Speak Ill of No Man

“Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody”
– Benjamin Franklin

It’s funny how they tell you about Franklin’s inventions in the physics classes, but ignore his timeless lessons. Ten years ago name Benjamin Franklin was mostly “a scientist” for me. After reading books of different topics I’ve come to realize that Franklin left much else behind him besides inventions or politics. I’ve yet to read his autobiography, but will do as soon as I’ll find a copy.

Nevertheless, there’s a quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Speak ill of no man” that I’ve sort of taken as one of my personal guidelines. When practicing this guideline – saying nothing bad about others – I believe I’ve really enhanced my own life. This does not mean that I would blindly accept everything that others say or would always agree with others. This simply means that I won’t be saying “ill of no man” (nor woman). If I have something to criticize I can do that, without need to insult others. When there’s need to congratulate others, I do that.

I think there’s enough rants, complaints, people calling others “idiots”, insults in the world already. I don’t believe that much progress is made with angry insults or counter insults. They only generate tension and make people defensive. Instead, by showing good will towards others you’ll notice the others putting effort doing the same you as well. This kind of positive circle draws attention from negative insults (which has little or no productive value at all – at least nothing that couldn’t be done in other ways) and brings a new positive attitude that benefits everybody.

Use Newsletters to Bring Quality Traffic to Your Site

Newsletters are important. With the era of RSS feed I don’t believe newsletter to be as important as they used to be in the past, but they are still important. I have switched from self-done solution to Aweber and sent a newsletter to game producer subscribers.

The basic idea of newsletters is simple: you provide value and in exchange get value. The moment you stop giving value, people will start thinking whether to unsubscribe or stay on the list.

The main reason to use newsletters is to remind those who are really interested about your site or product. Since they’ve voluntarily subscribed to your newsletter in the first place, they naturally must have interest in your product or website.

Some time ago I exchanged couple of emails with one of the well-known SEO experts in the Internet, and mentioned that he could set up a newsletter. I told him that I would be interested to hear his offers now and then. He wasn’t planning to start one (at least for now). I was actually quite surprised that people who are doing such a great job in the Internet don’t have newsletters – they just use only RSS feeds. I think they are missing valuable marketing vehicle if they don’t use newsletters.

I haven’t sent newsletters frequently, but with this new system I’m most likely going to start sending more newsletters and providing more value to readers. The last newsletters contained various information about what has happened in gp within the last months, but in the future I’m going to give some special offers, articles, ebooks or any additional resources to make it really worth receiving.

There is probably one rule over all in newsletters: never give subscriber email addresses to anyone. You can rest assured that you’ll ruin your credibility in a heartbeat when it turns out that you’ve given confidential information to somebody else. I also wouldn’t try to force anybody to subscribe. I don’t like it when game portals force you to type email address in a field before you can download anything – and don’t even give an option to choose whether to subscribe or not. I believe I’ve given quite many asf@asdf.com entries in those boxes. Another bad way to do things is to have broken unsubscribe link. I’ve seen that in some companies and even had it in our system in the past (luckily friendly people told us about the problem and we fixed it). I really think you have to give people the right to choose whether to subscribe or not, and give them option to unsubscribe any time they want. Don’t even think about anything else.

Newsletters are inexpensive, and they can bring you traffic and remind people who were initially interested in your product. If you don’t already have a newsletter, go to Aweber and start yours today. The fees start from a few bucks depending how many subscribers you have, and how heavy newsletters you are going to send.

If you want to get an email when new sales stats or special deals are available for GameProducer.net, feel free to subscribe to GameProducer.net newsletter.

Fish There Where the Big Fish… Games Are

Put Big Fish Games to work for you

The world’s leading casual game portal Big Fish Games has launched a new affiliate program called the Principal Network Partner (or PNP) that can help you generate revenue. The system has been featured in major newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Business Wire, and basically let’s set up your website or “MyGameSpace” with reviews of games that you can share with friends. Whenever people purchase games through your system, you get your share. Here you can find detailed information and sign-up for the system.

There are some benefits that make this deal bit more interesting than you can usually expect to see from “typical affiliate programs”.

You benefit from the customer’s lifetime value

This is the thing that makes the whole system fundamentally different from any affiliate system I’ve seen. Since you benefit from the customer’s lifetime value (not just one purchase), but you’ll also benefit from any customer’s referrals. And their referrals and on an on. There should be up to 8-tiers (or levels) in this referral system.

Typically affiliate programs only help you once – if the customer you sent to buy something buys something in the future, normally you don’t benefit from the second or third sale. With Big Fish Games system it’s different: you benefit from every sale made by a referred customer.

For example, if you send somebody to purchase a game, and after a month he purchases another game (or 3rd game) – you earn bucks every time. The following image shows the benefit in graphical format.

How does the system work?

There are numerous ways to use the system. You can set up a “My Game Space” (my own example game space is here) where you can list games, change titles, review games and do other things like that. All works without you need to host (but you can if you want) your own system – you simply refer people to visit your game space and when people buy something (or refer friends who buy something), you earn money. You can also set up RSS feeds, iFrames and even build and customize full sites dedicated to the program. The system is extremely flexible.

Another good way – at least I think so – would be to make an offer for your existing customers. At the moment there is an offer: “2 free games just for signing up for the system”. This means you could send your newsletter subscribers an email telling them about your game space and letting them know how to get 2 free games. They let you use banners – like the one below – that you could show in your website or blog posts. Please note that this offer is (at the time of writing) is only good for PC versions of the five eligible games. They cannot be used for MAC versions.


mbfgads_300x250

How much money does it generate?

Well, I personally cannot tell if the system is good or not – since this is my first proper post where I promote the system and my few contacts have made just few dollars. The top earner has made $49.386.34 in the last months, and there’s several other in the range of $1,000 to $10,000 in the top 10 earners. I will report in the future more about my experiments on the system. I think the good thing is the affiliate structure – especially for those who get in the system early. Since Big Fish Games is selling games worth millions yearly, this affiliate system could generate true passive income in a long run if executed well. Even after a year – if you decide to stop using the system – your referred customers and their friends would bring you income. Naturally you would need to build your network fast in the beginning to make most of it.

Notice, you don’t make money when people join the system. People need to purchase (or refer friends that purchase) for you to generate income. Good news are that the more you expand your network, the more you and your referrals start generating income for you.

How to get started?

If you have made games (especially casual games) in the past, then introducing MyGameSpace to your existing customers is one way to leverage sales. I don’t think this system is beneficial for everybody, but for those who already have existing players (or are targeting to players) then getting started might be a good option. After you’ve signed up I recommend customizing your own game space and contacting your customers with the “free 2 games offer”. You can also send newsletters to your customers, set up banners, sites and make blog posts about the system to build your network.

I will report in the future how the system has started to work for me. This was the first post about the system and I will add some additional material to promote system in the nearly future.

The Next Billion-dollar Opportunity in Gaming

Billion-dollar opportunity: “Make good games and stop making crap”

GameSpot reported discussion that is taking place today at GDC. The “next big thing”, according to investors, was “the Internet”. They saw opportunities in casual games, digital distribution, and massively multiplayer games. Basically the investors were saying that there’s unexplored possibilities in gaming and Internet. I’d recommend checking out that GameSpot story for details.

What I think there was a particularly interesting statement after that article. One GameSpot member commented:

I have an idea for the next billion dollar opportunity……MAKE GOOD GAMES AND STOP MAKING CRAP!!!!!!!!!

I think this guy really hit the nail. No amount of technology can replace the key strength that must be done properly: the games must be worth playing.

What about Nintendo Wii?

While it’s true that the foundation must be “good games” I think there are billion-dollar opportunities out there – that would combine the technology and good games. For example, I think Wii game platform has tremendous possibilities to become THE console that’s found from everybody’s room. How? Well, I think the same way as PC casual games are coming extraordinarily popular: by giving indies tools to start making games for Wii. Casual games were not done by big companies. Casual games were first started by witty individuals, and now big companies are seeing the opportunities and jumping in the casual bandwagon. Those witty individuals that have made games 10 or 20 years already have laid the foundation for shareware games, that’s now being growing casual games business.

Secondly: Wii is great example of a gaming platform where people would enjoy playing casual games. Indies want to do casual games. If Nintendo counts 1+1 here, they’d see that it might make a lot more than 2.

And the next thing: Wii doesn’t require great graphics since the idea is to have fun games that benefit from the use of Wiimote – that’s exactly what indies can do. Indie games rely on innovation, not on fancy graphics.

Last point: budget. One-man studios (or teams with developers located globally) don’t require pouring millions and millions dollars in a lengthy development. Indies can create games with a shoestring budget, and when games are small the development cycle can be much shorter (especially when working full time) compared to AAA titles that might takes years to get finished.

Nintendo has a billion-dollar opportunity in their hands, and it is up to them if they want to take their cut from the growing casual game money pile. The problem is that they need to act fast. If they announce Wii development kit for the public after 2-3 years, somebody else will have used the opportunity. Somebody like Microsoft.

Microsoft Xbox and Casual games?

I personally think MicroSoft is taking a wise step (and has took for some years now), and has couple of good advantages that will give them advantage over other major players.

First of all, Microsoft has figured out that there are good casual games, and they are providing free or inexpensive tools for anybody to create games for Xbox. This will help more indies to support their system. See more information about XNA.

Secondly, they are cooperating with major players in the casual field: GarageGames. GG provides an engine that can help developers make games for PC and Xbox – and again this helps bringing more developers to make games for Xbox.

Xbox and PC have lots of similarities. I think this is a good advantage since now Microsoft can provide tools that can be used to make games for both PC and Xbox 360. Now those familiar with PC development won’t have a big barrier to make games also for Xbox.

When they put all things together, get critical mass doing games for them – Microsoft might have an advantage over other competitors. An advantage that’s tough to beat.

I’m quite confident we will see major players stepping in and bringing new possibilities that will change the market rules. Internet and digital distribution will play a role in this era, but so will casual games, indie developers and players.

Now we just need to wait to see when that happens.

Game Developers Conference 2007

GDC 2007 is held in this week (March 5-9), and since I’m not attending this year (“maybe next year as I keep saying”) it would be nice to hear news from people in there. Let our readers know if you are attending (feel free to comment this blog entry for that purpose if you want) and if you happen to make notes, feel free to share them too: throw a link to your own blog or tell here about your experiences here.

For those unaware about GDC I really recommend checking out the GDConf.com and reading what the event is all about. Basically it’s a (you might even say “the”) gaming industry event where game developers all around the world meet. Industry professionals are featured, and game developers get a good chance to network. GDC Highlights gives you a better picture what’s going on there.

P.S. Looking at the GDC pass prices I get the feeling that indies are really interested in the event. “Independent games summit expo pass” and “Independent Games Summit Classic Pass ” were the only passes that has been sold out at the time of writing…

Spend Time on Different Discussion Forums

Marketers don’t necessarily know what people want. Game developers don’t necessarily know what players want.

If you spend time on discussion forums, I’d suggest to spend your time on different forums. If you spend time only on programming forums, that’s probably what you will learn and means that you might miss opportunities. Some people spend time only on marketing forums and might end up being SEO marketers. Many programmers I know spend their time on IndieGamer.com or GameDev.net – but probably not in many other forums. While both of these sites provide good information, there’s no reason not to find other forums – even outside your expertise. The problem in sticking in just only on one forum (or one type of forum) is that it might limit your vision.

When you spend time on different discussion forums you start getting more perspective on what people need. Instead of being only at GameDev, one might start spending time on online marketing forums such as DigitalPoint. That way you will get fresh new ideas as you combine the best information from different resources. Internet marketers could spend time on sites where their real customers are. Game developers could also spend time on forums where players are – like at GameSpot.com – to find out what players are talking about and what they think about games.

Different forums will give you more perspective and fresh new ideas.

If you don’t know where to start looking for discussion forums, check out Big-boards.com. It’s a site that lists the largest message boards on the web.

Another Approach on MMO 2.0 – Outback Online Challenges Second Life

It didn’t take long for things to change after I wrote about Acclaim’s newest MMO project: that project will let anyone to sign-up to develop the game (although I don’t know how much contributions will make it to the actual game). Well, today I read about Outback Online, and I think we’ve now found what MMO 2.0 could mean: players getting more control over content. These guys are really making the development public: they will let players define the rules, the things to be done.

The Sydney Morning Herald covered an article about this project. Basically the developers are producing a virtual world using peer-to-peer computing rather than having centralized servers. P2P in massive multiplayer games isn’t technlogically new, but it hasn’t been much used in a larger scale. I’ve heard about some smaller projects that take advantage of P2P, but not any big ones. In Outback Online they seem to be using the technology to really take the next step in MMO genre.

Some quotes from the SMH’s article:

Outback Online is a virtual world system that will be on your computer 24/7, and we don’t yet know what changes that’s going to bring, but we’ve got an inkling that will be pretty profound,” Mr Leeb-du Toit says.

In the new world, an ‘outback’ is equivalent to Second Life’s islands – a hub for users.

It’s an environment in which one can talk, build and play. Yoick’s Phil Morle calls it “a huge box of Lego”. You can develop private outbacks for friends or a concert for 5000 visitors.

To me this sounds like combination of Digg, MySpace, or similar social sites and gaming – in a MMO play field. If these guys really successfully manage to handle this project, I think they’ve found a winner.

And they seem to be aiming high. Read how they commented the system compared to Second Life:

Second Life has 3.8 million subscribers in its thriving economy. But Yoick chief executive Randal Leeb-du Toit says Second Life is a village – and he’s nearly finished building Rome.

Unlimited, open scalable worlds – I think that sounds exactly what MMO games be in the future. I believe there’s probably lots of hype and lots of issues they need to handle. For example, technical problems need to be solved. What happens when P2P participants suddenly disconnect (in a really large scale)? What about security? Storing information? Viruses? Cheats? Then the business model: it’s not clear to me how these folks are going to monetize the system: will they charge fees from players? Will they have ads in the system? Will they license the engine/network/code/system? Will they do consultation? Will they write books? Will they sell the whole system to some big company after a successful launch? There’s also strategic risks involved: what if some big corporation has already been developing a similar system (or clones their system) and brings competing product in the market using a heavy promotion.

Nevertheless, I’m quite sure Outback Online or some other similar system will make their mark on defining the next generation massively multiplayer games.

For people interested in beta testing Outback Online, check out: outbackonline.com. I already signed up out of curiosity.

Virtual Villagers Casual Game Leads The Way

Virtual Villagers

Virtual Villagers is one of the hit games in the gaming portals at the moment. The game graphics are pretty good, the user interface is pretty good, and the game atmosphere is nice. The game mechanism is (technically speaking) simple: you drag & drop and click some buttons, and game continues. Behind the mechanism is hidden a huge database of elements: your villagers can do lots of different stuff, learn new things and so on. When I first tried the game I asked “where’s the actual game” – but I suppose that’s one of the key factors for people playing simulation games. To get to “play God” in games is pleasing in itself, even though there would be missions or even levels in the game. Lesson: having a really fun game is much more important than just having a really great graphics – at least for casual games.

Virtual Villagers – The Lost Children

What happens if you make a hit game? You naturally publish a sequel: the developers continued with Virtual Villagers – The Lost Children. Now they made another Virtual Villagers game, but this time with added elements that continue the epic story. If you try the second part of the game (that’s being sold at full price) you might see that the game mechanism is pretty much the same as in the first game, but they’ve added lots of new elements. This is exactly the way how brands can be used to leverage sales: when people are addicted to your product, you give them more to purchase.