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?
I do have to say that it took me some poking about to find this site at first. This was exactly what I was looking for when I googled "online mystery game", but it was not to be found on the first 2 pages. I know that there is a 'sponsored link' now, but you might look into what you can do to get this page higher up on google results.