Home > Game Development, Jointhesaga.com, OtherSpace > Thinking About: Being a little bit mercenary

Thinking About: Being a little bit mercenary

One thing that I’ve found rather intriguing about free-to-play web games like Mafia Wars, Farmville, and Castle Age: They’re all pretty shameless about looking for ways to get money from their players.

Even more intriguing: People seem more than willing to pay, even if it means that all they’re doing is paying to change numbers in a database faster than their friends.

And, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. If people think that’s important, more power to them!

I’ve tried a few different approaches to making games profitable at Jointhesaga.com during the past decade. They’ve worked with varying degrees of success:

* Chiaroscuro (2003-2009): People could acquire peasant characters for free, but paid as much as $100 to become nobility on the game. Short term, this earned a significant amount of money and paid the game’s marketing and server costs for a good while. Long term, it just wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, we dropped the price requirement on social status and went instead to the Chia Credit system. Contributions earned certain amounts of CCs, which could then be used to buy crafting minutes, property, custom weapons, and custom armor. This was a much more successful long-term system.

* Necromundus (2006-2010): Initially, we tried a subscription-based system, limiting some content to players who paid a monthly fee. We also included a Necro Credits system, based off the success of the Chia Credit system, which allowed for extra crafting minutes, property, and custom goodies. This combination actually saw some success, but I lacked the time to keep personally working on Necromundus due to the new job at Fallen Earth. So, it fell dormant.

* OtherSpace (1998-2010): It’s always been free to play, but we’ve asked for help from time to time. Just asking nicely works sometimes. Right now, we’re in the midst of our latest Olympic Fundraiser. When we first introduced badges for fundraising efforts, the contributions came a bit easier, because players enjoyed the recognition for their contributions. These gifts helped pay our marketing and server costs. Just having the game pay for itself makes me happy! However, over time, that novelty has diminished and the contributions dry up, no matter how nicely we ask. So, taking a page from Chiaroscuro and Necromundus, we’re now offering Saga Points in exchange for contributions. With Saga Points, players are going to have faster access to special crafting schematics, starships, customized alien races, and crafting minutes. The exchange rate: $1 per 100 Saga Points. (Saga Points are also going to be available to players who never give a dime to the game, but they will accrue via paychecks.)

I don’t feel the need to be quite as money hungry as the web games, but I do think there’s nothing wrong with wanting to receive enough compensation to make sure this hobby pays for itself. It costs hundreds of dollars each year to maintain the server. I’ve dug into my own pocket for gift certificates for special contests. And, finally, it does take a lot of time and energy for me to run and promote OtherSpace. There’s a value to those things that even I have dismissed in the past. I can’t afford to be so free with those anymore. It’s important that I be just a little bit mercenary. Long-term, it’s in the best interest of the game. When contributions roll in, I feel obligated to invest more of myself into the project. That’s an energy that keeps feeding on itself.

Interested in helping out? Contributions are welcome via PayPal to jointhesaga@gmail.com

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