Sep 02

2010

8 Ways to Make Money When You’re Banned from AdSense

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?

  1. 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.
  2. Use the Flash game portals for advertising. Kongregate and Newgrounds are great businesses that allow you to put advertisements in Flash-based games. We’d have to rewrite ChoiceScript to support Flash, but Adobe’s ActionScript language isn’t too different from JavaScript, so it probably wouldn’t be that much work. These might be better than traditional advertising networks because Kongregate and Newgrounds really know how game advertising works. Unfortunately, they also take a much larger cut than Google AdSense; reportedly they take a ~70% cut (as opposed to Google’s cut which is 32%).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.)
  8. 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?

122 Comments

  1. I could see myself buying said $2 apps (If I had an iphone.. although I may be getting an itouch soon..) however this is knowing and trusting in the quality of the work you put out. Were I a totally new customer who hadn’t played any of them before? Highly unlikely.
    Point 8 sounds appealing to this end because people try it out and then, assuming they like it enough, buy the sequel. But then you’re basically halving your return because you have to make twice the content and that assumes everyone playing part 1 buys part 2.
    I’m not sure how to solve this quandary. I suppose I am ignoring the fact that any future potential customers also have the already-existing content on the web that is free to try out.
    Unfortunately, I know basically nothing on the advertising front.

  2. Aro says:

    I would think your best bet would be to keep with advertising

    but also charge for iphone and android apps

    if you start charging to play the the games on your website you will losee most peoples interst

    another thing is people are much more comfterbul
    buying over iphone and android ( it simpler and easier )

    not matter who you are or what you do poeple will be vary of buying things online

    (i also think episode 1 free and the rest of series charged is a good idea so custemors can see what the basics of a game is and the buy when episode 2 comes out)

    🙂 Aro

  3. PugMama says:

    Perhaps you could team up with an artist out there (I don’t know any artsy types but I assume some might work for small commissions in exchange for the professional credit?) to provide art for some of the major scenes? If it had this I would’ve payed up front.

    I think it would be especially neat if it could go on the portals like Big Fish Games I would def buy a Choice of Vampire anthology (all finished). Unless of course portals isn’t where you want to go.

    Or I would totally pay for the follow up eps if I could play the first one and liked it (and felt it had enough replays in it) would love to be able to use internet cash cards though since it’s a smaller transaction.

    Just my (pretty uninformed) thoughts. 🙂

  4. gASK says:

    I can only offer my personal opinion, but I would be more than willing to pay for your games. I have already looked and asked about a donation button (every single webcomic has one and most of them don’t even compare to your quality – I am surprised by your above statement about the income). The same goes for paying for your games (if I had an iPhone, I already would be paying anyway:) – you have already proven that the games you make are all good and I would certainly never be badly surprised. For the undecided or new players you could make free demoversion (either start of the game to get them “hooked” or some short version of it).

    There is also one other model, that works well for other sites and maybe could be adapted for Choice Games – offer the games for free and provide some “extras” for subscribers (eg. regular donators or those who paid for the game). It would be tougher to come up with extras for your games though (maybe some pictures to spice up the story? additional vignettes? achievements or some other way of tracking progress eg. how many endings out of all possible the player got?).

  5. Rio says:

    Please don’t do number 8. If I had some money then I would gladly buy some of your games but I’m broke.

  6. Dhakaiya says:

    Considering how great your games are, I do not think finding a sponsor will be very difficult once you have released a few more games.

    You could also come up with downloadable games such as Alteraction’s Masq which will only be available for subscribed customers.

  7. Dhakaiya says:

    Wish blogs had “like” buttons similar to facebook…I would like to “like” Rio’s comment.

  8. Dominic says:

    Choice 8 seems to make good economic sense – presuming that you can find an effective way to charge for something like this outside mobile platforms.

    Donation-supported would have been my first suggestion, and I’m surprised to hear about the relative advertising/donation rates. I suspect some of that may vary with the precise nature of your games and of your audience; the example that always comes to mind is Dwarf Fortress, a donation-supported, freely-released and perpetually-in-progress game whose creator has managed to bring in between $20k and $30k per year for a number of years.

    Granted, his product appeals somewhat more to the obsessive, computery crowd, which does not have all that much else in which to dispose their income. Still, donations would strike me as at least worth a try; I know that I’d be willing to toss in a tenner once every month or two if I kept getting products like Broadsides and Vampire.

  9. Youngzman says:

    Well i’m going tp turn 15 soon, so i don’t have a steady income yet. Hopefully that’ll change when i get the chance to apply for a part time job. Be it cvs (right across the street) or somewhere farther. Either way. I’ll buy Romance and Vampires given the chance. But before that i’m kinda relying on the site for my CoG needs. I say charge any other game but leave the first (Dragon,Broadsides) and charge others. Those two are kinda the ‘free trial’ when the ‘premium’ is everything after. User-contributed games? Eh… Their choice?

  10. Aws says:

    As much as I enjoy the games, I wouldn’t actually pay for them in their current form. What I would be happy to pay for is a novel-length game of the same writing quality as your current games. It would be just like buying one of those choice novels I had as a kid, except more adult-oriented and interesting, and without the annoying page flipping. I can’t really express how enthusiastic I would be about buying such a game.

  11. Flora says:

    Honestly? No. I never would have paid for the games without playing them first. For one thing, I’m broke, and I especially don’t have money to buy things if I’m not absolutely sure I’ll enjoy them.

  12. Matt says:

    I think episodic content is a very good idea. It’s seen a lot of success lately, most notably on Steam.

  13. Gianni says:

    You know, a good idea would actually be to see a business consultant and havehim recommend how to start and upkeep a business such as this. A professional opinion can never hurt.

    Personally, option one should be a must. It can’t hurt to at least have some sort of advertising revenue coming in. Also, option one would be a smart thing to have as well. People support what they like afterall. I see no reason as to why you cannot do Project Wonderful and a donation button system at the same time.

    Merchandising is eh…..

    Though, as someone said earlier, get an artist. Go to some community college classes or free art classes and scope out talented individuals who can draw stuff you want. IE, in choice of vampire, it would be cool to have a picture of Clotho when you bump into her. You don’t have to draw the player character, just the static ones who are always the same. Like in choice of dragon, the rival dragon could be drawn and shown. In broadsides, Villanueva or w/e. It could be done and would add a lot more flavore. This is especially true if say you have 2 pictures that are different depending on the end-scene. IE, a picture of the dead rival dragon or a picture of a bruised rival dragon flying away, same with the queen and stuff etc etc. Offer the artist a weekly salary, like 100-200 a week, and professional credit. Having pictures will only be a positive to your games.

    Do NOT do six. These kinds of games are complete unknowns until you play them so ransoming a blind product out is business suicide.

    Option 7 is ok, i don’t think you should do it though. But perhaps selling the apps for 1$ on Android? Keeping Dragons and Broadsides free as appetite warmers. Have in the descriptions ‘Makers of the free Choice of Dragon and Broadsides’ so that people can go download those and check them out first and then come back and buy them after getting an idea as to just what kind of games these are.

    Option 8 is kind of lame. A demo version would be better; ie, just cut them off after the first or second vignette and make them pay for the rest.

    TLDR, do options 1 and 4 together. Get an artist. Demo versions.

  14. I would absolutely pay for your games. $2 is a no-brainer. The refund thing on the android market raises some concern, but I imagine most consumers are just too lazy to go through the return process for two bucks.

    As far as worrying about “hooking” players, why not continue to offer your current games for free, and charge for all subsequent ones? Let Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides speak to the quality of your games (which I think they do), and charge for the rest.

  15. Dan Fabulich says:

    Getting an artist seems risky to me. Good artists cost a lot of money! I’d like to find a good way to make money before hiring an artist, then invest that money in art, rather than pay a lot of money up front before we’ve found our market.

  16. Angie says:

    Oh no, this is super upsetting–I didn’t realize you guys were banned from Adsense until I read the blog posts about it just now. I vote for 1 through 5, and if you need an artist or designer for merch or promotional artwork, I can donate some labor? I really like the Choice Of games and I want you guys to not starve. 🙁

  17. Duck says:

    First, I’d get as much publicity for the site from what’s happened as you can. At the very least, send out a press release to anybody who has the slightest chance of being interested. At this point, I don’t think you owe Google any loyalty whatsoever.

    I’d at least research the other advertising networks and the Flash game portals. You don’t have to go with them, but I wouldn’t entirely write them off until you have more information.

    The ‘ransom model’ is controversial. One issue I’ve seen raised about it is it can actually lead to people not giving you money, in the hope enough other people will do so. But it seems to work well for at least some projects. So worth considering.

    As you point out, while donation buttons are a good idea, they’re highly unlikely to work as your main funding mechanism.

    I’m personally dubious that charging for second episodes will work. Not because your work isn’t of very high quality, but simply because people are used to get high quality stuff online without paying for it. Not only are there similar sites that offer original free gamebooks without charge, you’d also be competing with free games like Kingdom of Loathing. (Which I suspect has a similar userbase to you). Sadly, KoL’s method of raising revenue isn’t something you can use, as it involves donation items which don’t work in this context.

    I think your best option is probably a combination of merchandising and finding direct sponsorship. That’s difficult, because those are the two methods likely to need the most work initially. And that’s time you could be spending writing more games, which I suspect you’d far prefer to be doing. But I think it’s your best way of building a sustainable business model in the long term.

  18. Danielle Goudeau says:

    I have a series of disjointed thoughts

    I think that offering the games free online, but charging on the iphone and andoid is similar to episodic content. People play once online and then think “when I am bore don the bus, I would love to see how else this story can end” you charge them for that.

    I think that you should charge 99cents, not $2. Psychologically (to me at least) $2 seems a LOT more like real money than $1, so maybe more than double the number of people would bite. I have no actual “statistics” to back up this idea.

    The problem with charging online, is that people have to pay somehow which takes time. In the iphone store you can impulse buy, because you literally click on something and enter a password. So however you charge online (if you do) should be really streamlined.

  19. Gianni says:

    I get that getting an artist is risky, which is why you should fish for students who can do some of the drawings you need. The begginers with talent will take a lower cost than the expert that knows they’re good.

  20. Gianni says:

    Double post!

    You could always put up a sign in a community college, night school, or even a high school and have some people email you them their portfolio’s and then negotiate some wages. You don’t need expert’s you just need some decent drawings.

  21. Debilor says:

    I would not have played your games if they had been just teasers for the P2P-Versions. But i played them and really love them. I think i will donate a bit if there will be an donate option usable for europeans like paypal or so.
    I dont like No. 8. But you could reward donators with premium and beta content.

    For example the “continue” and “scenes” option in Vampire could be only open to donators.
    Second there could be a few exotic bonus backrounds like unlucky vampire hunter or chines railroad worker and sires like vampire society outcast, which are only open for the donators.

    So the Game as whole would still be free but you could give the paying player a few mor options. Just a thought.

  22. CPFace says:

    I would say, pursue several of them. Does a donation box cost you money? If not, it can’t hurt to set one up.

    I personally like option 8 if each episode is going to be about the scope of Dragon or Broadsides. I never would have paid for either game “blind”, but having played through those, I would be more inclined to pay for a sequel. The first episode could be free with ads on the website, $2 on iPhone or Android, and then $2 across platforms for the sequels.

    The important thing, like you said, is that people get a chance to try your games, and they’re much more likely to bite if the first encounter is free.

    Merchandising might be something to pursue, but I admit that I have no idea how effective it is. I don’t know how big your audience is or how badly they’d want a T-shirt that read “Choice of Games” across the front. Speaking personally, I’m loathe to buy things like that unless they’re particularly clever (a cute quote or an interesting design) or something more interesting — I never bought any T-shirts from Homestarrunner.com, but I did collect their DVDs.

    Whatever you do, good luck! I’ve become awfully fond of this concept you’ve got over the past few months. 🙂

  23. le blue dude says:

    I’d pay for games, but I have money and I trust your quality… and I would not pay for the games you host that were not made by members of your team. For one I’m kinda disappointed in their quality… Only the Nightmare maze is any good.

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  25. cg says:

    pleas dont do number 8 im 11 and broke so pleas dont

  26. Gary says:

    Don’t do 8, it will not end well. Premium content is one thing, ie a game you do have to pay for online, but I would feel taken advantage of if it were the continuation of a game I was already playing. I mean, giving a demo and then charging for the full version can work as a business model, but it is very easy to execute properly, you have to give enough to be fun while not so much that people don’t feel like paying more. I have only ever been tempted to purchase the full version of a demo once, and I didn’t follow through. I have enjoyed almost every game on here, so if a new premium one went up (choice of god *cough* *cough*) I would be willing to pay a buck or two for it, especially if it broke conventions you used in regular games and really felt unique.

    re 2: Throw it up on kongragate, with trackable stats and badges, you have a reasonable shot of being game of the week/month with gets you a reward.

    re 5: Cafepress is an easy way to open up a webstore, they will even print it out for you. The quality of the products isn’t the greatest, but its worth checking out.

    I would be all for donating a few bucks once you get that set up, you’ve provided me with more entertainment than some games I did have to pay for.

    Here is a simple suggestion. Charge for access to the beta forum. Not a lot, maybe $5 or so. This is win win, you get money, people will feel like they are getting something fairly substantial for it, and you will get beta testers that care enough about your games to pay you to see them a few weeks early.

  27. Jason Stevan Hill says:

    One of the things that you can do to support us right now is vote us up and comment positively on other websites.

    For example, Jay is Games gets a lot of traffic, and if we can get into the ‘Top Rated’ games, it does a lot for our exposure.

    http://jayisgames.com/archives/2010/08/choice_of_romance.php

    http://jayisgames.com/archives/2010/08/choice_of_the_vampire.php

    Additionally, if you rate us highly in the iTunes App store and the Android Market, it encourages other people to download the game, which is our only source of revenue at this point.

    Lastly, tell your friends! Tweet about us! Share links to the games on Facebook/StumbleUpon/Reddit/Digg!

  28. Ammie says:

    One thing to keep in mind with selling games online as opposed to on the iPhone is accessibility. Buying apps on the iPhone is easy, because Apple already has all your billing information. Online, having to go through the motions of making a transaction can be a great psychological barrier — and sometimes just a plain outright barrier (for minors, for example).

    Concerning relying on Apple, I would be cautious of giving yourselves to them quite yet. They have a history of censoring applications conservatively. (You can find some recent spats about Lady Gaga’s anti-Prop-8 twitter post being censored, for example. A guide to New York’s Gay scene was rejected on some shots that are expressive of New York’s Gay scene.) Of course, text tends to be taken less seriously than images when it comes to rulings of “inappropriateness”, but as progressive indie developers very much concerned with gender and sexuality, it’s something worth noting.

  29. Rachel Walmsley says:

    Honestly, I’ve always thought that web-advertising is a bit of a mug’s game, because people just don’t pay any attention to web ads. I’ve no actual facts backing this up, so I could be completely wrong, but I think that the number of people who see an ad, then are interested enough to click on it, and then go on to spend money on the site they’ve just been linked to must be spectacularly low. There’s just not enough actually going on to justify the vast amounts of money that are spent on it. Something has to give, eventually, and this sort of thing seems like the first sign.

    I think the best route forward for you would be to provide free basic content and paid-for premium content. For instance, have the free release happen a month after the paid for release. Or let people pay for premium membership status which gives them early access to everything for a year, or let them save and share their games and characters to your servers. Having played and enjoyed your games, I’d now be willing to pay for them, but this sort of structure would also allow new people to discover them without having to pay.

  30. Jake Forbes says:

    Based on the quality of content of your in-house games, I think you could get away with 7, but only if you seriously commit to a graphic overhaul. I really do love the choiceofgames experience, and the replay value is enough to justify a couple of bucks, but as implemented, it just doesn’t come off as a pro commercial app on first glance. That sucks, because the meat of your apps — the story and the sophisticated systems for tracking choices and generating meaningful personal experiences is better than most anything else in the field. Sure, it’s a $ now that’s not justified by current income, but I think it’s an investment that would pay off in the longrun. Maybe test by doing a graphic overhaul to one app and selling it as a deluxe edition (maybe with bonus story chapter to make sure you’re covering your bases with fans who claim not to care about graphics)?

    An other option I’d throw out there, which might be controversial with some, is to create choice-of-games apps for licensed properties with you getting paid to create compelling content on a comparatively low budget, then use that income to continue to fund free original apps until you find a more stable model. A free “Choice-of-Dexter” serial killer app would be tons of fun, or Choice-of-Scranton Office app. Might rub some the wrong way, but anything that allows you to pursue your art/passion and experiment and mature on someone else’s dime seems worth exploring. That said, I think getting a license holder to see the viral advertising potential of your games would be contingent on a more polished graphical UI. Again, nothing that couldn’t be done on a modest budget.

  31. Dave says:

    If you think some tasteful graphics could help boost appeal, plenty of great-looking public domain historical images, art, engravings etc can be found free online or in cheap CDROM collections like from Dover Books. Spend a few hours sifting through the below, and I’ll bet you can have a historical piece like Vampire or Broadsides looking gorgeously illustrated in no time. And, more importantly, no money.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain_image_resources

  32. Erana says:

    @Jake
    That IS a good idea, granted that they could find people with popular IPs interested. Hell, a CoG writer could pull a Twilight out of their… hat, and get TONs of traffic from it. Seriously, just look at the reviews and downloads of the Twilight slider app on iPhone.
    Bioware, the people who made Dragon Age and Mass Effect seem like they’d have great synergy with CoG, too; CoG could write a “mobile” version, with some theme graphics in a sort of expanded universe.
    And what about various webseries and Internet what-nots? Perhaps ask people from That Guy with the Glasses to write their own Choicescript game? They seem to always be up to making crazy stories.
    Invitations to indie people on the Internet in general couldn’t hurt, indie adventure game programmers especially.

    Also, getting art wouldn’t necessarily take too much money. Find sites for graphic design students, and post a contest for drawing key scenes in your games. The reward, of course, would be their getting their art on your product. People can be very motivated by the, “hey, you win!” incentive.

    Also, how ’bout a logo? A good logo would work for merchandaising, if yall’re shying away from assigning yourselves to a specific visual style.
    You could even have joke shirts. Just write a viniette about the person wearing the article of clothing, perhaps with a few different themes to suit each game.
    And of course, give the reader options on how to react to the person wearing the shirt. Or perhaps just have options on how to react on the shirt. People like interactive clothes.

    I hate to say it, but I think Choice of Games needs something for fans to obsess over.

  33. John says:

    Count me as a vote for doing several at once. 1 and 4 sound like no-brainers, unless I’m missing something.

    Another type of ad you might do is an interstitial, say, between chapter breaks? It wouldn’t be *too* disruptive, and it’d probably get you a lot more revenue than a tiny banner ad.

    Option 5 seems like something that might work if the merch were cool enough. Possibly there could be a survey for favorite quote? (I’m partial to several from Choice of the Dragon, especially because they sound like Dan in my head.)

    Option 6 seems like a great way to implement that poll you did on what the next game should be. ‘Cause there’s what you personally want to write, and what your audience wants to be written, and also what the paying subset of your audience wants to be written.

    Options 7 and 8 seem like a tricky balancing act. Having periodic free content is great for drawing attention, and it’s not like people can’t play for free on the web (for the moment, anyway). But it is quite nice having the app on the mobile device, and that may be worth enough money to make periodic paid episodes worthwhile. (I’m unclear what the reaction would be toward occasionally making paid apps free, as a promotional gimmick.)

  34. Dhakaiya says:

    If CoG is converted to a pay-site, trust me, the first thing people will do is go to google and search for alternative websites with similar content….there may not be too many now, but in time one similar site that is free/cheaper will be all it takes to shift the consumer base in their favor.

    I noticed that you guys do not have any advertisements in your pages, may be you could allow advertisements (those loads of crap like Travian and Caesary ads), maybe we could live with those if we got these stuff for free.

  35. Joseph says:

    I personally wouldn’t mind paying for the odd iphone app. I find that it’s more fun and convenient than on the computer. And if Romance made that much more than Broadsides did from being charged, then I think paid iphone apps are the way to go. The iphone market is huge and is still ever-increasing. I reckon that this would be your best option. I way I found ChoiceOfGames was actually when I was searching through the most downloaded free apps in the “Role-Playing” category of the games section on the app store and I found “Choice of Dragon” was the most downloaded free app for that category in Australia.

    I didn’t actually purchase Romance on the iphone. I bought Vampire instead.

  36. Myth Thrazz says:

    I won’t be much help this time because I just want to ask the ChoiceOfGames group and the community about something.

    What about the games from the “Hosted Game Plan” that is “User-Contributed Games” ? How do you approach them? Do you play them? Do you like them? Are you willing to pay for them, too? Believe me or not, but the outside developers would like to earn something too, except of the fun and pleasure of creating.

    Anyway I’d like to know that whatever source(es) of revenue will be chosen, the “partners” wouldn’t be pushed away.

  37. I’m inclined to join those who object to number 8 for a couple of reasons, some of them personal, some of them business (although I suppose you could argue that the personal reasons of customers are business reasons for you guys anyway).

    Firstly, like a lot of people, I would feel very slightly annoyed at being asked to pay for part two of something when part one was free, if a lot of people feel the same, it could alienate a potential customer base.

    The second reason I think it might be a bad idea is that, looking at your work so far you … well … don’t have any sequels. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to go with a business model that relies on you producing content you don’t already have, rather than one which allows you to capitalize on things you’ve already got. The “charge for sequels” model also disincentivises you to make new titles, which again strikes me as counterproductive – will you be as inclined to make Choice of the Pirate if you know you won’t make any money until Choice of the Pirate 2?

  38. le blue dude says:

    Have you ever tried project wonderful? I hear they give a larger percentage of profits then google adsense, though they use a very different marketing style. People buy adspace from you, using project wonderful…

  39. Gary says:

    More merch advice: There are sites that let you personolize random things. Something fun you can do is get ChoiceOfGame printed flashdrive, load it up with all your games, plus a bonus game, and sell that for a small profit.
    You can also start a poll for the next game, but this time do it by amount donated instead of number of votes.

  40. Dhakaiya says:

    Although judging from the comments it seems that the number of people who are willing to pay are more, I still insist that it is a risky venture because only the more dedicated users are using the blog…most will not even bother and not even pay…it also has to be noted that everyone who has said that he/she will NOT PAY will certainly not pay but everyone who claims they are ready to pay may or may not do so.

  41. In terms of willingness to pay for games, I think people’s self-description is generally a bad way to go – better evidence comes from the experience CoG have actually had selling /Vampire/ and /Romance/ which seems – on the basis of this post – to be remarkably positive.

  42. bawpie says:

    Actually, I came onto this site to donate and couldn’t find any option to do so after playing choice of the dragon. I found you guys via android, and would happily pay £1-£2 for your android apps – possibly more for a longer game without a doubt.

    You should try and work in donate buttons on android marketplace for all your apps and maybe go with episodic content – provide the first chapter for free (but with the option to donate) and charge for subsequent episodes. I think this is an entirely fair way of doing things – if people don’t enjoy the first chapter then they’ve lost nothing, if they do then the least you can expect is some kind of fiscal reward for your work.

    I’m not sure if it’s possible on android or iphone markets to ‘gift’ applications to friends (like steam) – again if that were possibly there’s a few people I know I’d buy this stuff for.

    Anyway, keep up the good work – I’ve really enjoyed choice of the dragon and choice of broadsides and hope they’ll be continued at some point, I’d certainly pay to see that realised!

  43. Dominic says:

    Donations would not work together very well with mandatory payments, unless the (somewhat odd) current state is maintained, where the games have cost on one platform and are free on another.

  44. soleta says:

    You should also consider putting a donation button at the end of your current games, where it’ll get more traffic. It wouldn’t look out of place in the wrapup screens.

  45. Matt says:

    As a consumer I would, of course, dislike having to pay for products. But as a supporter of this website I think paying per download is the best way to go. A lot of the people here ‘say’ they wouldn’t pay for your games but a good portion of them will. Everyone has a psychological price point: a payment so small they don’t think too carefully about what they are buying. This is called a microtransaction and it’s how itunes and all that works. People will say “I won’t pay for this!” but when the $2 price tag is in front of them they start thinking “well that’s not a lot of money, I’ll just get a small coffee today instead” or something of the like.

    You may find this article interesting. http://www.yafla.com/dforbes/Revisiting_Micropayments/

  46. Xananax says:

    Here is what I think, I don’t know if it’s worth anything but I’ll say it anyway:
    1) I never pay for anything on the web, unless it’s really good. Your games are. But I would have never known before trying them. So whatever you do, please leave at least two games completely and totally free so people can actually experience their greatness.
    2) Paying for episode 2 would be horrible. I’ve just finished Choice of the Vampire (which is, by the way, the single most entertaining and compelling interactive narrative I’ve ever played, even though between Vampire and Romance I am having a hard time choosing), and if I had to pay for episode 2, which I am dying to read, I would probably feel cheated to the point of never coming back to the site again.

    The problem is, text-based games don’t get as much attention as graphical games. The percentage of players that are willing to try text-based games is relatively small. The percentage of players in that pool that are willing to pay is even smaller. That means that the number of players that can and will pay for your games AND that reach your website is extremely small, probably not enough to make a living (I might be extremely wrong, this is just a wild guess).

    So, my solution, for what it is worth:
    Create a website specialized in interactive stories; It would feature games from Choice Of Games, but also gather all the other games from other companies and individuals.
    This would create a reference website, like, for example, congregate, that would attract all interested players. Then you should be able to get enough visibility and coverage to generate revenue.
    the good side is, a server of that type should not cost much. You do not have graphics, heavy loading, etc. Shared hosting and a simple CMS-based system (drupal or anything) should be enough to get started.
    Dunnow, this is just off the top of my head but it seems to me it’s risk-free, as it would cost virtually nothing (I suppose, as you created a scripting language, that it should be fairly easy for you to set-up such a website).
    As much as my little free time allows it, I would be willing to provide assistance in case you need it.

  47. Joseph says:

    Actually, considering the number of comments here and on other posts, a donation button probably could work, given the audience you guys have accumulated.

  48. Everyone has a psychological price point: a payment so small they don’t think too carefully about what they are buying

    This is true, but I think it applies mostly to things which you aren’t used to getting for free, and it doesn’t take into account the fact that the act of paying for something is a hurdle in itself.

    The thing that would stop me paying for a game like this isn’t the *cost* so much as the hassle. It wouldn’t matter if they cost a penny, the faff of going to my wallet, getting out my debit card, and entering my details is more of a barrier than the actual money.

  49. Elizabeth says:

    Things I wouldn’t like (or that wouldn’t really get me to pay money/attention):

    1. Advertising. I use AdBlock on my browser, because most internet advertising is pretty obnoxious. If I want to see advertising, I’ll sign up to receive a catalog from a specific company I already like.

    2. Merchandising. I will not pay $20 for a t-shirt or a poster, even if I like you.

    3. Media. One of the things I love about these games is that they don’t have illustrations or sound or anything. It’s just high-quality writing and my imagination. It would be fine if you added a few pieces of concept art, but the meat of the game is in the choices and how they affect the story. I would pay more money for a longer and richer game, not for an illustrated one.

    4. Ransom. By the time you get enough money, I’ll probably have forgotten there’s a new game out.

    What I’d rather see:

    1. Donations. Make it mandatory for everyone to donate whatever sum that they can before they’re allowed to play the game. Some people will donate pennies, but I’m willing to bet that other people will dig deeper. After someone has donated, they’re allowed to replay the game as much as they like.

    2. Multiple play-through fees. I definitely would not pay for these before experiencing them myself. But when I like one of your games, I will play it over and over again– for me, one of the most satisfying aspects is finding all the other strategies and endings. I suggest charging $2 or $3 in exchange for the customer to be allowed to replay the game indefinitely. That way, the player can decide whether they like the game enough to buy it. And you would have a very good indicator of which games succeed well enough to hold the player’s attention for multiple playthroughs, which could help you when you’re developing new games.

  50. attie says:

    I had downloaded Dragon and Broadsides for iPhone some time back, and although I enjoyed them immensely I actually stopped playing them fairly quickly because they would suck my battery dry in no time. But yesterday when I found myself trapped underground with no reception and nothing better to do all evening, I played a lot, and despite having had a low battery from the start, it held out for several hours. So for me personally, I can say that the ads definitely detracted from the game experience, at least on this platform. Without ads, the game was fun enough to get me back here the next morning and buying both Romance and Vampire for the iPhone right away.

    Personally I find it totally reasonable to pay for not having ads plastered everywhere, but I also have to say that I would not have paid had I not played Broadsides for free before. Free sample marketing is the one form of advertising that has repeatedly worked on me. (Sometimes I rely on word-of-mouth, but not nearly as much.) Another thing that would probably work pretty well if you want to increase your audience is make games free for an initial 48h period, and then get that offer posted on BoingBoing and such. The limited time frame makes many people who aren’t that interested in the first place go “oh well I’ll get it just in case!”

    As for art, I would consider looking among your fanbase, there are usually some talented fanartists around. If they draw for their own enjoyment, they might be more amenable to deals such as “we’ll pay you if it works out” (I know I would, alas, I can’t draw.)

  51. bawpie says:

    I’m quite surprised at the amount of people who say they have really enjoyed your games but would point blank refuse to pay for the next installment of the series. If you’ve enjoyed something, why wouldn’t you pay to continue it?

    I think the idea of charging for multiple play throughs could work if it could be implemented – it’s a more sophisticated try as you buy approach than charging for chapter 2 I guess.

    I wonder if you’ve also looked at the Microsoft Indie Games channel for Xbox live – there was a text adventure on there a while back relating to Zombies which was actually very similar to a CYOA adventure game (I enjoyed it and paid for the full version – episode 1 was free and you got 2 or 3 more episodes after paying a small sum). I’m not sure how easy it would be to translate the code, and I think you do have to pay to get access to the necessary software/tools but if you were to charge a small amount of points to play it could be another avenue for generating income (although I think there’s more appeal playing your games on a smart phone than on my Xbox).

    I have to say I’m writing from the viewpoint as someone who has played your games via an Android device. I’m not sure I would pay to play via your website, but I would pay to do so on my phone as it’s a lot more convenient (and makes for a good timekiller on the commute to work).

    Also, as someone who is currently playing with your choicescript with a view to creating my own game – have you considered charging for access to the choicescript files? If you could include a more comprehensive manual, a few more examples of source code from your games and continue to offer support via the google group I wouldn’t be adverse to stumping up a $5-$10 fee. It’s worked for other interactive fiction creators (such as Adrift) to some extent.

  52. Gary says:

    Well bawpie, imagine you are in the middle of a night of passion, when your partner suddenly stops and says “that’ll be $2 to continue.” Same thing goes for multiple “playthroughs.” Now premium content is a little better “if you want me to do THAT you’ll have to do something for me. A donation is you giving a gift out of the goodness of your heart.
    Charging for the choicescript files is a bad idea (no analogy needed) because people creating games is already a source of income, or at least it will be once something is set up again, although the donation feature doesn’t really take into account which game is being donated to.
    This is probably a stupid questsion, but since its the individual and not the company that gets banned, have you considered just setting up a new account with one of the other admin, at least as a temporary income source until you come up with something better?

  53. Dhakaiya says:

    It’s just that consumers like are getting used to obtaining stuff for free- YouTube and sites with downloadable music have taken most consumers to a mind-set where they consider free-play for small games like these to be more of a right than a privilege, of course if the games were of a full novel size, people would be ready to pay- but for the size they currently are, most would not.

    Something that would irritate me but I’d still suggest as a fan of this site is that you could allow those irritating advertisements of Travian and stuff, and every 5-6 times we click next, an entire ad page would arrive and we click the ‘skip’ button to return where we were- the reason behind this is not only the generation of advertisement money but also allowing ad-free gameplay for subscribed members- first thing I would suggest is that you must add more games, the site is still much too small to become a pay-site.

  54. Xananax says:

    @bawpie:
    I am more than willing to reward people that make good things. I download tons of music for free, but the music I end up listening to and keep, I pay it even though I already have it. I’ve paid numerous times for video games, I even bought real DS games after finishing them on my illegal card (and ended up giving them to people, I do not care bout hard copies, it is just because I felt these people deserved my money). I’ve donated many times to open-source software, and so on…
    Thing is, I never pay BEFORE trying. If I land on a website that even hints that they are going to make me pay before I can use it, I just quit. It is not that I do not respect the position or not willing to pay, it is just that the web is so full of entertainment, and my leisure time is so scarce that I am not willing to spend the 1 additional minute to go through the process of paying, and I am not even talking about the problems that occur (card not processing, try another one plz) or questions that arise (is this website safe?). I just click “stumble” and go elsewhere.
    Believe me, I am very sensitive to the money problem on internet. I develop websites and web applications, and I am developing my first game and I of course intend and hope to make money out of it. But I deeply believe we have to find new business models, and that the old models are dead or dying. I find no point in reproducing the business model of hardware stuff, or tweak it a bit. I think one has to be more creative nowadays.
    Thing is, for MMORPGs, or even flash games, there are true and tried solutions, that are not applicable to text-based games.
    @Elizabeth:
    I stopped using adblockers a few months ago, when I realized that everything I love about the web (free stuff!) relies on ads that are thrown to your face. They are annoying, but they are, for now and for default of a better model, the glue that holds the free internet together. My humble advice to everyone out there is to disable your adblockers. Pop-ups are nasty, but embedded ads are a blessing.
    @choiceofgames:
    I think the sole fact that this post gets so many comments and so many different opinions is a very good sign. People DO care about you earning money and continuing to make great games, which is really cool.
    I hope you will share with your crowd any decision you make regarding this matter before implementing it, I am really curious.
    An idea for getting art for free: make a contest where the winners get featured on your front page for X days/weeks/months. If I have some time I could draw a scene from Vampire, it’s typically my type of mood.

  55. bawpie says:

    Interesting analogy Gary, but I don’t really buy it. If I’ve just spent 20 minutes really enjoying something created by someone else that they’ve obviously spent time and effort on, and I’m asked to pay a paltry $2 to continue the experience then I don’t have a problem with it. No one is forcing you to pay (which is why I’d steer away from mandatory donations) and it’s not like you don’t have an idea about what you’re paying for (with a free chapter). Look at Xbox live – I’ve lost count of the games I haven’t bought after trying the demo, but by the same token I’ve purchased a number of titles after trying the demos.

    Anyway, here’s an interesting post relating to Text Zedventure (the cyoa zombie game on xbox live indie games) sales data – http://www.crazyreyn.com/2010/07/text-zedventure-sales-data-may-and-june/ – like I mentioned before, I’m not sure if it’s possible to convert choicescript but it’s got to be worth a look.

  56. Kay says:

    I took the liberty of creating a facebook group for this site : I took the liberty of creating a facebook group for this site : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Choice-of-Games/145129485524321 Join and invite your friends! Also, could the boss people please send me a pic that they would like to have represent choice of games. Thank you.
    (Please delete the last 2 comments i made)

  57. TKXapathy says:

    I’m sure someone here has already suggested this, but why not make a novel sized game and sell it as one would sell a book? (In my opinion, it would be more appealing than the current games)

  58. Xananax says:

    @TKXapathy:
    I ain’t a professional of text-based games nor have I ever written one, so what I am going to say is based on guesses, but I think it makes sense:

    In order to write a very long game, they would have to make some money first. Writing a “novel sized game” is a huge amount of work. If you count that a normal (flat-narrative) book takes for a professional writer anywhere between a few months and a few years, add to that multiple choices (which basically means twice as much narrative, text, and characters, and that’s if the game is not complex), and the coding, and you get an idea of how much time the idea would require.
    A project this size has to be planned and people working on it have to be financed while working on it.
    So in order to do that, which is, I think, the ultimate goal of choice of games, or of any text-based game for that matter, they FIRST have to find a way to make money with what they currently have.
    Which is the problem at hand.

  59. CPFace says:

    I don’t think a novel-length multiple choice story is even desirable. I LIKE that the games on offer now can be played start to finish in a single sitting — it’s not as intimidating to go back and play through as a different kind of character or to try and reach a particular outcome. If a game like this took hours to play, it’d get kind of boring.

  60. Mallamun says:

    I don’t have time to read 100% of the comments, because I’m flying off to school, but here’s my 2 cents:

    1) DO NOT get an artist. Don’t start to betray your product in a desperate move to sell it.

    “You don’t have to draw the player character, just the static ones who are always the same.”

    The thing is, the “static” ones do NOT always stay the same; they are “recast” in the readers’ imaginations with every telling. Adding visuals would detract so much from the essential spirit of the games, and after all the time and money, I don’t think it would really revolutionize their sellability THAT much.

    2) I love the idea of having “paid user special content”, like extra vingettes and story options–maybe even a more insider peek at development.

    3) Keep doing advertising; no brainer. Regardless of what else you do. Also the donation button.

    4) I think the age of people paying for stuff on the internet is gone (and only briefly existed in a bubble of naivety). Especially going through an entire checkout process for something like $2. I know, it seems impossible that people are that miserly and lazy, but when it comes to internet money, that’s just how it is. Unfortunately, I think other solutions are necessary.

  61. James says:

    You definitely want to keep at least a couple of your best games free, so that potential players can check them out and see how great they are. Much as we’d all like to play all of your games for free forever, don’t be afraid to charge us for them.

    That said, Internet users tend to be pretty stingy–I’ll gladly surf the web, but asking me to pull out my credit card at all is a huge barrier to entry; even if you’re only charging $1, some large fraction of internet users will often just navigate away.

    iPhone users are different–they’re used to buying apps that cost a couple of dollars, and the process is more streamlined. I think iPhone users are a little nuts, but keep charging them as long as they’re willing to pay.

    On the web, I might try setting up a subscription model for donations; let committed readers sign up to contribute $1-5/month to be supporters of the site. This gives you steady, predictable income and frankly can be more profitable than single-shot donations or payments (because users pull out their credit card and complete a form only once, but you get money every month).
    Donor perks may include: game replays with all stats at maximum, ad-free environment, closed voting about future games or choices within games, save/restore functionality, etc. You may consider reserving some features in games for only subscribers (typing in custom character names, for instance).

    You’d still like to make some money from casual users; I think ads and merchandising are the traditional ways to do this. Certainly keep ads up on the site. Merchandising probably isn’t worth it for you yet, not until you have a large enough fanbase to support it. You can try selling games past the first two and see how many people bite–again, I’d guess not many, but it’s worth a try. My guess is that people would rather buy a full game up front than have a game that asks for money partway through. Charging for later episodes is probably more reasonable, since the early episodes are full games in their own right.

    If you want to sell CoG games as premium content in any way, I think you should seriously consider investing in art and web design. Having some custom artwork and improving the games’ presentation (it’s perfectly functional now, but it feels basic) will make your games feel slick and professional, which will make people feel like they’re worth paying for.
    I don’t know what CoG’s budget looks like; maybe it’s not practical to pay for art and design at the moment. I understand that your writers and programmers are part-time and I assume they’re working for little money but a share of the profits; I would certainly look for part-time art and web design on the same model before I paid full commission price.

  62. Kit Kat says:

    Well, I love your games. They are great.

    But honestly? They’re nowhere near enough playing time that I’d pay for them. They have amazing replay value, but nonetheless, I recently bought a game that was only five hours long. I was so mad. It had a great concept, a wonderfully executed fighting system, great bosses; but in the end, the main restriction on that game’s fun value was the short play-through time.

    If you could extend the length of your games to, say, twenty hours, I’d be willing to pay thirty or thirty-five bucks. That is, if the quality is kept up throughout.

    And that’s at the reading speed of the average person. I read at about one and a half to two times the rate of the average person, insofar as I can tell, and even faster if I’ve read something before. Yet I’d still be willing to pay $35 bucks for a game that could be only a ten hour long run-through. Normally, good-to-great conventional videogames are at least fifty or sixty hours’ worth of playtime. For example, a single Pokemon game from start to end-of-plot runs me about eighty hours.

    Of course, this is also the opinion of someone who’s always believed Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books should be longer than dictionaries. And I’m an avid reader and videogamer. The length of the game will directly affect your audience, of that I’m sure. Casual gamers (which should be noted are a growing market) are less likely to like a long game. But, for some reason, I feel that if you make Choice Of games longer you’d gain a cult following somewhat like the improbable yet very profitable fanbase of the Harvest Moon series.

    I could write more, but it looks like you’ve already got plenty of opinions to sift through. Good luck!

  63. Ammie says:

    Goodness, Kit Kat, 80 hours for the plot of Pokemon? I think it’s more accurate to say that the first playthrough lasts about 20-30 hours (assuming you’re only casually familiar with Pokemon and don’t screw around too much) until you’ve gone through all the plot-related material and a few extras, and then the customizing features of the game (the pokemon) suck you in for potentially hundreds of hours more. I think that’s a different matter than finishing the story in 80 hours.

    I do agree that the length is about right as it is. The appeal of CYOA doesn’t rely on the story alone. A lot of it comes from replay value. In that sense, if one playthrough were the length of a novel (especially since you can’t turn the page back with the way they’re currently written) it would be more daunting than entertaining.

    Regarding premium content, I think it’d be interesting to have these extra vignettes accessible through choices shown only to those who pay, or to expand upon reader-pleasing dimensions. For example, (SPOILERS FOR VAMPIRE, BROADSIDES)

    I was heartbroken to find that there was no option that would allow you to court Silas and have him live. I’m a sucker for tragedy and in a way I appreciate the sentiment, from an artistic standpoint, that the South is on the wrong side of the war in the course of history… and furthermore that life is dangerous and that you can’t just metagame it to perfection.

    Still, knowing that no choice could save him — I was heartbroken. I would have really been delighted if I had some tricky options to save him if I were a “premium” user.

    These dimensions have been shown to be important to people. There’s courting Villeneuve. A less subtle relationship was in such high demand that it was added to the game post-production. Or successfully getting a mate in Dragon!

    It doesn’t affect the main course of the story whether the game tells you that you had an erotic night with Villeneuve or not, but it’s a pleasant boost to the experience. (END SPOILERS)

    Of course, if such a thing were done, the premium choices that lead to such an event should be hidden like in Romance, not grayed like in Vampire. That way they’re pleasant gifts and not teasing bribes.

    Regarding earlier opinions in brief, I think more than two or three bits of concept art for a game would be tacky, ads in-between pages would be abhorrent, and it would help the internet market if there were a global method of quick transaction. (Paypal may come the closest.)

  64. Xananax says:

    @Kit Kat:
    It seems to me that you are preferring quantity over quality. I do not abide by that. I prefer by extremely, extremely, far an indie platformer that gives me five extremely well-thought levels over one with one hundred similar levels with meaningless upgrades as a poor way to extend play time. Of course, one hundred high-quality levels is even better, but it is rarely the case (bar the mario games and a few others). But that’s just me.
    @Ammie:
    Just a note about paypal: living in Lebanon, I can’t use paypal (apparently, we are a terrorist country and we do not deserve the services of paypal. Numerous petitions and emails from hundreds of people remain without any answer). Plus, paypal’s policies are more than suspicious, as is their political stances (far from me the idea of bashing a company in the comments on an totally unrelated blog, so if you want to know more please do the research yourself). So I am all for boycotting paypal. Once again, that’s just me.
    @moderators: if you consider the above comment harmful to your blog, feel free to delete it, I’d totally understand (but please consider solutions other than paypal!).

  65. Michael A. says:

    Regarding the Android market and its 24-hour return policy, I think you may overstate the problem a little. I suspect that anyone who would refund a $2 game simply because they managed to play through it in the first 24-hours isn’t the kind of person you can expect to pay for your game in either case. Ignore them. I would be very surprised if a major fraction of your customers would be that cheap.

  66. Dan Fabulich says:

    @Michael A. That’s pretty clearly not correct. Alter Ego is a fantastic multiple-choice game for iPhone and Android; it’s $5 for a “novel-length” game. On iPhone, it gets dozens of purchases a month, averaging $200/month in revenue. On Android, it gets only one or two purchases a month, worth less than $10/month, but gets downloaded for trial dozens of times a month, comparable to iPhone. The game is the same on both platforms. Either Android users are 10x stingier than iPhone users or the 24-hour trial has a big effect; I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

  67. Simon says:

    Dan, I think what might be contributing to poor sales on the Android platform is the process of payment. IPhone users have already given all of their payment information to a company they trust, apple. I’m not sure about the exact payment process on Android phones, but I think it’s a bit more complicated there and that is a huge psychological barrier.
    Hell, if app purchases were charged to my phone bill, I might just download the game you mentioned right now to give it a try.

  68. oecumenix says:

    Option 8 is definitely the route I would go down. Even with the existing games, I’m left wanting more. Mostly I think this is down to the excellent way your character is built up: having spent a lot of time developing them, it’s a wrench to abandon them just as things are starting to work out.

    Draw people in with a good first chapter, and I’m sure many of them will pay to play (say) a second and third.

    Regarding Android, I completely agree with Simon above. So many good apps are free, I have never paid for one. In fact, I don’t even know how! If I paid for a Choice game (or donated or whatever) I would probably want it to be on PC, where I can use something like Paypal with ease.

  69. Michael A. says:

    Hi Dan,

    Arguing a case without full access to numbers is probably a bad idea, but I note that there are many general factors that contribute to the difference of sales on Android vs iPhone. One is, as Simon points out, that purchasing anything on Android is simply a pain compared to doing the same on Android. This adds to the problem that a large number of users simply do not have access to paid apps in the system – either because they live in the wrong country or because the credit-card only approach of the market. Lastly, you need to keep in mind that despite the rapid growth of the Android platform, it will be a while yet before the number of Android devices equal the number of iPhone devices (at least a year, in my estimation). This all adds up – maybe not to a factor of 10x, but it will mean a significant difference. In general, the entire iTunes eco-system is built up to drive sales, because this is one place where Apple make their money. The Android Market is not.

    Speaking to the specific case of Alter Ego, there are probably a number of issues that contribute to “sink” the Android app in comparison to the iPhone app. Relatively poor reviews will contribute to lowering sales a lot – many users won’t consider a paid app with <4 stars. Pricing is also important – and $5 is (unfortunately) considered very steep on the Android platform – especially for a text-based game (Choice of the Gamer: Angry Birds for ~$2 or Alter Ego for $5?).

    More importantly, though, I'd NEVER put a paid game on the market without a free/lite/demo version. Android users expect to be able to demo a game, and when developers refuse to put a free version online, the 24-hour version inevitably will become your demo version. Most of those people who return the game within 24-hours = people who would not bother downloading the game without a return policy. These are not lost sales, I suspect, – they are people who would not even look at the game if they did not have the option to try-before-you-buy.

    Regarding your options:

    1. There are many other ad networks. than the one's you mentioned: MobClix, Greystripe, and Amobee – and I know I've forgotten one or two others. I would seriously consider MobClix as a viable alternative to Admob/Google in your situation. They pay comparable to Admob, and although they are slow with payouts and their SDK still needs a lot of improvement (it uses too many permissions), they do seem to try and be improving.

    4. Donations are really, really nice (it feels good to see people who enjoy one's games give something without expecting anything in return), but are not a viable way to generate revenue for small games from what I see. Your anecdote mirrors much my own experiences in scale.

    6. Only really useful if you have a hardcore group of fans – and it depends on that group of fans being large enough to sustain the business model, as well as your not disappointing them. Make one or two disappointing games, and you blow away preorder support.

    7. Sales are a good option, though not for online content. On Android, you need to work past the inherent weaknesses of the market for now, but long-term it will probably be comparable to iTunes in profitability, though you do need to be very aware of the differences between the two eco-systems.

    8. An excellent approach, IMO. I've considered doing something like this myself for a Vampire themed adventure/strategy game. It would seem to be a perfect fit for your kind of games

  70. Michael A. says:

    Typo: I of course meant that purchasing stuff on Android is a pain compared to iPhone. 🙂

  71. Chris Syn says:

    Dunno about the others, but I’m patiently waiting for a donation button. In my book your games are far above anything that came out this year, I’m looking forward to more!

  72. Just says:

    Just put up a donation button already! I can’t wait to make one.

  73. Xananax says:

    yeah me too, I would donate, if I can.

  74. Donald says:

    Speaking as someone who is working on a choicescript game, I would say that you should combine options 1 and 2. The advertising networks are still your best bet for making money, but you could also make an introductory page to your games that would host flash ads.

    Sponsorships would be a good idea, but it might be more hassle than you’d like to deal with, while donations are a less than reliable source of income. I know that I wouldn’t donate if you put up a button, not because you guys don’t deserve money, which you do, but because of my financial situation.

    Merchandising and ransoming aren’t particularly good ways to make money for the same reasons donations aren’t, while selling your games on the web would shrink your market vastly but also make you a lot more profit. Making games in a series would leave you a larger market than just selling your games online, but again, the market would be smaller than if you continued to rely on advertising.

    As for putting art into your games: it’s a lot of work for not that much benefit. A text-based adventure is great, because it allows the player to fill in the appearance of their characters and the world themselves. You really don’t need an artist for anything major, though it would be nice if the code supported images so people making their own games could put in images if they wanted to. But hiring an artist is rather unnecessary and would add cost where you wouldn’t need it.

  75. Gary says:

    I don’t know if their software allows for it, but could you sell on kindle/nook?

  76. Frank Wind says:

    This is my first comment on this side, but I have to say its really sad to hear that your games will cost money form now on. How ever having said that I have allready bought “choice of a vampire” and “choice of romance” I played trough the first part of the vampire, and now I eager to get my hands on the 2nd part, a question that forms in my head is thou. If you pay for the first part, will the 2nd part cost money aswel?

  77. ben says:

    I think you should offer the first part free. Leave it open for a possible sequel. If it is popular enough, you should write the part 2 and charge for that! I would buy part 2 of the dragon series for sure as I am sure many others would. But I think a free sample is the way to go. Also, you really need to get ratings and reviews on the games. I always check them out. I notice that the Vampire one and Romance one have no reviews or ratings yet

  78. I’d go with the episodic route – you could charge a small amount for each chapter after the first ‘demo’ one. It’d mean you could release more/faster, which is always good, and you could focus development on the most popular series.

    I think it’d also be a good idea to have a single ‘Choice’ app that has all the games in it, a bit like the Dc/Marvel Comic apps. That way you could sell extra chapters, higlight new releases and promote user-submitted games from one place.
    At the moment the only way I know a new game is available on the app store is because I came to this site.

  79. Vehka says:

    One interesting option is to use social micropayment systems like Flattr. It makes donating much easier for users. Unfortunately Flattr hasn’t yet caught on. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

  80. John says:

    “I think it’d also be a good idea to have a single ‘Choice’ app that has all the games in it, a bit like the Dc/Marvel Comic apps.”

    And it could be called the “Choice of Choice of Games Games App”!!!

  81. Michael A. says:

    Just an appendix to my comment about there being a lot of ad alternatives:

    http://moconews.net/article/419-beyond-admob-theres-plenty-more-mobile-ad-networks-to-go-around/

    Google Adsense/Admob are not the be-all and end-all of this business.

  82. alia says:

    Stop bitching about being banned on Google adsense and start making more games!!!

  83. Kate14 says:

    Weeeeell. When i saw the last two games cost money i thought. Merh, I can just play it on safari. Then i thought if i do not give the peoples money they might not write COTDragon 2. OHNOES. So i bought them. The vocabulary is way out of my league but I like pressing buttons.

  84. le blue dude says:

    Regardless of what you choose, donation is a good additional source of money. It might be pennies in the box, but it’s still pennies and every one counts.

    Also, offer subscriptions to a ‘special user’ catagory that lets people pay money for more say in what may come out, and access to advertless choicegame pages.

  85. CPFace says:

    I’d like to second the idea of Kindle/Nook as a market. I just bought a Kindle, and sure, I can play the games with the web browser, but the interface is kinda blah. I’d pay for a native version that I could play with wireless off. Dunno how difficult it’d be to port though.

  86. Kamer says:

    I seem to be having a technical issue. The newer choice of games for some reason automatically turn of my iPhone text notifier. I turn it back on, but it turns off every time I access the games (choice of vampire and romance). Is this an issue with your apps, or something to do with apple?

    I didn’t know where to post this, because you don’t exactly have a technical problems blog post (or at least not that I know of)

  87. Pnemonoultramicrosco says:

    Personally, I would go with options one to five. Combined you may be able to make enough. Six may work, Seven aswell. BUT whatever you do don’t do eight. Many people would feel cheated and may not come to see the next game. You would lose a majority of people. Either that or people would just play the first then just guess the rest or give up. Also lots would see that as a money-sucker technique and you would get the reputation of a money-sucking site causing other potential “victims” to avoid the site. Other micropayments could work. Or you could switch the entire system around and get people to pay for you to host their story cheaply. Just make sure its not too expensive and its a one time fee. I hope you don’t die out. I love CoG. Iv’e played every game gazillions of times. They inspire me. Unfortunately I’m broke and am not able to donate but if I could I would. If I was a millionaire I would donate $10,000 but I’m not. Well you get the gist.

  88. Tom says:

    1-5,7 i would suggest 6 but be very careful, only for new games, like that price or when the next episode comes out or 1-3 months?

  89. Isi says:

    Yikes. I just found out about this, and it sounds like a sticky situation. I do want to say that I will be very, very sad if you guys implement any kind of mandatory pay to play/continue playing/replay/whatever. It’s not just because the psychology of the internet that everything should be free that some people have been talking about (although I won’t deny this is a large part of it), but I have absolutely no way of paying for anything over the internet, even if I wanted to. And if a company proudly offering its product for free suddenly betrays me and starts charging, I’m not sure I would even want to.

  90. AlleyJack says:

    Here’s a variation on 8: Offer one or two of your games for free as trial or “goodwill” games, and then charge for all the rest. I personally would recommend offering at least two, because that gives customers a better idea of how consistent the quality of your product is (as opposed to offering one game; even if people like it, they make think that the quality is a one-off fluke and there’s no guarantee that the other games will be as good).

    I wouldn’t use your best games for the trial games, either — use good ones that showcase what kind of work you can do, definitely, but if you use the best, then people who played the trials and then paid for the rest will be disappointed that the paid-for games aren’t of the same quality. Whereas if you use good games for trials and save your best as paid-fors, you’re giving people a reason to opt in, and a good reason for already-paying users to recommend the paid service to their friends.

  91. Brett says:

    I think that if you guys went in and put together some longer games I would pay 2 dollars for them. I love the games, but I wouldn’t have really liked to pay 2 dollars for Choice of Broadsides. 99 cents would have been ok to me. I dunno, maybe I’m a cheapskate, because I really do love your games, I just don’t usually replay them too much, and I don’t like paying more than a buck when I’m only going to play it once.

    Just my 2 cents, though I hope you guys can figure out a way to make money, cause I really do love these games.

  92. Laytonia says:

    Although I am willing to pay (and I already did),I think option 8 (Episodic Contents) is a bad idea.

    There are indeed successful example of it like Surviving High School,but it already had a very large,established fanbase a few years ago with its previous apps,plus it had EA behind its back and it also had quite a bit of graphics,so it is still attractive to new customers.

    Your apps are extremely good in terms of text,but it is not very attractive at first glance,and what we have seen so far isn’t enough to lure us to pay for “next episodes” – especially that we don’t have a definite idea on when is new episodes coming out.

    I don’t really have any good idea on making money with your site,but in the meantime I suggest you tryout something like Project Wonderful,even just for the time being to get a little money here and there,then pick your new option you wanted.

  93. Laytonia says:

    Sorry for double posting,but I also suggest that you make a portal-app to these games – for example,you can make this portal app,let people play the free choices game in it,then make the other few paid one into In-App Purchase in the portal app. That would be much better than dragging all the Choice Ofs into a folder.

  94. Derk says:

    i like option numer 8. it makes the most sense since most ppl arent going to pay for an app that theyre not familiar with at first. (if i saw that broadsides or Dragon costed anything before i knew how awesome it was i never would have downloaded it. im not that risky of an app buyer) ppl will buy second installments. just make the free first app shorter

  95. Luke Hunter says:

    Sorry, i just wanted to make a suggestion again. Would be better if there was some kind of forum, so we could have a place to discuss this kind of thing, ask for updates, make suggestions etc etc. I wanted to ask if there has been any updates on games or something lately.

  96. Keiji says:

    I love the sound of option 6! I think it’d work great as you already have some quality games already. I only found the site a few hours ago and played through Choice of Romance once, but after just that I’d definitely donate $20 or so to a new game.

    Second choice would be to go with Project Wonderful – so far it’s the only advertising network that doesn’t annoy me, and because of the way it works there’s no problem with suspected fraud.

    I’m definitely *not* a fan of switching to Flash – Flash isn’t at all suitable for text-based things, and it could easily cause compatibility issues.

  97. Max says:

    I would personally like #1-5 all of them together would be good I just dont like 6-8 I can’t pay for stuff I have no money

  98. Michael Omer says:

    I found Choice of games through the echo bazaar blog a week ago. Since then I played three out of the four official games and enjoyed them immensly.
    I am also designing a web based game right now, and trying to think how to generate revenues. I attended a conference an year ago, in which someone said that you cannot generate real revenue from a game with just one way (say, advertising). You have to have at least two different incomes from your game. I have to say that for your game the primary way to earn should indeed be giving the first episode for free, and then selling the rest of the game. It sounds like the correct way to overcome the problem of the initial 5 minutes that someone has to play to fall in love with the game. I would definately pay 2$ to playe the rest of the game for each of the four that you have.

  99. Erana says:

    Why not do like the indie bundle thing, and have the games, “Pay what you will”?
    Can we get some kinda update? I feel a bit uneasy getting this news then the blog suddenly being so quiet.

  100. Dhakaiya says:

    Most important thing right now- we don’t even know if you guys are still here or not…so make a new game or at least post a blog entry just to show us guys that you are still here and do let us know what you have decided.

  101. Dan Fabulich says:

    We are alive! We’ve been busy with sekrit projects (and we hope to have something to announce very soon), but we’re definitely reading all the comments. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts!

  102. Vality says:

    Ah, I admittedly do not want to make a long rant about this but would strongly advise against the idea of simply selling new games, I admit to having brought both of your paid iPhone apps but shall emphasise this was in both case after playing them online and deciding I wanted to support them, not to mention play them on the train more easily. I do not think I would have made the same decision had I not played them online, anyway. Thankyou for reading my comments and good luck with future games.

  103. CPFace says:

    Sekrit projects, eh? Can we hope for a Choice of FLARP?

  104. CPFace says:

    Whoops, that wasn’t the reference I was thinking of. Sorry. 🙂

  105. Anonymous says:

    Option 7 seems like an excellent idea, and I have a suggestion on how to improve it. Several apps only allow access to their full content once the game has been fully purchased. If you did this with Choice of Games, you could make the apps have a 24 hour free trial, and once said trial runs out, the player is provided with the option of whether to buy the full game. This will hopefully prevent the people on Android Market from essentially playing the whole game for free.

  106. Ian Holmes says:

    I’ve been buying your games on iPhone/iPad. I much prefer playing them there, and they can be played when I’m offline. I would (and will) keep paying for them. If I could find the time I’d write one, but I can’t. If you can give me a clearer signal of how effective my donation will be in getting a particular game made, I’ll donate. (Your ransoming idea comes close to this, but I need Choice! Choice of the Donation!) I might donate anyway. I think the “TryWare” model (first episode free) sounds smart for the web, but you don’t even need that for me, I’ll pay for pretty much everything on iPhone at the current pricing ($2 for a game the scale & quality of Vampire). It’s worth it. Also, though I hate to say it, you should probably just do a ton of romance games. It’s an established genre (c.f. Japanese dating sims) with obvious appeal. I wouldn’t be that interested though, unless there were a bit more substance, but I suspect that’d get you great sales. So maybe I’m wrong, and you should just make games that I’d like… I hope so. I’m starved for them at the moment. Make more! Sorry about AdSense.

  107. Josh C says:

    I can understand how losing a primary income can cripple a business. I want to give my ideas on how you can use your options.
    I don’t think that alternative ad markets will be viable forever since antitrust laws only go so far, so option 1 should only be maintained as a secondary option, should you implement it.
    Using flash portals are quite brilliant as not only would you be using it to provide income, but also, the technology could be adapted to expand upon the Choicescript. It could add to the atmosphere by adding the ability to include still images into the text. (Examples include a Caligraphic or otherwise artistic letter at the start of a new chapter to draw upon a given feeling of time or place, or perhaps a simple sketch of a room to reinforce the writing-the big issue is that too much detail would draw away from the writing)
    I don’t think merchandising works on account that trinkets aren’t necessarily the biggest draw of dollars, since you have to mark up beyond manufacturing costs to generate sufficient revenue.
    Selling apps works good for mobile phones, but on the internet where almost everything seems free, I think that it’d be harder to get a significant portion of the audience to swallow. I suggest only selling onto mobile platforms.
    For making games in series, I’m heavilly against it, as for people who feel unable or unwilling to pay a, in reality, a modest price, this is equivalent to being invited to join you for a magnificent dinner, but then be told that they have to pay for the main course. It’s important to stress that everyone on the internet expresses a need to get everything for free. (I was gonna present testimony from Pandora’s FAQ on why they were “forced” to provide free ad-supported listening, but I can’t find the exact paragraph so instead I point out how other music services like Moontaxi which required monthly fees have mostly disappeared).
    While tracking down individual sponsors is both more lucrative and harder to do without a dedicated marketeer, I would like to point out that you forgot about non-traditional advertisements. You are a young gaming company, and the games themselves can be an advertisement. An excellent example is for you to partner with a local restaurant in your area, and you make a mystery-along the lines of “Popcorn, Soda … Murder?”, with the setting be the restaurant in question. They give you money based on click traffic to their site(say, $.25/click), and a much smaller amount based on traffic to the game itself($.0005/viewing, since there’s bound to be a ton of traffic as the company matures), and they have a mention of your game in their menu at the physical place, because they’re proud to be big enough to be in a game. Such a symbiotic relationship could potentially boost attendance to both the site AND the restaurant, so everybody makes money. Repeat with several local businesses, and you could start going up to larger businesses for more money once you have experience with this type of marketing. The big thing to this is to never compromise the quality of the game since it would speak about both you and the advertised company; and to never forget that it is a game, not some print ad. There are other companies that only make games by contract for others for this manner, but in your case, the finances will go right into development of more independant games.

  108. neil mccollam says:

    JUst wanted to drop a line and say how much I love this vampire story…ur writing is fascinating and brilliant, reminds me so much of anne rice…its stellar that you keep the characters rich and open and not limiting ur vampires to heterosexuality…I cannot wait until 2nd installment! Keep up the splendid story telling…BRavo..

  109. Moon Stone says:

    I really enjoy the games on this website, the focus on story and meaningful choices I prefer in the games that I play (fable 3 is one i plan on picking up soon just for those reasons).

    However as they stand, I would not pay any significant amount money for them (were talking probibly anything over 50 cents). The best reason that i can think of, is that there are far to many free alternatives. I usually spend a lot of time on newgrounds and play the frontpage games there.

  110. Supersnail200 says:

    Kongregate, if you use the API and only put it on your site and theirs, pays 50% of ad revenue. I have 11$ since April and my games suck. Think of what you can get!

  111. Suggestion says:

    Have you attempted to become a game on Facebook. I know people that try out every game out there

  112. Trice says:

    By the way people can play your games if the go on the Internet on there iPhone or itouch like choice of romance I played that for free on my itouch(after reading your blogs I feel bad about Now)

  113. Comment says:

    First, if adsense is person based, then what about the other co-founder(s)? And given that you offer games developed by third party free on the app store selling apps makes sense. Especially with promotions that get such an app noticed (I found you when the nightmare maze made it into some of the top puzzle games) and if JavaScript works well for this use I would like to point out two things: iPhone/pod users would be forced to buy the app without a flash player and it may slow down the game.

  114. Carradee says:

    Project Wonderful tip: their support team told me that the square box is a popular size with advertisers.

    Please don’t use Flash! 🙁 My computer’s old with little RAM.

    (I just found y’all yesterday morning.)

  115. Jason Stevan Hill says:

    @Comment: The problem is, as soon as Google realizes that the same website has been wired up for AdSense, they will automatically ban the other co-founder(s) for life. Moreover, they freeze all debts and cancel any outstanding checks.

    At most, it would take them two months to figure out that someone else had signed up for AdSense using the same material. Based upon their pay schedule, the net result is that we would make nothing, and the co-founder would be banned FOR LIFE from AdSense and several of Google’s other advertising products.

  116. Calvin says:

    Personally it seems choice 8 would be the best choice. Once someone gets hooked on a game series that’s free, word of mouth will prompt those current users to want a sequel. And I’d pay anything for a sequel!

  117. Kevin says:

    I feel u should use ads in episode 1 of ur games and charge for later episodes. I have played enough games were I regret paying for them. I refuse to pay for a game before I play it but have no problem supporting a game I enjoy. I would pay a couple bucks for ur games. Seeing the numbers sounds like selling is the way to pay ur bills but u have to get ppl hooked by tryin free first.

  118. Kevin says:

    Btw plz dont use flash. Runs like crap on even a high end computer and should die in a fire

  119. Mitch Rayl says:

    Honestly i hate to pay for apps. But if i see that its worth it (like the idea of 1 part free others paid) i will get over my stinginess and buy the other parts. Also i dont care about the in-app ads. They don’t bother me. I only ask ONE thing. Make sequels, the games u have made are great and i would DEFINITELY buy them if u throw them on Itunes. Also have u guys though about putting ads on the sides and bottom of this site? Just an idea.

  120. josh m says:

    I think you should do #’s 3,4,5,6, and 8

  121. Anon says:

    Yeah…not number 8…I would buy your games but I’m broke at the moment.

    What about a combination of the above? Wouldn’t other advertisements plus optional Paypal buttons get you somewhere?

  122. Anon says:

    Or even better, options 1-5 with 6 as a back-up.

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