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Ironside

Charging for the forums.

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I recently joined the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) largely to gain access to their forums. Their forums have been incredibly helpful. Because it costs $100 a year to join the ASP, only serious individuals have access to the news groups. Thus the feedback on those news groups is excellent, and the maturity level is high. Also the ASP had a huge budget surplus last year (around 100 grand) which they are then able to use to create member only content to build and strengthen their community. Now I’m in no wise advocating a $100 levy for access to the GDnet forums. But maybe a 10-20 dollar one time charge? Yearly charge? With a consistent revenue stream gamedev.net could do some amazing things for the indie game dev community. I think the users of the GDnet forums would probably bitch a little, and we''d lose some of the complainers. But for the most part, as gamers we fork out $50 bucks for a game that gives us 1 month of entertainment (or repeatedly fork our 10 bucks for a mmorpg). I think 10-20 bucks is hardly too much to ask for the great information available on the forums. For many of us we check the forums multiple times a day, it''s a service that keeps on delivering much longer then a $50 game.

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For a while now, we''ve been thinking about offering a premium service for a low yearly fee. We haven''t settled on any details for this, but the idea of a members-only forum has been tossed around.

Before anyone freaks out that they might have to pay to access GameDev.net, I want to state that I''m personally very much opposed to the whole "charge them for what they used to get for free" idea. If we do this (and I think it''s likely), we''d both add new things, as well as enhance existing things, but they''d only be available to paying members. Pretty much everything that''s available on the site now would continue to be freely available.

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From my perspective it makes perfect sense, you offer a great service here. Yet you charge nothing for it, how are you going to grow to meet the increasing needs of your increasing community? You need to make money.

Some suggestions would be to have the archieved articles available to members, but allow the articles on the frontpage to be available to anyone. Imagine, you could actually afford to pay article writers for their efforts!

With the money you generated you could offer tons of great new services which would greatly outweigh the low yearly membership fee.

I don''t see a good way to have two forums, one for paying folks one for not. It has to be all or nothing. If you converted to member based forums, you could perhaps leave one public forum like "Ask GDnet" and have it be moderated. GDnet Members could reply there, but the real good content would be in the member forums.

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Personally I hate paying for things, and the number of persistant web based games I''ve played that have gone pay-2-play have been more than enough, and for my favourite site to start charging for its currently free services would be the nail on the head . A small fee for a special members-only area with additional GameDev features would be a good idea, but I agree with Myopic Rhino for hating the "charging for what used to be free". A poll would be a good idea

-= DarkStar =-

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Ironside
From my perspective it makes perfect sense, you offer a great service here. Yet you charge nothing for it, how are you going to grow to meet the increasing needs of your increasing community? You need to make money.

Some suggestions would be to have the archieved articles available to members, but allow the articles on the frontpage to be available to anyone. Imagine, you could actually afford to pay article writers for their efforts!

With the money you generated you could offer tons of great new services which would greatly outweigh the low yearly membership fee.

I don''t see a good way to have two forums, one for paying folks one for not. It has to be all or nothing. If you converted to member based forums, you could perhaps leave one public forum like "Ask GDnet" and have it be moderated. GDnet Members could reply there, but the real good content would be in the member forums.



This seems fundamentally flawed to me. Why would you charge the people answering questions, but let people read the answers for free?

Anyways, I think you have a flawed basic assumption as well. Gamedev /could/ raise costs to support growth, but somehow I think growth would turn negative if costs were raised.. Many of the members on this forum are young, and lack any means to pay for this resource, even if they could afford it.

Don''t you think that the user base would migrate to flipcode or one of the other comparable, free sites if gamedev started charging for it''s services?

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Anyways, I think you have a flawed basic assumption as well. Gamedev /could/ raise costs to support growth, but somehow I think growth would turn negative if costs were raised.. Many of the members on this forum are young, and lack any means to pay for this resource, even if they could afford it.

Don't you think that the user base would migrate to flipcode or one of the other comparable, free sites if gamedev started charging for it's services?

I want to make something completely clear here.

I am *well* aware of the fact that there are many portions of the site that are here for the benefit of people who would probably not be able to pay to access them. I/we have no intention of alienating all of those people by starting to charge for access.

The main focus of premium memberships *if* we decide to offer them will be things which do not currently exist on the site, as well as enhanced versions of things that do exist (but which will still be available for free in their unenhanced forms).

I don't want to comment on what those services might be, because right now, we're just tossing ideas around. But I assure you, when the time is ripe (i.e. not now), we'll get the community involved to be sure that the things we provide are actually of benefit to you.


Dave "Myopic Rhino" Astle
Executive Producer and COO, GameDev.net
Game Programmer, Avalanche Software
Author, OpenGL Game Programming

"Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy"

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Annyon:
Like I said, there isn''t really a good way to have both a free and member only forums. If GDnet felt they had to maintain at least one public forum (discussion thread) I was suggesting a possible solution. The questions I was envisioning that would be posted on the public forum were questions that regarded the GDNet community. Examples might be...

"How many full time independent game developers are there?"
"Why should i become a member of GDnet?"
"Whats the best way to get into gaming?"

But no Lounge, Design, or Technical questions.

With regards to many of the members of the forums being young and not able to afford a 10-20 dollar yearly charge. I tend to disagree. Firstly they are here because they love games and want to make them. The only way they are going to love games is if they play them. Anyway you look at it, if they were really scrunched for money they could pass up buying one game and save enough money for 4 years as a gamedev member.

Also these younger users tend to bring the quality of the forums down. They ask the same questions over and over again without doing any research on their own. Why? because it''s free. There''s a very low barrier to entry to taking part in the forums.

By instantiating a minimum charge, gamdev would be requiring a small commitment from its users. I think the content and the quality of the forums would improve dramatically as a result.

The ASP is proof that this model works, They have thousands of members which post on their members newsgroups all day. The information and the quality of discussion there is very high in quality. The get new members every day who pay $100 a year just for access to these newsgroups.

The problem with the ASP for me anyway, is that the majority of the developers are tools/application developers. Not indie game developers. I thin GD net could fill a huge niche if if provided the same quality service to the indie game dev community. With their funds the could host indie game dev industry expositions/conferences, influence industry standards, take action in politics relating to the game industry. etc.

As for the users flocking elsewhere, yeah maybe the ones who were too lazy to browse the forums before the asked a simple question for the 1000th time. They''ll probably be too lazy to register as well. However, as the maturity of the forums increases in a member only scenario. GDnet may be able to attract membership from Game Developers or other successful indie developers who avoid the forums now.

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If you (GDNet) wanted to start someplace. I would suggest a revamp the DEVELOPERNET section. Indie Developers or Publishers could pay a fee to belong to it. In tern they would have access to forums where they could discuss issues related to developing games for public release, running an indie game dev business etc. Also articles that were available just to developernet members. In this way you could advertize the service to your allready substantial user base. Think about it, the market that this new developerNET service would appeal to is already here in your forums. You just have to give them a compelling reason to sign up for it. You might allow access to hobbyist game developers as well (for a simmilar fee). If the content is better in the DeveloeprNET side, you could convert allot of your users to paying customers.

You could make this membership attractive to indi developers by advertising the products of the DEVELOPERNET members on the site. I doubt the rest of the gdnet community would take issue to this as it's supporting quality Indi developers.

Catering to this subset of your community would be a start.


Edited by - ironside on March 5, 2002 5:35:26 PM

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Hmm...

Well, first I''d like to say that if I was going to pay to access something, it would have to be pretty good stuff I would also expect that if people paid, then those people wouldn''t have to look at ads or deal with popups.

That said... What sorts of things are you considering adding as "premium content" if you decide to go that route?



-Agent1
[Join the OpenNIC]

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