The Sinister Design Forums

General => General Discussion => Topic started by: Presentiment on March 02, 2010, 09:31:01 PM

Title: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 02, 2010, 09:31:01 PM
Rather than having users pay for the games (how much are you earning from TPA2?), you think you should get some people to advertise on the games. In order to do this, you need to make people more aware of the existence of Sinister Design. A good example is casualcollective.com (the DTD and FETD people). They restrict aspects of their games to the public, and inform the public of their website. This increases traffic, which makes ads more lucrative.
Although they do not do ads so much anymore, I think that’s more of trying to promote their image of a friendly site and reducing lag on their multiplayer games than anything else, along with the fact they have a seed fund, which, to my knowledge, you do not have.
As the buying method is unstreamlined, costs money (duh), the full versions of TPA2 and TsoG seem unlikely to spread beyond a dedicated fanbase and game reviewers.
Instead of selling the games, release them to the public and advertise SinisterDesign on more popular sites. Go for a seed fund, expand your games to different platforms, and get advertisers interested.
A fun idea would be to have ‘integrated ads’ in the game; for example, a poster in HQ advertising a company. Because every player of the game would see it, this could potentially be a very lucrative idea.
A good indicator of how well known SinisterDesign is its forum, activity in which is anemic. I have seen little notification of the expanded versions of games on the home site, and I believe informing the general populace of this will greatly increase traffic, and then how much money you can earn from ads.
I cannot see either of the current Telepath games earning more than a few thousand USD through sale, which is something of an insult to the effort you put into it. By gaining the attention of more potential users, however, you set yourself up to make yourself better positioned to begin commercially and gain a seed fund to make game-making a full-time job.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 02, 2010, 11:01:55 PM
Forgive my cynicism, but are you speaking from experience, or from a desire to play Sinister Design games for free? Ads in Flash games really weren't all that lucrative back before the recession hit, and they're certainly no better now.

I do know of a small handful of Flash game developers who are able to make a living releasing free games (Pixel Jam being a prominent example), but most free Flash developers are either in high school or college, and don't have to worry about paying rent, paying back school loans, buying food, paying for doctor's bills, and so on and so on. With Pixel Jam, the kind of games they make--short, addictive action games--are much quicker to put together and release than the kind of games I make, and they appeal to a much larger audience. In short, they're a good fit for the free Flash model. Sad to say, mine really aren't.

Maybe I'll only earn a few thousand on TSoG--maybe not. I'd certainly like to earn more than that. We'll just have to see how things go, I suppose.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 02, 2010, 11:06:43 PM
Forgive my cynicism, but are you speaking from experience, or from a desire to play Sinister Design games for free? Ads in Flash games really weren't all that lucrative back before the recession hit, and they're certainly no better now.

I do know of a small handful of Flash game developers who are able to make a living releasing free games (Pixel Jam being a prominent example), but most free Flash developers are either in high school or college, and don't have to worry about paying rent, paying back school loans, buying food, paying for doctor's bills, and so on and so on. With Pixel Jam, the kind of games they make--short, addictive action games--are much quicker to put together and release than the kind of games I make, and they appeal to a much larger audience. In short, they're a good fit for the free Flash model. Sad to say, mine really aren't.

Maybe I'll only earn a few thousand on TSoG--maybe not. I'd certainly like to earn more than that. We'll just have to see how things go, I suppose.

I would definitely give you ten dollars if we met in person, but the current buying method is really too clunky and I don't see the point of it.

Seeing as most of your fanbase is in the younger demographics, they are likely more unwilling to pay in such a manner. Perhaps there could be an indirect paying method, such as participating on a site to earn virtual currency, with advertisers paying to be listed.

What I would really like to see if increased notification of users of the existence of this site, so it gains traffic. Freeware would be a way to increase traffic, but it isn't the only way, others would be a more integrated site, getting the word around about the site, etc.

I think about it this way:

If I were a nine-year old, what would make me interested in this site and active in the forums?

And also, if you are going to put it up for a price, make the price lower than the price to sign up for a free download site.

Most people don't care about supporting the developer that much if they can cut it cheap.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Ertxiem on March 03, 2010, 01:57:35 AM
Although getting the best of two worlds is quite hard, I think that the free demos might help spread the world about the games.

I don't know how the ad revenue works, so please correct me if I'm wrong. A free playable demo of about 10MB to 20MB can be put on popular websites that might generate some add revenue. And, evidently, the demo itself would work as an add to the full game.

I was shocked when Craig decided to sell TPA2. And I would have preferred that TPA2 would be free (as I guess anyone else wanted, even Craig). But everyone has to make a living, and from Craig's (brief) comments, it was clear that the sales of TPA2 generated more revenue than the ad revenue from all the other TRPG games (again, please correct me if I'm wrong). Therefore, I understand Craig's choice on selling his games from now on.

Excluding minors from the market is indeed a problem. I don't really see a nice way out, other than the minors asking someone to give them the game or to buy it for them.

Another problem raised is related to the way the games are sold. Most online stores aren't (fully) trusted, at least in the country where I live. Not because they trick people but because the direct human contact is missing. The problem may be bigger in this case because we aren't buying a CD (or something else physical) - we are buying a link to be able to download. So, again, it's another layer of virtuality that may give people some discomfort on buying.

I haven't any good alternatives to the way it's done. Selling CDs will increase dramatically the costs (the CD itself with the case + shipping costs, including personnel costs). Selling on well known stores (that might benefit of higher trust from the consumers) may also reduce the margins, particularly since there might be some attempts of price squeezing.

About ads. I must say that ads annoy me (and I hate those blinking ads). So, I was happy when I found out that Firefox has Adblock Plus. As more people do what I do, the revenue of ads will be lower. Ingame ads might be an alternative, provided they aren't all over the place. I can accept a preloader ad (no blinking, please) and a couple of discrete ads in the main menu or in the high score table or in the middle of the game. More ads than that and I might feel too much pushed around and end giving up on the game.

Most people don't care about supporting the developer that much if they can cut it cheap.
Unfortunately, I think that I'm included in that category. I hope that Craig is successful but there is a (low?) limit to how much I'm willing to spend. I just hope that my bug tracking and suggestions are helpful.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 03, 2010, 10:13:45 AM
I would definitely give you ten dollars if we met in person, but the current buying method is really too clunky and I don't see the point of it.

What's so clunky about it? BMT Micro's process is no different than ordering off Amazon.com, or any other web store. You just put in your credit card info and voila, there's your download link. It's certainly faster and more efficient than coming to meet me in person so you can slip me a ten. :P

Also, Ert: did you know that you can order the game on CD off BMT Micro? They burn it themselves at your request, then ship it to you.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Ertxiem on March 03, 2010, 05:08:05 PM
Also, Ert: did you know that you can order the game on CD off BMT Micro? They burn it themselves at your request, then ship it to you.

Oh. Sorry, I forgot about that. Now that you mention it, I recall reading in the old forums that we could also buy a CD. (So, one less layer of virtuality! :) )
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 03, 2010, 07:26:55 PM
Although getting the best of two worlds is quite hard, I think that the free demos might help spread the world about the games.

I don't know how the ad revenue works, so please correct me if I'm wrong. A free playable demo of about 10MB to 20MB can be put on popular websites that might generate some add revenue. And, evidently, the demo itself would work as an add to the full game.

I was shocked when Craig decided to sell TPA2. And I would have preferred that TPA2 would be free (as I guess anyone else wanted, even Craig). But everyone has to make a living, and from Craig's (brief) comments, it was clear that the sales of TPA2 generated more revenue than the ad revenue from all the other TRPG games (again, please correct me if I'm wrong). Therefore, I understand Craig's choice on selling his games from now on.

Excluding minors from the market is indeed a problem. I don't really see a nice way out, other than the minors asking someone to give them the game or to buy it for them.

Another problem raised is related to the way the games are sold. Most online stores aren't (fully) trusted, at least in the country where I live. Not because they trick people but because the direct human contact is missing. The problem may be bigger in this case because we aren't buying a CD (or something else physical) - we are buying a link to be able to download. So, again, it's another layer of virtuality that may give people some discomfort on buying.

I haven't any good alternatives to the way it's done. Selling CDs will increase dramatically the costs (the CD itself with the case + shipping costs, including personnel costs). Selling on well known stores (that might benefit of higher trust from the consumers) may also reduce the margins, particularly since there might be some attempts of price squeezing.

About ads. I must say that ads annoy me (and I hate those blinking ads). So, I was happy when I found out that Firefox has Adblock Plus. As more people do what I do, the revenue of ads will be lower. Ingame ads might be an alternative, provided they aren't all over the place. I can accept a preloader ad (no blinking, please) and a couple of discrete ads in the main menu or in the high score table or in the middle of the game. More ads than that and I might feel too much pushed around and end giving up on the game.

Most people don't care about supporting the developer that much if they can cut it cheap.
Unfortunately, I think that I'm included in that category. I hope that Craig is successful but there is a (low?) limit to how much I'm willing to spend. I just hope that my bug tracking and suggestions are helpful.

If Craig's aim is really to earn money, he needs to get a reputation, and bigger fanbase,and then apply for a seed fund (which would make all the sales from TRPG games seem infinitesimal), and start hiring devs to work on the games.

Which doesn't seem to be happening.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Zhampir on March 03, 2010, 08:24:07 PM
Facebook anybody? lolz
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 03, 2010, 08:40:54 PM
That's what I was thinking when I said different platforms.

If he wants to earn money o' course.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Zero Mission on March 03, 2010, 08:55:49 PM
What is a seed fund exactly?  What exactly are you suggesting a small developer should be doing?
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 03, 2010, 10:34:28 PM
A seed fund is a kind of loan.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Zhampir on March 03, 2010, 10:51:56 PM
and how exactly would be indebted to somebody in any way help increase profit?
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 04, 2010, 09:28:25 AM
I think he's suggesting that I get funding from an investor of some kind, then use it to hire artists, programmers, etc. to work on the game for a more mainstream release. But of course, there's no way I could then go on to release the game for free afterwards. No sane investor would bet their money on that.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Zhampir on March 04, 2010, 01:08:05 PM
Exactly my thinking. It'd be like the disaster of TSE2 (http://www.thespiritengine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=345&sid=9caf730b2e5444b2e044bf0c3d80ed21), except (very likely) worse.

Flash RGPs just don't get to a big enough audience to make enough of a profit to be able to support a team. Marketing for flash, which is mostly restricted to 2D elements, is extremely poor. Good luck getting something like Game Informer to tell the world.

Those companies that make big money and spend big money on making their games also have an extremely large team, with sequels that come out maybe 2 or 3 years later.

To make a flash game comparable to something like Star Wars KOTOR (one of my favorites in RPGs) or Morrowind (another favorite), one would need a massive team.

Granted, there is a very very VERY slim chance it could work, but at this point in time virtually nobody would risk their money on it, and certainly no creator would want to risk it.

Besides that there is another issue to consider: many flash developers like their ability to say "that game right there, you know, the one you love, I made it, it was all my idea." In other words they take great pride in their work. Once you work with a large team, it no longer becomes your work. All the freedoms, the individuality, the personal connection you get with the creator is gone.

In the future, Flash RPGs may be big (and they've certainly grown so far), but as of right now, it's just futile to try to jump into it like that.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 04, 2010, 08:26:50 PM
I think he's suggesting that I get funding from an investor of some kind, then use it to hire artists, programmers, etc. to work on the game for a more mainstream release. But of course, there's no way I could then go on to release the game for free afterwards. No sane investor would bet their money on that.

What I was thinking was getting investors' attention with free games, and once you have a team on it you can start charging money on new games.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 04, 2010, 08:28:48 PM
Exactly my thinking. It'd be like the disaster of TSE2 (http://www.thespiritengine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=345&sid=9caf730b2e5444b2e044bf0c3d80ed21), except (very likely) worse.

I think a situation similar to TSE2 is playing out with TPA2.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 04, 2010, 10:11:37 PM
In order for it to be like the situation with TSE2, I would have to do what Mark Pay did and give up on making commercial games.

Instead, I'm continuing to build a catalog of games. With each one, I learn more about marketing and game design, and gain more exposure. I'm not discouraged that TPA2 wasn't a break-out success. Compared to TRPG2 CD Edition, TPA2 did far better in every regard. I expect to keep improving, gaining fans, and releasing more and more polished, professional work that gains more attention and makes more sales. Eventually I'll be well-known in the indie game community and have a good back catalog of games that fans will feel encouraged to buy from. That's my long-term plan, and at the moment I feel rather optimistic about it. :)
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 04, 2010, 10:40:40 PM
Only problem with that is that if nobody buys your previous work nobody will buy your new work.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 04, 2010, 11:12:39 PM
That assumes a lot. I think a lot of people will be more willing to buy TSoG than were willing to buy TPA2. That's just my guess. We'll see how things shake out. ;)
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 04, 2010, 11:20:44 PM
I think you're forgetting the main demographic if your fanbase. Because you have no store releases yet the main group buying will be indie RPG reviewers, and bored college students with some money to spare.

Which constitutes a small minority of this site.

This site isn't Facebook.

If you want to earn more money, you'll have to make a phone app for it, because that's the main population I see a small, un-freeware indie game appealing to.

Facebook--you'll need multiplayer games

Interwebz--Just register onto a site for $1.99 and download it.

Because there are no rapidshare sites for phone you can charge more than two dollars, but charge too much and you won't get any buyers.

But you aren't aiming for making a phone app are you?
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Zhampir on March 04, 2010, 11:29:56 PM
to my knowledge Flash isn't possible on the Iphone (or is at best extremely buggy), if that's what your suggesting...
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: Presentiment on March 05, 2010, 12:28:35 AM
Convert it to an .exe.

But I wasn't actually serious. I just pointing out that Craig has no platforms to sell his games in.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 05, 2010, 08:44:21 AM
I don't know what you're talking about at this point. I sell my games on the PC, Mac, and Linux. There are a few online stores that already carry TPA2, and I expect to break into more with TSoG. Surely you don't think I'm only trying to sell the game to people that visit sinisterdesign.net?
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: hellboy222 on March 05, 2010, 09:14:04 AM
1)I love kotor 1 and 2 best games ever
2) yeah but as one man team making 1 or 2 flash games takes quite a chunk of time and to get more people he needs money its a bit of a circle and I intend to buy TSoG plus I highly doubt anyone has ever combed the entire internet maybe he already has advertising and we just haven't seen it?
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: KZ on March 05, 2010, 05:11:51 PM
A lot of good points raised in the thread, and the main concern is the marketing of the Telepath games. There is the issue of how to try to deliver the message to the target audience and be able to persade them to buy the game. So far, due to the change in the marketing model, we see an expected shift in demographics as the illumination of non-free TPA2 occurs on slightly different sites than that of the freely distributed TRGP2. However, it does mean that we are in a transition state at the moment, and the reach to the target audience is currently rather small. I don't know why, but even back in the day of TRPG2 release, although the hype was big and it was quite popular, it did not get well embedded into the teenage community that visits the main free-game flash portals (possibly due to the lack of presence on several key sites) and there was little to remind them of afterwards, which is a shame as TRPG2 is one of the best Flash RPGs out there, and yet it isn't mention in the same breath as, say, Mardek (and even this very successful RPG, although rather popular, isn't generating much income for the developer, but he does have a rather large and devoted fan base). The big question now is how to reach the new customers who are willing and are able to pay for the game? Where to focus the attention? I mean, it'a all well and good- there is a twitter account, now facebook is up, but there is a need for initial illumination, to jump-start the process of vrial ads for Sinister Design so that the mediums catch on and do their job, 'cause so far twitter has about 20 users... which isn't much at all, really. Hence, there is a need for breakout, to generate that initial amount of interest again in Sinister Design, and expand, then feed off that interest and keep up the momentum.  Given that it takes a long time to develop the next project, it is difficult, but still possible, to maintain the momentum in downtime and keep SinisterDesign at the back of people's minds. A good example of that is Pseudolonewolf: he hasn't released Mardek 3 as planned, and this has been going on for almost 3 years, yet interest in his site has hardly waned and he generates new interest from his old games because there is enough exposure and discussion. At this moment in time, taking into account the transition model and all, I think it might be worthwhile going back to those big portals like CrazyMonkeyGames, JayIsGames, Newgrounds, Armorgames and Kongregate and plug in the holes, so to speak, by uploading TRPG2 to those sites that still don't have it- generate some more interest. After all, TPA1 was all and well, but it was just a showcase for the engine, not a stand-alone game, and people perceieved it as such- we got a little interest going, but didn't generate the critical amount of momentum required.
Now we have the presence on the most curcial social media, now we just need to get the folks from the freeware market to look at us again, then keep those who are willing to accept the change in the marketing of the products and pay for the games, and then we need to try and find how to reach out to the new audience- older, financially able to afford the game. Where do they go? What they read? What do they like?  A good start will be to try and raise the profile, as CraigStern noted, with reviewers for indie developing games, then keep in touch with such large flash portals which carry a mix of free and demo versions on their sites and where there won't be any backlash to a paybale game version (ie Jayisgames, rather than newgorunds, for instance). Then we can hook up and keep those potential customers on facebook and twitter. For the younger audience, the wiki, for instance, and the website can eb of use, whilst the forums is a blend of the two.
Ads is a tricky business and I don't think we're in a situation where we can afford to dabble around and experiment with them as we have just a critical enough mass of paricipating individuals to carry us through at the moment. From where we stand now, CraigSterns strategy is the most sound and fool-proof: slowly generate momentum, get the profile up, then expand. We have a very specific niche in the game market, and it has its cons and pros, such as a relatively low appeal percenatgeto the whole gaming community, but much higher than average retention factor. Presentiment, for your part, if you're willing to help, methinks you can lay out the basis for covering SinisterDesign on facebook and twitter and generate interest in that.

As a final point, one example of a success is MSkutnik, the creator of Submachine series: he managed to generate enough ineterest, expand, leave day-work, keep some projects free, some pay-as-you-go, went into iPhone development, covered several genres with his games and has a very wide demographical coverage with his games. And he managed to take escape-the-room type games to prominence, generating much more interest in them during the last few years.  The situation is slightly different here, but we can aim to build along the same lines and try to keep good folks interested and try to find and appeal to those gamers who love RPGs.  TSoG is certainly raising the standard here on TRPG2, and it's up there with the best of Flash RPGs at the moment both storywise and battle-design wise, in my opinion.
Title: Re: Ads, not sales, is the key
Post by: CraigStern on March 05, 2010, 05:56:53 PM
it's up there with the best of Flash RPGs at the moment both storywise and battle-design wise, in my opinion.

Ah, "up there with the best of Flash RPGs." See, this is partly why I'm trying more traditional indie games marketing methods right now, and not trying to drum up interest in the Flash community. I want TSoG to be judged as an RPG, not as a Flash RPG. I know you didn't mean it this way, KZ, but when people say things like "It's good for a Flash game," it gives the impression that everyone should have diminished expectations for it just because it's made in Flash. It's as though a Flash game can't be good: the best it can ever be is good by comparison to other games made in Flash.

Well, I'm not satisfied with that. TSoG is going to be a serious game that happens to be made in Flash, not a "Flash game." I fully intend for TSoG, by the time it's finished, to tell a story worthy of study and critique, exploring themes like identity, the nature of the mind, and the existence of God. To hell with Flash--I can't even fill up one hand's worth of fingers counting the number of RPGs developed on any platform that do that, much less do it alongside non-linear gameplay, tactical combat, and involved dialog trees.

In short, there is no way--absolutely, positively no way--that I'm releasing it for free. That just invites people to devalue the game even more. And it will make it even harder for me (to say nothing of the other people out there making their own RPGs) to make a living selling games in the future. Do you know what most generic JRPG clones made in RPG Maker traditionally sell for? $19.99. Really! And they sell well. People buy those games. Check out amaranthia.com (http://www.amaranthia.com/modules/oledrion/category.php?cat_cid=1). The woman who runs that site makes a living selling her games. And you know what? Making a game in Flash is actually far more work (http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=6122.msg285041#msg285041) than those games take!

Soon--once I'm confident I've worked out all the major issues in TSoG and finalized the GUI design--I'm going to create a downloadable demo and take down the browser demo. Having it available in-browser is just encouraging people to view it as though it were some cheap, flimsy game that ought to be playable for free. That, to me, is worse than the prospect of not making enough money in sales.

Thread locked.