Dan Hoelck writes an interesting case study about his experiment in selling deluxe versions of games. He shares how he did it, his results, and his recommendations on what he would change if he had to do it all over again. This is a great read and I hope you enjoy it! -Ada
I’ve been interested in selling premium editions of flash games since I first played Fizzy’s Swords and Sandals- Gladiator. When I began development of my latest game, Drunken Masters, I knew from the start that I wanted to sell a “Deluxe” version of the game that offered a bit of additional content for fans. I sent out quite a few e-mails and spent a good bit of time searching online forums and articles, but couldn’t get any clear, helpful information about the potential of this model.
Hopefully this article will give you some insight into selling premium editions of your flash games. It’s important to note that I went into this blindly and the approach that I took was far from ideal. I’ve learned from these mistakes, and at the end of article, I’ll provide alternative methods and recommendations based on my experiences.
Part 1: Case Study
Initially, the only extra feature in the Deluxe Edition was a cheat system. I included cheat menus in the UI of the standard game, and when players clicked on these menu items, they’d be encouraged to visit my website and buy the Deluxe Edition to access the cheats. It wasn’t much, but I didn’t plan on charging much for it, either. Originally, the price was set at $1.00.
Near the last month of development, I was facing some serious deadlines, and had to cut a few unfinished features from the standard game. It was easy making the cuts, because I figured that I could always finish them and stick them in the Deluxe Version later on. To give myself some time for this, and some time to set up an automated payment system on my website, I scheduled the Deluxe Edition release twenty five days after the free version was released. Any purchases made in the meantime would count as “Pre-Orders”.
When Drunken Masters was released, I had a very simple system set up to handle orders. Customers clicked the “Pre-Order Now” button on my website, their $1.00 was transferred to me via PayPal, and I put the payment notification e-mail in a separate folder so that I could e-mail the game to the customer when it was ready.
The first major problem I ran into was PayPal’s transaction fee. I hadn’t even thought about it, but in addition to the small percentage that PayPal takes from each transfer, there is a flat fee of $0.30 per transaction. At the $1.00 price, I was losing about 32% of each sale to transaction fees. By the third day, I raised the price to $1.50 to offset the charges, but PayPal’s still taking $0.35 to $0.36 from each sale.
When the free version of Drunken Masters was released, the Deluxe Edition wasn’t finished. I posted the release date on my website, and encouraged visitors to pre-order their copy of the game.
The number of sales per 100,000 plays was noticeably higher after the game was available for immediate download. From March 5th to March 29th, there were an average of about 6.5 sales per 100,000 plays. From March 30th on, the average has been approximately 10 sales per 100,000 plays.
After the Deluxe Edition was released, I finally built an automated subscription system so that customers could login to my site and download the game as soon as their PayPal transaction was complete. For the 300 or so pre-orders, I manually added user accounts and e-mailed the login information to the people who had pre-ordered. That was about four hours of ridiculously tedious data-entry.
I’m a complete novice when it comes to setting up anything web-related, so putting the automated delivery together was a challenge. Now that it’s in place, however, there’s no maintenance required, and it’s very effective.
Was it worth it?
I’d estimate that I spent around thirty hours putting together the extra features for the Deluxe Edition. In addition to the cheats, the Deluxe Edition also included a sandbox feature, in which users could play with the global settings of the game, three storylines for each playable character, a custom drink creation feature, and three additional bonus rounds.
Building the website with Joomla took around five hours, and implementing the various Joomla extensions that made up the automated subscription system took another five hours.
Not counting the time spent dealing with the delivery of pre-orders, the Deluxe Edition and website took me around forty hours. To date, I’ve sold nearly four hundred copies of the Deluxe Edition and taken in around $470. It’s better than minimum wage, but not nearly as much as the revenue from the sponsorship or from the advertising.
Read on to the next page for my recommendations and thoughts on if I had to do it again.