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bencelot

How's this business model sound?

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Hey hommies. I'm getting close to finishing off my game and am about to make a website and start sharing it with the world. What I need is some advice on my business model. Here's the idea. The game is a top-down 2D shooter. However, you can also get experience and level your character from lvl 1 up to lvl 100. Each lvl unlocks new skills, etc.. So how about this. You can download the game for free.. and this unlocks the first 10 levels. If you want to progress beyond lvl 10 though, you have to pay for the game (~$10). HOWEVER.. for every friend you tell about the game and they sign up.. you unlock 1 extra level. So if you download the game and tell 6 friends.. then you can get up to lvl 16 for free. Then when you reach lvl 17, you either try find another friend, or purchase the game. A large fanbase is far more important to me than the money. Although a bit of money always helps :) Anyone know of something like this being done before? Did it work? Thanks! Ben.

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Quote:
Original post by bencelot
Hey hommies.

I'm getting close to finishing off my game and am about to make a website and start sharing it with the world. What I need is some advice on my business model.


Starting out pretty bad. You shouldn't wait until the game is almost done to get people knowing about it. Get the website up well before the game comes out (I don't know, maybe a month).


Quote:

Here's the idea.
The game is a top-down 2D shooter. However, you can also get experience and level your character from lvl 1 up to lvl 100. Each lvl unlocks new skills, etc..


Get a better pitch. All I read was top-down shooter/RPG.

I don't know a hell of a lot about the BIZ, but your plan doesn't sound too great...but it doesn't sound bad. The "get a friend to play" mechanic sounds like an easily abusable, but marketable one. Community support would be a MUST. (Your site should have a forum, which will help your fan base commune, but features like online-play and challenges do well.)

Beyond that, what about your shooter can I be excited about? Do you have a video that looks good? Are there people who know about the game and are spreading the word? Has anyone played it? How do you plan to sell it? Distribute it? (The latter two, BTW, are arguable the MOST IMPORTANT parts or a business plan you neglected to mention.) Lastly, does it have a name?

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Thx for the reply.

'Getting close to finishing' is relative.. I've been working on it for over half a year now, and will put up a beta version in a month or 2, mostly to start building the fanbase. After that, I'll continue adding the rest of the features.

The game looks and plays similar to GTA2.. but has a similar levelling scheme to Diablo2. It's not an RPG.. but a shooter. Very similar to counter strike. You buy a gun, run around and kill people on the opposite team. Killing others gives you XP.. then you can lvl up your character. The cool thing is.. you can unlock skills as you level up. Thus merging the fast action fun of counter strike.. with the longterm feeling of achievement you get through levelling up your character. It's multiplayer.

Anyway, yes I will have a forum. I've also got a group of my mates playtesting the game with me. Don't have a video yet, but that's a good idea. I'll make a really sweet one a little later on, once I've got a few more features to show off. And I plan to both sell & distribute the game over the net, via my website. It's like.. a 5Mb game.

Thx,
Ben.

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I think your business model is a bit risky. The "bring a friend and get something free" idea is not new, and it works indeed well. However, it only works as long as you're getting money from it. In your setting, you have no guarantee that this will be the case.

Normally such schemes work like: "for every new paying customer that you bring, you get (fill in reward)". Emphasis on paying.
While this may be an effective marketing strategy, thing is, free players or players that do a 3-week or 10-level trial don't bring revenue, except maybe for some ad imprints on your site. Other than that, they only cost you a lot of money. Therefore they are not what you really want if you want to stay in business. You want people who pay for playing.

Also, if you word your offer the way you did, a lot of people will just make 100 accounts (with some fake names and e-mail addresses) and play your game for free indefinitely. Don't believe in the good in humanity, people aren't that good. If you let them do it that way, they will.

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The fake signup was the first thing that came to mind for me too.

However, you could implement it so that every friend you invited who reached level 5 (or something) would unlock the next level. That way, you have to do a lot of work for each account, so cheating becomes harder.

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Thx guys.

I recognise that fake accounts are possible. However, I'd make it check by email addy.. meaning that they'd have to create another 89 unique email addresses just to completely unlock the game. Some people would do it.. but it would be a LOT of effort. I imagine that the majority of people wouldn't bother. It's much easier to call up your mate and say "hey, download this cool new game". Obviously you'll run out of friends sooner or later.. and either resort to fake emails or purchasing the game.. but even if they use fake emails all the way up to lvl 100.. I won't be that bothered as long as they attracted at least 1 or 2 extra players to the game. As I said before.. I'm making this game more for the fanbase than for the money.

Ahnfelt, your idea is good though. The effort to lvl up all characters to lvl 5 (along with creating the fake email) would be so annoying you'd be better off just forking out a bit of cash.

Furthermore, I was thinking I could include just a few extra features if you pay, such as the map editor I've made and some other nifty things.

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Quote:
Original post by Ahnfelt
However, you could implement it so that every friend you invited who reached level 5 (or something) would unlock the next level.
Better, but even then it's still ideal for cheaters and gold farmers, though. Or for obnoxious kids with personality problems.

You can twink your level-unlock mules with your main character. That lets them level up really fast and costs your main next to nothing. Plus, you now have an army of characters suitable for real life trading and such. If they get banned, it doesn't really matter. They didn't cost anything in the first place.

Or, you could twink/powerlevel up a couple of characters to level 5 or 10, just because it doesn't really cost anything. Now, if your main character is banned because you were caught cheating or because you're an abusive idiot, then it's not a real loss any more. You'll just take one of your level 10s. They didn't cost you anything, and twinking/powerlevelling up another few zombie characters to level 5 for unlocking all levels won't take you more than, say, two hours.

The problem with that is that people are thrashing the database with a lot of zombies, use up server resources, generate traffic and support queries, and troll the forums, but there's not a single cent coming in from them!
Plus, they might in addition piss off customers who actually pay money to play.

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Quote:
Original post by bencelot
I'd make it check by email addy.. meaning that they'd have to create another 89 unique email addresses just to completely unlock the game
As in:
foo01@mailinator.com
foo02@mailinator.com
foo03@mailinator.com
(...)

Takes 5 seconds each. There are tons of no-registry anon mail services. It would take you years to blacklist them all.

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hmmm.. yeah you've got a point. Some people will definately try and exploit the system. However, I wonder what percentage of people would. Even if a massive 50% of players exploit the system and bring in no extra players.. the other 50% may still bring in around 5 extra players each.. meaning an overall increase in fans. And 50% could be being very generous.. although I really couldn't guess the figures.

These extra fans would have to be balanced against the downsides of having all these zombie accounts.. but I wonder just how bad these zombie accounts actually are.. I don't see how they'd cost me anything. They may slow down the server a bit though.

Another idea is to cap this friend unlocking at lvl 50 or so. So that you can do the email thing up to lvl 50.. but after that you have to pay. That effectively makes all of this futile. Only a hardcore player would be willing to put in all the extra hours of muling just to get free unlocks. And of course, a hardcore player isn't going to get himself up to lvl 50, only to stop halfway because he's too cheap to pay $10. After investing so much time and effort, you'd be a fool not to pay and continue developing your character.

So realising that he's going to have to pay eventually anyway.. he might not bother wasting all his time making fake accounts.

Casual players on the otherhand probably won't be bothered to (or even realise that they can) create fake accounts. Hopefully they'll play up to lvl 10.. get a friend or two to join so they can unlock the next few levels.. and after a while either decide to continue this pattern, pay, or quit. Eitherway I don't care because they've probably spread the word about my game a little.

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How harmful it is depends on your design, you can somehow balance things. If you can get valuable things or good amounts of gold at level 50, it may still be worth doing. Still, capping the unlocking bonus probably limits most of the evil it brings. That's actually a very good idea.

Imagine you run a sweatshop where people cost 2 dollars per day for working 10 hours (I don't know if that's accurate, but I guess... more or less).
Let's assume you have to pay $15 for a subscription (= 0.50 per day). Thus, each worker effectively costs you $2.50 per day. Looking at that salary, you could say that 50 cents equals 2.5 hours of work. So, if they can unlock enough levels on farm mules to farm efficiently in under 2.5 hours per day on the average, they will do it, rather than paying.
Actually, under the premise that you don't need to pay subscriptions, you could even run your sweatshop on a per-success base. They get paid for what they harvest, and if they need to unlock levels, that's their problem. It depends on how desperate people are to get a job, but in some locations they are very desperate, and 2 dollars can be a lot of money.

Here is where you as the game owner can balance. If it takes level 15 to to mine the expensive ore or level 20 to kill a monster with a good level/gold ratio, then they will have to unlock 5 or 10 levels, respectively. Raise that barrier a few levels, and it gets more and more unattractive, because they must unlock a lot more levels, even more so if their characters are occasionally banned.
On the other hand, you have to keep the paying customers in mind, too. Make it too hard to earn a living, and nobody will want to play (and pay!).

For a different example, imagine you are a paying customer and you want to kill some monsters or mine some ore.
Unluckily, all the monsters with good drops are down all the time because a handful of people are harvesting them. There isn't any ore in the mines either, because they have their zombies mining all day to unlock levels. To them, it doesn't matter where they get their 5 levels. Mining just happens to be no-risk and can run in the background on 5 clients simultaneously (in a virtual machine or something) while they farm in the foreground window.

To you as a paying customer, however, it does matter, because now you can't do one thing or the other.
To you as the game owner, it matters too, because those zombies each use up 300-800 bps on your server bandwidth. Now imagine you have 500 of them online all day. Bandwidth translates directly to money. Plus, your paying customers are frustated and leave.

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