Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (122)
As we discussed in an earlier post, Choice of Games has been banned from Google AdSense. In this post, I’ll discuss a few of the ideas we’ve had about how we can make money now that we’re banned. (This is the last post on AdSense we have planned; I promise!)
How things stand today
Choice of Games didn’t make most of its money from Google AdSense on the website (though it was a noticeable portion of our income). Most of our money came from advertising on iPhone and Android.
Unfortunately, most of our mobile advertising money came from AdMob, one of the largest mobile advertising networks, and they were just acquired by Google earlier this year. AdMob’s products are already a part of Google’s new “AdSense for Mobile Apps” product (which is currently an invitation-only limited beta); there’s every reason to think that eventually the old AdMob will go away and AdSense for Mobile Apps will open to the public. We’re banned from all Google AdSense products, not just Google AdSense for Content, so we’ll be banned from AdSense for Mobile Apps, too.
Ideally, we’d like to offer our games to you for free.
Partly that’s because we love you so much, but it’s also because our products tend to be like bad prom dates: our games have a great personality, once you get to know them, but they don’t look very exciting at first glance. We don’t have flashy 3D graphics or heart-wrenching music. Multiple-choice games, like “choose a path” novels, aren’t usually very much fun in the first 30 seconds. Sometimes people ask us to provide “screenshots” of our games; you can imagine their surprise when they get a picture of a paragraph of text and some radio buttons!
Even before we were banned by Google AdSense, we were looking for ways to increase our revenue so that we could produce more and better games. We have been experimenting with selling our product online, and the results have indicated that online sales may be the right way to go. As some of you have noticed, although we offer our new games “Choice of Romance” and “Choice of the Vampire” online for free on the web and on Android, we charge $2 each on iPhone.
Romance has only been out for a week or so; if we compare the number times players have downloaded Romance for iPhone with the number of players who downloaded Broadsides for iPhone in its first week, we find that Romance got only 10% of the number of downloads Broadsides had, but Romance has made 10000% more revenue in that week than Broadsides did. Choice of Romance has already made more money in iPhone sales alone than Choice of Broadsides has ever made from iPhone, web, and Android advertising combined.
So, what are our options?
- Just keep using the advertising networks. There are alternatives to Google on the web, (AdBrite and Project Wonderful are recommended) but they reportedly pay much less than AdSense. And although there are good alternatives to Google ads on Android, those alternatives will probably dry up soon, once Google AdSense for Mobile Apps launches. On iPhone, Apple provides their own advertising network, so that’s a compelling alternative.
- Find sponsors. We’ve heard it said that Google AdSense has the best rates of the big ad networks, but you can get a lot more money by directly connecting with individual advertisers. I’m not surprised that this is more lucrative, but it’s also a LOT more work. We’re here to write great games; we don’t have any full-time employees at all, say nothing of people with a background in ad sales.
- Use a donation button. This is a reasonable suggestion, and we will set one up in the next few days. However, donation buttons make less than 1% what advertising networks provide. (Another multiple-choice game site I know of has made ~$300 a month in advertising, but receives less than one $5 donation each month.)
- Merchandising. Sell overpriced t-shirts and mugs, or, to put it more nicely, give away t-shirts and mugs in exchange for donations. (This could be tough for us, because we don’t have a professional art designer.)
- Ransom our apps to the public. This is also sometimes called the “Street Performer Protocol,” and it’s the same model used by Kickstarter.com, whom I adore. The basic idea: set a global amount of money you want to raise, (e.g. $10,000) and then allow people to make donations toward the goal, however small. If/when you raise $10,000, the product becomes available to everyone for free.
- Sell our apps online. As we described above, it’s certainly working out well for Choice of Romance and Choice of the Vampire on iPhone. But perhaps the iPhone is a unique market; people don’t normally pay for things out there on the web. (Android makes this even worse, because on the Android market, customers have a 24 hour no-questions-asked return policy. On Android, you can play through our games several times in 24 hours and return them for free; players who keep our games longer than 24 hours are basically putting money in our donation box.)
- Make games in series. Make Episode 1 available for free, but charge for Episode 2.
What do you think? People often say that they would pay money for our games, but they usually say it after they’re done playing. Would you have paid for our games without playing them first?