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.
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.