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Games in SL: Businessmodels


Oni Horan
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From my personal impression people don't like to hear about it. SL-Usership is free, so people usually expect most things associated with it as free as well. Developing games is a very long and complicated process however and from the other perspective, the one of content creators, SL is not free at all. Server costs, cost of proper tools and resources, not to mention all the time and energy that goes into such projects.

All of that has to be accounted for and SL offers various solutions to do just that. In my opinion there's two ways to generate income in online gaming: subscription based models and micropayments.

Subscription based models work like World of Warcraft for example, as long as you play, you pay a fee on a regular basis. Personally I have not seen this model put to use in SL very successfully so far, but I would be very interested to hear if someone knows any good examples.

The other way is by micropayments, which means selling small amounts of content to you, everything you need or want int he context of the game, you have to pay for. Keep in mind though that while your personal interest in a game might fade away, the gamecreator will still have to cover the running costs to keep the game running for everyone. As a result he is mostly dependant on gaining new players all the time, which is ultimately why you experience a lot of SL games as some sort of social scam to drag in more and more people.

The question is, what do the players prefer? I know that if you look at SL today the answer is clear, but maybe there are new and different ways?

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The way that I have been looking at making games in SL is no different from selling objects on market place. I did one time get a remark from someone saying all experiences in SL should be free but I agree with you. If I'm going to spend weeks of my time to build and create fun experiences for people, just like those who sell their work on market place I should be able to charge for my work.

 

My issue is I have land and since people don't rent to have shops as much these days my goal is to generate revenue from the land by charging micropayments to enjoy gaming experiences.

 

I've tried charging for a pass to enter a game

Charging for weapons that allow people to play a game,

 

I've also sold complete games through marketplace.

 

My most successful model was low priced entrance micropayments.

 

Another comparison is to iTunes apps where games are $0.50

 

As for keeping content fresh and up to date, if you get paid, then you have more reason to invest time into keeping things fresh.

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I suppose I use a type of micro-payment method simply because it's the only accepted method in SL at the moment.

However there are other methods like donations. Or a mix of several methods put into one when done correctly.



For example we sell various models of a product that can be used in a game. Each model with a different effect, and in this way it's more of a choice of what the player wants to be. Rather than a benefit to make you better than others. That helps pull the game out of the 'scam' stigma. And more into simply providing players more choices.

And of course always provide a free version that IS less effective in the game. Because that is more of an intro to the game, and not micro-payment tier system.



Also mixing other methods like donations with micro-payments. We don't take donations directly, but some parts of the community have donation pads that we do provide with the kit. And these pads count towards a prize for whoever wins the game at their arena.

Basically it's another tool to allow the community to support itself, rather than the creator support it, which ends up being pointless if nobody plays for awhile.

So in my opinion, partly mixing donations in that way allows the community to build up excitement for their own tournament based on the amount they donate. Making it more community oriented, rather than one business trying to 'scam' people out of money.

That in turn benefits the creator as it allows the game to support itself. And more people play.

So each method can work if used correctly. But within Second Life, I personally have only found that self supported games, with a side micro-payment system, to be viable.

 

I would be interested in seeing what others have used however.

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(Reposting this, for some reason the formatting was screwed up the first time I posted it, and it wouldn't let me fix it because it looked fine in the editor.)

I guess I'm lucky, my games are just objects like anything else, so nobody balks at buying them. I do get complaints about pricing though, people have a very distorted view of what things should cost in Second Life in general.

In general though, as long as it continues to be worth my time to then I'll continue to make new games and add features, fix bugs, etc. As soon as it stops being worth my time, I won't bother anymore, because it's a lot of time and work both on the development side and on the customer service side. People need to understand that. Running a business in Second Life can be a full time job, and if you aren't making adequate compensation for working a full time job then you quit.

As far as subscription based games go, I don't think subscription services work very well for anything in Second Life, a fault of language I think. If llGetMoney only bothered to return something when you called it, it would be trivial to set up recurring subscription systems that took L$. As it is, I think I'd rather pay an entry fee to get into a game than try to remember to pay a regular subscription, but I'm not opposed to either setup.

 

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I am a supporter of Free to play models, I have used the free 2 play model in  my game "Assassin's Grid" and it seems to be working great. My goal is to add more things to do in SL since the begining. 09-10 were the most stale years in SL in terms of creativity which is what instigated me to create a large scale mmo in SL.

http://www.assassinsgrid.com

http://www.facebook.com/assassinsgrid

It's not wow or anything but is a blast and players have fun with the combat system, crafting, boss fights and team projects etc. etc.

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In my case its a mix somehow.

First off no one actually needs to play anything at Olds to partake into the combat. There are freebees and demo planes as well as tanks in rezzers.

 

But we got 9 sims, so how do we get this rolling?

 - Sponsorship  - We got people who sponsor the sims with their own RL money. They do this for varius reasons but it pretty much melts down to: They love the place and the people.

- Donations - The part of the community which cannot or does not like to regulary contribute, donates

- Sales - Alot of the money i make with AMOK flows directly back into the sims, development and all the other good stuff that costs money.

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I didn't bring up donations for a good reason. Of course it's just my personal observation, but donations are imo a very flimsy way to fund a project in SL. When a project is new and exciting people don't hesitate to support it with money, however as times and freshness passes donations always go back, cutting off the financial liability of the project. I've seen it happen literally to countless of Sims and places which is why it's something I would never bother to try myself.

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We have considered charging for the HUD but as many have told me, people expect free in SL.  We've considered creating add-ons to enhance the user experience, but since these games are part of a contest we felt it would be unfair to others. So we have a donation box for the programmer which is a very minimal amount, and  I sell costumes that I used to make the NPCs for sale so they can "play" the part, but mostly the biggest payment is probably brand recognition from my clothing store which just about covers tier fees and purchases made for the game.

I couldn't bear spending the amount of time I have building these games, charging for them, and no one showing up. The reason I started working on these games in the first place was to create a new user experience in SL that would make it fun again, not for me but for everyone.  Additionally, these games have a certain life span. We can spend a month or more building a murder mystery, for example, and then unless we constantly advertise it, it quickly becomes forgotten.  And we don't even charge. If we leave the mystery up for longer than a month, any traffic afterwards is barely a trickle.

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(Ugh, it ate all my line breaks! Trying to edit and add them back...)

We use a couple of different business models... here's what has worked for us.

Arcade games:

People can buy them direct from Insert Coin Arcade and use them at their own arcades/clubs/whatever. There is a free-to-play mode or they can charge various amounts if they prefer.

They can also optinally use the code hooks in the system to give out prize tickets that the person can trade in for various prizes. Since the prizes can be basically anything and unique to the arcade, this seems to be a great cross-promotional opportunity for the arcades and it also gives a value-added aspect that can encourage people to pay for games even though you could play the same game for free elsewhere.

7Seas Fishing:

This is a rather different approach since it is a self-franchising system. The gear vendors sell copies of the fishing area kit, so at any time a player could upgrade themselves into a fishing area owner with their own vendors (which sell the fishing area kit...)

All the vendors give 20% commission on sales, so that's where the financial incentive to own a fishing area comes from.

Again, people can fish/play for free, but if they want to catch fancier fish and earn XP, they have to buy bait.

So basically they pay for the bait rather than directly buying the catchables. Between fishing contests and catchables, that's the meat of people's motivation to fish...

More on catchables -- as with the prize desk for the arcades above, fishing area owners can add custom local catchables to the system to help make their area different and exciting compared to others.

Because we have opened a lot of code hooks and given out other tools so the community can help build content, it adds a ton of variety to the game and an extra layer of fun for all those builders out there in SL. Plus then they can all sell their own compatible gizmos. We've seen some really inventive and creative work!

I really think more business owners should consider opening up at least portions of their system to allow user customization. Like custom prizes, custom skins for game systems, customizable messages... add ons or plugin support...

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