort of show-offy reason to support the site.

I also have other ways of making the payment system work in mind, which I'll write an article about later. They encourage the users to advertise for me, and mean that over time, people who contribute a lot can play the games without actually paying money directly...
Thatguyiam`s Avatar
Rating Orb Thatguyiam 20 United States Phlegmatic 3C 0F
7 years ago | (1)
A few thoughts:
1. If you do a monthly payment for a premium membership, then you could do what the people behind D&D Online and LotR Online did and have 3 different account levels: free, premium, and VIP. Free members would have access to the community and the free demos; premium would have the benefits of the free accounts plus access to the games they have already bought without a monthly payment. The VIP account would require a monthly payment, but have the benefits of the premium account plus X number of "keys" or FC's and whatever else you wanted to add.
2. If you do the "Lock and Key" method you might be able to set it up so the people who consistently buy alot of your games would get some sort of discount on future purchases. Or something like that.
3. I prefer the "lock and Key" method, but its up to you to choose.
Supergnash`s Avatar
Rating Orb Supergnash 18 United Kingdom MelancholicPhlegmatic 354C 145F
7 years ago | (1)
As a general idea, I think I preferred the idea of paying for a premium account, if something like Fig Hunter Online or Beast Signer was out with fairly recent updates, then I would prefer to use it as it would give unlimited access to everything while these "keys" mean you will have to keep buying your way into stuff, which could save a bit of money, but would be a lot more time consuming.

Although, in the long term, I think they would probably be better, they would make it so you don't have to pay for what you don't want, you won't lose out on anything if you forget a payment or anything like that... I guess it seems like the more sensible option while still somehow managing to be more complex.

I like to make my view in things VERY clear. Yes I do.
Hoolo`s Avatar
Rating Orb Hoolo 17 Netherlands 111C 95F
7 years ago | (3)
I have to say, I'm saddened it has to come to this. Yes, I understand that making games is a tedious process and you don't quite get enough in regard to how long you spend on it et al.

These "Keys" are a good idea, though I feel it might be best to have something as what Kendzi suggested, and with the Fig Coins and such. I'll try to explain how I feel things would be 'nice'...
There are Keys. There are Fig Coins.
These Fig Coins can be gotten in multiple ways. First, there's paying. It would be quite like things like Kreds, on Kongregate, in a fashion that you buy them 'in packs'. 5 FC for $X, 10 FC for $2X, or something, and so on. Of course, they could also be gotten by doing things that help this site as a whole, such as the referral thing. This would go slower, like a Fig Coin per X referrals or something. Note how I use "X", for I'm really not sure how much it must be for those things, and it goes into more detailed things.

With Fig Coins, you can buy Keys.
It may be best if the first chapter of a game is for free, or at least, it's open for general public. It could very well be a demo, something like that, but the first chapter is introduction. Having to pay for something you do not know what it's like is rather, uh, 'idiotic', sort of, if you only read the description with a bit of the plot and the genre of the game. It could be something you don't like at all, but you still paid for it...! That's highly annoying.

Now, these Keys. Let's say that Chapter One is open for general public. Chapter Two then requires money (Fig Coins) to play. This would probably be a small amount, depending on the size of the chapter. Then comes Chapter Three, which is about the price of Chapter Two, and so on. Later Chapters would cost more than the first few Chapters, because these are generally larger and as such 'equal' to more money (Fig Coins).

I do think that if we buy anything, it would be Fig Coins, and these are then used to buy Keys (Which, as I just elaborated, differ in price depending on size). These Keys then give the user a certain 'Status', so the user can then access the page the game is on correctly. (Not having this 'Status' could result in a page that links to where Fig Coins/Keys can be bought, et al. That shouldn't be too much of a hassle, really.)
Another possibility for the games is a, uh, special URL that you get for buying the Key, so people can't just go around the code. That could be annoying, what with site size et al.

Anyway, I hope you take such points in concern. And remember, not everybody can just pay. Some of us have parents that do not allow such things, which can be tedious, yup yup.
Gin`s Avatar
Rating Orb Gin 16 Sweden SanguinePhlegmatic 2C 0F
7 years ago | (1)
I like this lock and key idea, it seems like a good solution and you have every right in the world to implement the idea. But how do you do with the Mardek series, It was not clear to me.
Sameth`s Avatar
Rating Orb Sameth 18 United Kingdom Melancholic 79C 28F
7 years ago | (0)
I'd pay for these "keys" or whatever. I like the idea of a monthly subscription, but I can see why you wouldn't want to do it if you don't have projects like FHO or Beast Signer working to give premium members. If you did implement the premium membership idea for said games, would premium members get access to other games as well?
Regardless, I just want to pledge my support for whatever you do and let you know that I'd be willing to pay for your games whatever system you decide to use.
Ajbcool`s Avatar
Rating Orb E β Ajbcool 23 United States SanguinePhlegmatic 290C 148F
7 years ago | (0)
An idea can be to, with the demos on the portals, have a login for accounts that, if there's a Key, unlock the rest of the game, if no key, then open up a "shop" to purchase said key.
toen6`s Avatar
Rating Orb toen6 17 Netherlands SanguineMelancholic 34C 84F
7 years ago | (0)
I would certainly pay for this, but only if I could use paypall since I have no credit card or anything similar.
And maybe it would also be a good idea to make the first chapter free. So people would know if this is a series they like(Although this could be inconvenient with single chapter games like CBC or SMECOF).
It may also be a good idea to keep the games you already made for free, like Mardek chapter 1 till 3. This way people would now what kind of games you make and attract more people. Side effect of this thought is that there will probably be people who will nag about more free games, but I certainly would never have played any if your games if I wouldn't know what I was paying for.

This is my advice but at the end it's your call.
Ham1000`s Avatar
Rating Orb Ham1000 18 United Kingdom MelancholicCholeric 19C 0F
7 years ago | (2)
Count me in, I'd pay for this. I'd also be far more willing to pay one-time payments for specific games than pay the monthly subscriptions you described a while back.
Kendzi`s Avatar
Rating Orb Kendzi 22 Germany PhlegmaticMelancholic 11C 0F
7 years ago | (1)
I have a different appoach in mind regarding the key/lock-system.
Why not have users just buy keys for say 1$ per key? With these keys, they can decide what to unlock and what not. Advantages would be:
- Users wouldn't have to pay seperately for each game/chapter
- You can give discounts for users buying several keys at once (like 9$ for 10 keys)
- You can make games/chapters of different length and just charge different amounts of keys instead

My regards, Kendzi
Pseudolonewolf`s Avatar
Rating Orb A β Pseudolonewolf 23 United Kingdom MelancholicPhlegmatic 2257C 559F
7 years ago | (2)
Yes, why not lower the price to peanuts? That way, you have to give me less for doing something for you! I wonder how you'd react to someone suggesting a pay cut for your work.

Anyway, while that's not exactly a bad idea, it's sort of like my original idea from ages ago, called 'Fig Coins'. Many sites do this sort of currency system, where you pay to buy some of these 'coins' but can accumulate them in other ways too, and you use a certain number of them to unlock games.
I might do something like that since it'd allow me to use referral links to advertise my site; people could get a bonus fig coin every time someone clicked their link, for example, meaning that if they didn't want to pay directly, they could advertise for me.
I'll need to decide on something later though.
Kendzi`s Avatar
Rating Orb Kendzi 22 Germany PhlegmaticMelancholic 11C 0F
7 years ago | (2)
I just wonder why you are talking about a price cut. I mean, you wanted to give a discount for people who pay for chapters you would release in the future.
"Or perhaps you could pay a one-time fee of around $10 or $7.50 or something to buy Keys for all the chapters..."
Then why seems buying many keys at once offending to you?
At the end it would be up to you, how many keys (or 'fig coins') you want to charge for each game. May it be 10...

About earning 'coins' for other things than paying... I don't know... As soon as I made my opinion about this one, I will let ou know.
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