Although I try to run Sleuth as professionally as I can, realistcally, it is more of a hobby than a business. Since I began offering subscriptions in April, it has made enough money to pay for it's recurring costs (advertising and hosting), with enough left over to occasionally invest in hardware upgrades.
So, the time I spend working on the game is donated, which is fine with me, since I enjoy offering this service and watching the community grow, and there is always a small chance that this will lead to something bigger.
Over the last few weeks, there have been a few interesting trends. One, rate of traffic increase, has sped up. We now are visited by around 200 new players a day, which is great, but it means there has been a cooresponding increase in my hosting charges since I'm now over my previous bandwidth limit.
At the same time, subscription levels have actually dropped significantly. I have no idea why that is happening, but it is noticeable.
Consequently, we're now in a place where Sleuth is actually losing money on a monthly basis. A situation I can't leave it in for more than a couple months.
So, I'm looking for ideas about how to bring in a little more cash:
1) Does anybody have any ideas as to why less people are choosing to subscribe to Sleuth, even as there are more players? This seems quite strange.
2) I'm thinking of carrying ads on Sleuth, at least for non-subscribed players. I can't just slap on Google ads because Sleuth requires a login, but there are other options I can look into. What is people's opinion on that?
3) Would anybody be interested in purchasing Sleuth merchandise (t-shirts, mousepads, etc) if I opened up a Cafe Press store?
4) Should I add further limits on non-subscribed players to encourage more of them to subscribe?
You can also do something with off peak hours with a cheaper subscription, and peak hours with a higher subscription fee. 24/7 with the highest subscription fee.
I'm pretty new to this game, and I must say that it's awesome and is run very well.
I was thinking that there seeem to be a lot of people that have been around for a while and if you want to look into merchandise, maybe you could try to do a presale with the people that are really wanting the merchandise. I don't really know much about that stuff, but it's an idea.
Or maybe somehow send a message to all players or even post something on the log-in page asking players to answer wether they would buy anything, for sure, maybe, or no. That could give you a good idea about how sales might go, at least to start off.
As for ads, great idea. easy way to bring in a little money. I'd support that idea.
Also, I would be willing to pay a bit more for the subscription. I think it's worth it.
1. Don't know.
2. Sure. I'd click them too!
3. I wouldn't but I'm sure others would!
4. Don't make them too hurt by being non-subs.
***5. Go ahead and raise it! Ben, you shouldn't be LOSING money on this!
1.) Don't know why there are fewer subscribers. When I first started playing I didn't want to subscribe because I thought it would be expensive. I didn't realize how cheap it was! If you continue to keep your subscription prices, low, I recommend you make subsciption information (price & benefits) more visible on the site.
2.) Ads would be fine, I don't mind as long as they aren't pop-ups. I'll click them for ya too.
3.) I might purchase a mouse pad, but I really like Elvenwonder's (?) idea about a dry erase board or pad of forms for note-taking use when solving cases. ('specially the dry-erase board idea--less paper waste)
4.) What got me addicted to this game as a non-subscriber was that I got a good feel for the game, because so many of the options are available to non-subscribers. I think that imposing further limits on non-subscribers might actually decrease your subscription rate.
Regarding what others have said here, I also would be willing to pay more for my subscription. Asking for donations is another good idea, I'm sure many people would be willing to give a few extra bucks (myself included).
I agree with everyone else. I'd still play and subscribe with the price increase.
1) No idea-people are probably attracted by the fact that you can still get most of the benefits. Maybe advertise more about what you can do on a subscription?
2) Ads are fine, but no pop ups.
3) I think its a great idea, but I don't think it will make a profit-people are generally suspicious of mail-order items, and there are only 4400 active players-not a huge target market.
4) Maybe add more privileges to us subscribers :) to encourage more to subscribe?
5) I'd be happy with a price increase, and as Orbitrux says, asking for donations couldn't hurt.
Maybe let people pay for experience points-say a dollar for a hundred? I am sure newbies would be attracted by this, because they want to get out of easy cases and do incredibly hard ones, get more good stuff from favours and get new skills. They probably find the first stages of the game somewhat boring after a while. However, it does seem like cheating, if it just comes down to players with more money having an advantage over others. Tell me what you think of this incredibly stupid idea. (I'm psychic! I have already anticipated the responses.)
Maybe 100 dollars per point?
Or 1 skill point per 2,500 points.
I agree with just about everything other folks esp. jstkdn says about different levels of subscription, and also limiting the free play to one month. charge a higher rate for folks who want to run agencies?
Donations would also work for me.
I would worry about your getting stuck with merchandise if it didn't sell - though I personally like the idea of Sleuth stuff (and tshirts would be a great form of advertising for the site - that might be cool).
Charging for avatars etc is fine. I'd pay not to have ads so that could be a level of subscription. But if you decide to go with ads for all, I can live with that too
Don't like the peak hour limits much since it would hurt folks who do hunts if they couldn't be on line at key times.
I must give credit where credit is due, Hak suggested the dry erase board. Also, on non subscribed players limit the equipment that is available to them, like nothing over 3+ for non-subscribed. The problem with limiting to a month non subscribed is could someone not just make a new player, especially if using public internet access? Peak vs non-peak hours would also be a problem since it is such an international community.
As far as incouraging subscriptions, I think the people who are subscribed might need to hype the benefits more, make comments on the newbie board about the benefits of agency life (since that is the biggest advantage). I also know you can currently stay in an agency even if your subscription expires, maybe give a three day warning and kick them out if they don't renew.
The only thing I would want is I don't think it would be right to be able to buy a competitive advantage other than subscribed. Just because someone can spend $20 a month should not make them get twice as many cases or favors as someone who only has the basic subscription. Make the perks such as an agency chat room, no ads, or something like that.
You could also limit the experience and reward for solving cases, no "little jobs" for factions etc. for non-subscribed members.