Official Forumwarz Blog

The official blog for the web game, Forumwarz

Different Business Models

Over the last few weeks I’ve received a couple of angry emails.

Here’s a sample:

“I have to PAY to play the next episode?

No Thanks. No Thanks.

I’m not going to tell you guys you suck now or anything, I understand, you need money to do what you gotta do… But I think you went about it the wrong way, and you aren’t getting my money.

It’s not even entirely because I’m not convinced episode 2 isn’t worth money. It’s because I feel like I’ve been hijacked.

Kingdom of Loathing is the only other online web based rpg I play, and they’ve probably got 50 bucks out of me over the course of my playing, why? because they didn’t create necessary plot content and then force me to pay for it. They just have cool things that are optional to pay for. I’m down with that.”

Kingdom of Loathing

I get asked about Kingdom of Loathing (KoL) with some regularity: Have I ever played it? What do I think of it?

The truth is I have played it, but only for a short period of time. I thought it was really cool, and I was impressed with the depth it has. It’s amazing how much there is to do in there.

Forumwarz has a lot in common with KoL. They’re both browser-based role playing games. They both are parodies of the genre. While it can be said that they are our “competition,” I never think of them like that.

When Jick and Mr. Skullhead created KoL, they paved the way for games like Forumwarz and we’re grateful to them. And while KoL wasn’t in my mind during the design stages of Forumwarz (the games I was influenced by were Jones in the Fast Lane, Superhero League of Hoboken and World of Warcraft. Jalapeno was influenced by Shadowrun and the Monkey Island series), we certainly took KoL into consideration when trying to figure out a sustainable business model.

I think that having another parody browser-based RPG does something to legitimize the market. There’s no reason why players can’t play both. Or one might appeal to a certain kind of players while the other appeals to another. Additionally, we can look to each other for inspiration or ideas. I’ve corresponded with Jick a few times — he’s a really nice guy. He plays Forumwarz and even bought Episode 2!

I’m not out to steal players from KoL or “best” the game on any level. I’m out to create the best game I possibly can, and I’m sure they are too.

Business Philosophies

Every time I have received an email like the one at the top of this post, it has been from a KoL player. They are the ones who object the most to us charging for content.

I think I understand why. In the KoL world, things are not done that way. Longtime players of that game have accepted this as a basic truth, and it almost seems to offend them that anyone would even consider doing something different. This is what we have to deal with when entering the market years later.

If anyone feels “hijacked”, I’m terribly sorry, but it has always been our plan to charge for Episode 2. We’ve been talking about it publicly since February. There have been countless threads on Flamebate and blog postings about it. I really think the people who have taken the most offense are those who just assumed we’d do things exactly like KoL.

The Forumwarz business model is different. Note that I’m not saying “better” here, just different. We are more like the shareware model of games, where you play the first episode free, then pay if you enjoyed it and want to continue playing. Really what we’re doing is nothing new, it’s just being applied to a new medium.

Is our method a mistake, like the person’s email says? So far, I’m delighted to say things are going great. It is far too early to make long-term predictions since the new episode hasn’t even been out a week, but the future looks bright at this point.

We are experimenting here. If it continues to succeed we will keep it up. If it fails, we will look into other methods of sustainability. I don’t want to put words into the KoL’s team mouth, because maybe they’ve decided to never, ever charge for content, but I’m sure they’re at least observing how this is going to pan out for us. This is the way businesses function: they try new things, see how the market reacts to it, then adjust based on their reactions.

Ultimately, I’ve always said that it’s your money to spend as you choose. We are delivering a product that I think is worth $9.99. If you don’t think it’s worth it, that’s cool. Plenty of other people do. Also, there are other games you can choose to play instead that have different business models. No matter what happens, as a consumer you’re going to have some awesome games around to play.

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Written by eviltrout

October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

Posted in Episode 2, Home, News

Tagged with , ,

26 Responses

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  1. Don’t let these children get you down Evil Trout.

    was

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  2. It’s not just a problem of having to pay, it’s a problem of HOW to pay. You only accept PayPal – why not also take money orders like KoL? I don’t have a credit card nor do I have a PayPal account. So I have no way of paying for Episode 2. I will pay for it, but it has to be through some other means.

    Techokami

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  3. @Techokami Money orders eh? I didn’t even think of accepting those. I’ll look into it.

    Evil Trout

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  4. One of the reasons many KoL players complain about the price is because most of them are still young, hence why you get IP banned if you post several images of pancakes on the KoL forums. (It doesn’t make sense, but it happened to me.)

    Nicco

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  5. forumwarz is just like any other shareware game. Shareware is a fine business model.
    You get the first episode/chapter free, then pay for the rest.

    It’s annoying, granted. But it works.

    PS i’m pretty sure the only people complaining are spoiled kids. let’s make "hurr durr i don’t want to pay for internet game when i can pirate everything else for free" posts bannable.

    TUBSWEETIE

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  6. @tubs

    Dude, much respect, but I dig the free flow of idea on the forums. Yeah, even the terrible ones.

    @ET

    I hope it has gone really well for y’all, I have spent as much for far less fun and content many times. Your game is way better than anything on XBLA for a comparable price. In fact, it tops many things that cost far more.

    @cheapskates, How long does it take to earn $10? I’m pretty sure I could get it in a week when I was 8. I know the paypal thing can be tricky for people whose parents object to the game, but visa giftcards are a slightly pricier workaround.

    @all
    I understand that we are accustomed to fun being free lately, but I believe in rewarding content creators. This is particularly true when we can reward those creators directly, without paying for the overhead of publishers and their legal teams. A business model in which creators self-publish GREAT content deserve our dollars and, more importantly, our respect.

    -Mark

    markchd

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  7. Meh, if the KoL folks want to throw money at something optional, you could always write up a BP store that sells complete moar files, or equipment your class can use but not buy, or equipment that unbalances the competitive aspects of the game at the price of putting people in a cheater/donator bracket (though this latter would probably see lots of resistance from all fronts).

    Regarding pay-to-play story, well, nothing against KoL but I think the FW story arc is a bit more interactive and interesting (you know, having actual choices in lieu of purely "ok first I click here, then I click here, then I go there" in order to complete the story…)

    tl;dr:
    There’s good reason to try out this particular model and there is still plenty with which the CZ crew can experiment to monetize things and still make whiny bitches happy.

    DOPE-HARDCORE-0

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  8. That’s cool if Forumwarz wants to follow a shareware model. But that means that I didn’t just buy Episode 2, but I bought the rest of the game, right? Because like Tubsweetie stated, the Shareware model is to put out an introductory piece of the software for free, then let the player pay for the rest of the game if he/she likes it. I’ve not finished it yet, but I’m assuming Episode 2 is not the rest of the game.

    Papa Zito

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  9. @Papa Zito: If Ep3 is as big as Ep2, then it’d be akin to buying the whole game when you get Ep2, and buying an expansion pack when you get Ep3.

    Wow, I not only should be on the design team, I should be on the marketing team.

    ET: Honorary CZ membership now?

    DOPE-HARDCORE-0

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  10. I have a hard time buying that argument, Dope. There is a precedent for buying expansion packs in a Shareware model, but expansion packs are typically small add-ons that go for a fraction of the main software’s price. If Ep3 is as big as Ep2, then it wouldn’t be an expansion pack.

    What I’m getting at is that the Shareware concept basically fails online because the product is far more fluid than in traditional software. I can download a shareware copy of Winzip and get certain core functionality, then buy the rest of the functionality if I choose to. If a major change (e.g. Episode 3) were to happen, they’d just release a new version of the software.

    I guess what I’d personally like to see is the business model be put on the site and displayed to users when they sign up and in the FAQ so that there aren’t any misconceptions. Saying the game is free isn’t really true since you have to pay to continue to play. Saying it’s Shareware isn’t really true either because it doesn’t follow that model. Saying "we give you the first episode free, but every episode afterward must be purchased" would be much more clear.

    Disclaimer: I’m an old-school KoL player, and I’ve donated there. But I have also paid for episode 2, and I would pay for episode 3. I have absolutely nothing against the business model that CZ has adopted, I just don’t understand why it’s not spelled out.

    Papa Zito

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  11. My guess: because it’s an experiment to the tune of "how do we best monetize this game while pissing off the smallest number of people?"

    anoyfag

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  12. I have paid alot on kol for additional content. It is not mandatory but I’d feel that I’d be missing out without it. I look at it just like this. I didn’t need to buy episode 2 for any reason, and could have enjoyed a bunch of new content for free if I hadn’t.. but I did pay for some additional content and I’m happy with what I got.

    Wylin

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  13. You know what? If this kind of FUCK YOU I WON’T PAY drama continues, you could set up a special method of getting free Brownie Points: Method F (for Free). Method F involves setting up an appointment with the ForumWarz staff. On the appointed date, the person who wants free Brownie Points signs a wavier and has unpleasant and embarrassing things done to him (and is instructed to do variously stupid and dangerous things) by the fine people of Crotch Zombie for an extended period of time. The signed agreement allows this all to be filmed and put online. At the end, the poor schmo gets what he deserves – a single brownie point. And also a special E-Peen. If he returns for more, his treatment will be worse than last time, and if he manages to get Episode 2 entirely using Brownie Points earned in this way, he’ll get a really special E-Peen.

    BiggerJ

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  14. One thing I’d like to point out is, compared to early KoL, Forumwarz has added a hell of a lot more content. Not just new forums, but things like incit, and some of the special episode two stuff. Also, donating the tenbux to forumwarz for episode 2 gets you waaaaay more than buying a Mr. A.

    Also, if you’re going to compare Forumwarz to shareware, it’s more like getting part one for free, and buying the sequels, I guess.

    As a black woman in a wheelchair

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  15. Oh, sorry for double posting, but you should also be aware that the vast majority of people posting in the whine thread on KoL don’t play or donate to that game, either.

    As a black woman in a wheelchair

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  16. I’d love to pay for EP2, but there should be more payment options. I use alertpay, and forumwarz doesn’t offer it as a form of payment…

    =)

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  17. Isn’t KOL the same game where there’s a new item every month you can buy for $10? A one-time fee for episode 2 is way cheaper than that, not that you really need to pay in either case. Both games have ways that you can get the paid content for free. Both games need and get revenue from players, so I just don’t see that there’s a big difference.

    hrm

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  18. I was happy to donate during Episode 1 to reward some guys that made a neat game. Donations happened to give BP, but that wasn’t the focus of my donation.
    I wasn’t stoked about paying for Episode 2. I’d already supported CZ by sending money when it wasn’t required. I can understand the business model, but the difference between accepting/rewarding donations and asking for payment is large in my mind. While I haven’t played KoL in years and didn’t send them money, they ride the line between paying for content and rewarding donations, and it seems to work well for them.

    Overall, I was satisfied with what I got for donating, but would have been greatly unsatisfied with Ep. 2 if I’d paid for it (thanks for free BP, flamebaters!). While I understand the episode being short, it didn’t live up to my expectations from what Crotch Zombie had said at the end of Episode 1. There is no multiclassing, and no real choice in the plot. You don’t get to pick sides at all. Alignment still serves no function as far as I can see.
    But that’s mostly design choices, and while I’m not pleased with them I can understand them. Far more serious is that ET chose to take a buggy game with terrible balance out of beta. I honestly can’t comprehend this decision. When Episode 2 came out, Internet Explorer users were locked out of the game and unable to advance…even some who hadn’t purchased Episode 2 yet. How was this not found in beta?
    At least that problem was worked around pretty quickly, unlike another game-breaking bug. Another player told me about how he hadn’t ever talked to DirtyCop in Episode 1, and his game was completely stuck at the start of Episode 2. This issue was fixed for new players to the game, but not old members. I was also told that this issue WAS found in beta, but Evil Trout chose to release the game without properly fixing it.
    As for balance, every class with the probable exception of permanoob plays nearly identically at higher levels now. During Episode 2, there is little strategy to beating forums. What you do in combat matters far, far less than what level you are in comparison to the forum you’re attacking.

    So yeah, I’m disappointed with Episode 2. I feel like it wasn’t up to Episode 1′s standards and it lowered my opinion of the game and of Crotch Zombie as a company due to what looks like a horribly rushed release. I don’t expect much out of Episode 3 and I probably won’t be sending any donations OR payment in the future.

    S

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  19. One major difference between KoL and FW is the fact that KoL has a player economy and FW does not. So there are plenty of non-monetary ways for people to get Mr. Accessories beyond "community participation" essentially. In FW where there is no player economy allowing one to purchase BP non-monetarily. Were there to be a player economy that allowed people to purchase BP from other players in exchange for example .moar files for I imagine the people who don’t want to pay for Ep2 would be happier. Also, I loved Ep2 and pretty much all of the changes that came with it.

    Veistran

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  20. @S, I admit you have a lot of valid criticisms.

    I feel bad about not delivering on the hybrid classes. To be honest, it just slipped through the cracks — I totally forgot it was mentioned at the end of E1 and by the time I was reminded we were three weeks from launch and it was far too late. I promise we will deliver it when we can though, and it will almost certainly be free content.

    As for the alignment stuff, that didn’t quite work out as planned. Literally the first mission we wrote was the one in E2 that involved alignment, and it looked like we were going to do it more often, but we dropped the ball there, I admit it.

    Regarding the IE problems, would you believe there were 50 people involved in the Beta, and not a single one reported them? I work on a Mac and it’s incredibly hard to test using Internet Explorer, but it looks like just out of random chance none of our beta users used anything other than Firefox. This is reflected in our site stats: over 70% of our users use Firefox. Having said that, once the problems were isolated they were fixed very quickly. They lasted maybe two days?

    Secondly, the Drrtycop is even more of a rare issue: it is VERY difficult to beat Episode 1 without encountering her unless you really know what you are doing. I didn’t even know it was possible until months after we launched. It did come up in Beta, and we came up with a fix for existing users. That seemed like enough. After all, how else would we restructure Episode 2 to work without her? She’s pretty key to that opening sequence! Exactly one user has reported that being an issue, and they were promptly fixed.

    No matter how much QA you do, things will always slip through. We can’t catch everything: it’s much more important that we fix things quickly. You might think we rushed things, but trust me that the last week in the Beta, there were almost no issues reported.

    Regarding the "horrible" balance you mentioned: do you have any specifics? If things are out of whack we really need you players to let us know so we can fix them properly. Please report things, giving as much detail as possible.

    We’re doing our best here: we’re committed to making the game better constantly.

    -ET

    P.S. Why the anonymity?

    Evil Trout

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  21. Hey, just coming in to say I think you guys did a great job with episode 2. Haven’t beaten it yet because I’ve spent a lot of time dicking around farming forum for .moars, but what I’ve seen I really like.

    As for the :tenbux:, I cannot recall buying anything in an online game (barring a couple MMO subscriptions from way back (Pre-WoW)), but I rushed at the opportunity to buy ep. 2 preorder, and I think it was a great deal, although I probably wouldn’t pay 20$ for it. Yeah, having to go through paypal is shitty, so you guys should seriously try to get another way because a lot of people hate paypal.

    AxiomRed

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  22. As far as game balance issues ET the most obvious one is that flezz is going to be hyper-inflated with the amount coming into the game right now. If you are planning on allowing people to buy and sell .moar files you are going to have to make flezz more rare, and or initiate some more flezz sinks. Otherwise there are going to be a lot of .moar pieces going for as much or more than the most expensive pieces of equipment if people sell them at all. Its also rendered the "Lottery Winner" cheat kind of pointless since you can easily make more than that in one day’s deliveries.

    Veistran

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  23. There are only a few problems I’ve had with Episode 2. Overall I’ve greatly enjoyed Episode 2.

    One problem I’ve noticed is dealing with multiples of the same moar file. When selling in the ppwn shoppe, all of the character’s inventory is listed in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, this results in scattered items and having to scroll past healing items and unequipped equipment. It would be nice if items were first grouped by type and then ordered alphabetically. An item’s stats should also be visible when the mouse is hovered over the item’s image.

    Personally, I would like to see the plum computers play a larger role. Idea: Eliminate forum visit roll over and instead have the player’s equipped computer determine the number of visits. For example, the obsolete computer would generate one forum visit every six hours–and can save a total of four; the iPrune would generate one forum visit every three hours; etc. This allows the introduction of an array of electronic devices that would have unique characteristics when equipped. For example, a pPDA (Plum Portable Deskmop Accessory) could generate two visits an hour but could only hold a maximum of four visits. After four visits have been generated, the visits must be used. The pPDA’s battery will have been exhausted and would need to be recharged. It would then remain unusable for the rest of the day. To avoid abuse, unequipping one computer item results in the object being powered down and all generated/saved visits on that item are lost.

    SMM

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  24. Also lol @ KoL fantards

    srsly, Forumwarz is nothing like KoL. It’s an entirely different game. I’m sure episode two would have been free if they had gone with the ugly art style that KoL has. However, they went with a professional artist. This artist isn’t just scribbling stick figures on the back of a napkin during a lunch break from their job as cashier at Burger King. Which means FW doesn’t look like shit. Looking good comes at a price, that price is $10.

    SMM

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  25. I have a question, ET.

    How well did the economy of the game work before you introduced Episode 2? Were you selling enough Brownie Points to cover your costs and earn enough of a profit for it to be worth your while creating the game?

    There are plenty of people who pay $10 a month (or much more) to KoL without much of a benefit. In KoL, it’s often referred to as "donating" as the idea is that people are doing it to support the game rather than to "buy" more content – the items you get for your money aren’t particularly powerful and can’t be used in "Hardcore" (the most competitive form of play).

    Plenty of these players wouldn’t donate so much if they HAD to donate or if there was content that was locked away from non-donators. This is why the economy of KoL works so well the way it has been set up.

    If the economy of Forum Warz could never break even like this and could never work this way, then I see why you have to charge for Episode Two.

    If it could work that way, I would urge you to consider making the content free and allowing donation to the game to be optional. You might find that people are more inclined to put their hands in their pockets when you put less pressure on them to do so…

    Grayson81

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM

  26. I play both Forumwarz and KoL and enjoy both. It is important to consider that Forumwarz is much more image-heavy than KoL is, and as such requires more money for using them legally and for bandwidth costs. (Jick draws all of KoL’s images, so that’s less that Asymmetric would have to pay in royalty fees.)

    I have yet to buy Episode 2, but I perfectly understand the reason for charging and plan to pony up the $10 for it soon.

    maxvance

    October 21, 2008 at 4:46 PM


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