Monday, July 9, 2007

The longer I circle the drain, the more dizzy I get

Building a game system and interface that has been praised by just about everybody is one thing, but telling people it exists is another.

Once you have told them, will they pay for it? I have found that the answer is no. I would like to say that I just don't have a large enough audience. I think I can say that safely. We get about 1 subscribers or cash player for every 100 people who sign up. If I had 100,000 users that would be enough to pay for the servers every month but nobody here would be getting a salary still.

The ones who do pay should balance out the freeloaders, thats the hope anyway. It works for a lot of places. Why isn't it working for us?

Those other places are casual. You can load a web browser that remembers your login info and just play some brainless mouse clicker games. Then wander off... Skill City requires more input, it's a dedicated "Im going to sit down and play" activity. It's breaking the casual game mold.

As my friend just put it: Asking people to play a progressive tournament on your site for money requires them to enter their billing info and deposit money first. Its a long process. I might as well be saying to them "Just go to DOS and configure IPX/SPX and then we can play some DOOM!"

He is right. Our conversion from download to account creation went up when we stripped every field off the registration screen and just had it ask for username and password. If only we could do the same with cash games. Sadly the mark of the beast hasn't been implanted on every human yet, and you cant just wave your hand in front of the computer screen and have it debit your bank account. We still require typing, and the entry of a 16 digit number off the back of a plastic card.

What Skill City needs is revenue so that we can continue to build more games, to eventually offer the huge citadel of puzzle games that one can get from sites like Pogo and MiniClip. That should get people more motivated to either subscribe to that service, or to put in cash to play tournaments when they easily have an opponent waiting for them.

We built a space in to Skill City for advertising, because I knew someday we would use it. Now I need to figure out where the people who buy ads for that space are located, so that I can call them up and ask them to buy it. I wanted to run Skill City pure and clean, unsoiled by garish advertisements, but that's not gonna happen.

People actually turn off ads on sites, or complain about them, and then use that site anyway. They don't get that without that ad the site they like wouldn't exist.

My hopeful optimism is fading of late, and its getting hard to write perky blog entries where my eyes glitter with visions of a grand future. I feel like the architect who has built a utopia, and now sits alone in it. I am not giving up hope, and I am not saying that we are done. There is no towel to be thrown in, I sold it for grocery money.


James said...

Two things to note:

1. You are right about downloads. People fear spyware a lot these days. Are there any sites out there that classify software as spyware free?


I know you were talking about adding paypal support in, but this really is a must. So many people use it on eBay, and feel happy with making payments to unknown people through it.

Set this up and you will get more subscribers!

James said...

This is AtomicEdge by the way, I dont know why that it shows my real name.

White Tree Games said...

Hi Nathan,
Don't get too dejected, I know you might think this is going over to the darkside a little, but have you thought about producing downloadable "cutdown" versions of some of your games, or maybe have some flash versions, anything to get you on some of the other portals (in one form or another) all of which can start to build up the Skill City brand.

Plus you might actually start to generate some revenue to help cover the costs.

It seems to me that you want to be your own portal, but only showcasing your own creations - you'll never compete with the big-boys until you've got as much content as they have. I think you really need to think about opening up your API to third parties, having people submit games (obviously via some kind of quality control system) and then use a 10% share of the pot in a progressive tourny as the developers cut.

Hang on a minute - that sounds like a viable business plan - D'oh, go on then you can have it (as payment for all your blog entries that I've read)