Sunday, June 17, 2007

The wang has smacked us

I didn't want to talk about it until I had a few days to wrap my head around what had happened. It was all so much to handle. Now that the event is over, I'll relate the whole story to you here.

Since as long as I can remember I have been a Penny Arcade fan as are the two programmers here, Chris and Drew. Of course the artist, Jacob, had heard of them before in that he tries to keep in touch with anybody on the Internet that the art world talks about. Gabe's comic book style has evolved so much its awesome to just go back to the first comic and witness the start of it, like watching a galaxy form from cosmic dust and particles.

Naturally when we had started researching where to go for advertising I had gone to my old haunts: the web comics and the game blogs. It's probably no surprise that most people these days don't hear about a game from an advertisement, they hear about it from a friend. That friend most likely read about the game, or saw a trailer, on the Internet.

So I decided that web comics would be a good place to advertise and I hit up Penny Arcade for the ad. Their rate was double that of other sites, but their name is behind everything they promote. It's quite different from a normal banner ad in that they aren't just showing you an ad, they are showing you something they believe in. I couldn't afford to advertise there so I had to go out and raise the funds for a ten thousand dollar minimum campaign by cashing in one of my retirement funds.

If you are gonna start a company, and its something you believe strongly in, then I think its only natural to put your entire being behind it. Finances included.

I had a campaign running with Blind Ferret already, and it was doing pretty well, we had about 15 new accounts a day, but it wasn't enough to get us over that "I love your games, but there is never anybody online to play them with" sort of hump we were scrambling to climb.

Then the news came, Penny Arcade was going to review the site and get back to us with a decision on if they would allow to advertise. Shortly after that I got the email that they had decided not to, since we were "a casino." Needless to say my heart sank. I was extremely crushed getting that kind of news from a site I looked up to and respected so highly. I wrote back with a letter explaining we weren't a casino and basically overloaded them with links to videos of our games on YouTube, explanations of how our system works, and so on.

It worked. I got back an email that they would take a closer look, and that night I saw Tycho log on and try the games. The next day I got an email that they were still on the fence about it because of the cash tournament aspect, and when they are on the fence about something they chose to not advertise it. I cannot fault them for this, a personal policy like that makes decision making in a business much easier, and it's clearly working for them because they are quite successful.

Then came the news that made my heart stop, I think I literally had a little bit of a heart attack when Jeff (the advertising manager there) told me that Tycho going to mention us in the news.

We weren't going to get a banner ad up, but instead would get talked about on the most popular game related blog in the universe. I did a dance then in my office, with the door closed, so nobody could see what it looks like when a man having a heart attack does little happy dance. Its something you can't ever unsee, and it burns itself on to your retinas.

Wednesday the news went up. We went from having an average of 15 new accounts a day, to about 1000 in a 48 hour period. Let me just praise everybody here and the servers themselves for performing admirably. Even with all that traffic we never topped more than 5% utilization. Hooray for good compact design!

Anyway we now have a large user base and finding a match up has never been so easy.

Now we need to make sure we can carry that momentum. To do so we are adding progressive pot tournaments, that's where you pay something like 50 cents to enter a tournament with a prize that I start at 100 dollars. Every time you or somebody else enters, your entry fee gets added to the pot and it progresses. You can enter as many times as you want, and the tournament runs for a week. At the end of the week (or two days, or a month, whatever) the top 5 places get the pot split among them with the first place winner taking more than the second, the second taking more than the third, and so on. Games are played in single player mode so there is no waiting or issues with finding a match up.

Then about two weeks after we launch those, the next game will be ready for launch. Only subscribers get to play it for the first week, as a perk to thank them for subscribing... but then its open the public. We will pretty much just keep cranking out games every couple weeks from then on.

Yes, Tetris attack (aka Panel De Pon) is one of them.


James said...

Hi there, I found your site via the PA news post that Tycho made, and I signed up, subscribed and even brought $5 of credit to play with, and I love the game very much, I can't wait to play some new games, as the polish you put into them is really nice, and I like them a lot.

However, I am finding some problems getting multiplayer games. When I find someone to play, I get 5 or more games with them, but I have managed to get online and early (in the UK) and there is no-one else on the player list which is a little disconcerting.

Also, I seem to be the only person willing to pay for cash, which again is a little lame...

I hope that you manage to get an increased player group, and it may be interesting to hear some useage figures (if you are willing to share).

Anyway, I will keep the VIP there for as long as you keep making games. But one question, what are the VIP only benefits I get?

The Mayor said...

Right now VIP access consists of larger amounts of tokens than any other account. The VIP account was intended for cash players so that tokens would be trivial if you ever needed them.

In the near future we will be adding items to the avatar store for VIP only, and also adding game tournaments with larger prizes that only VIPs can access.

Its hard to justify being a VIP when there aren't that many people online to play with I know. We are growing though!

I'll give some figures in the next update!