A BROWSER MANIFESTO – PART 13
COME OUT OF THE CAVE, STEP INTO THE LIGHT
In The Republic, Plato uses the “Allegory of the Cave” to show how we can be deceived by forms and make the wrong assumptions about reality. Prisoners in the cave only see shadows and come to think of them as a reality that makes imprisonment tolerable. They could discover the truth and beauty of life if they would only just question their assumptions, work together to free themselves from their shackles and step outside into the light. Game developers today that have shackled themselves exclusively to any one platform are now in a similar cave.
Today’s biggest lament is app discovery, an issue heard most loudly and frequently about app stores now that there are hundreds of thousands of apps and the storefront screen can only give you brief listings of 5 or 10 of them at a time. It’s a valid concern. The stores are crowded with inventory and we can’t expect the customer to catch a particular fish by drinking an ocean through a straw. Viral techniques aren’t fixing the problem, either because the viral channels aren’t there, aren’t effective or the app requires a download that is inconvenient and requires ownership or membership of a particular platform. Making matters even more challenging, a reasonable methodology like Tapjoy was helping with both discovery and monetization on Facebook and Apple and got banned by both of them.
A game developer that depends on just one platform for all of its discovery is living in the past and relying on a distribution model over which they have neither control nor influence. Discovery business models are the solution. In the fundamental equation of Internet lift-to-drag, game developers need to keep effective CPA (eCPA) as low as possible by getting more free traffic, and need to dedicate themselves to optimizing retention and monetization rates to make lifetime customer value (LCV) as high as possible. When the rates are properly balanced, a game developer can use marketing acquisition to fund traffic at the nominal CPA. Free traffic that feeds off the CPA can then reduce eCPA such that a game is profitable more easily when LCV is greater than R&D + eCPA.
But too many developers are only on one platform and don’t get enough free traffic. Zynga got historic amounts of free traffic from Facebook in 2009 but those days are over even for Zynga. Mobile game developers are paying for the majority of their traffic because they aren’t in the browser where they could be using free viral and marketing methods to quadruple traffic for free.
But the companies that make standalone browser games are also paying for most of their traffic. This is because these game developers typically don’t have SNS experience, don’t want to use affiliate networks and don’t want to help competitors by doing cross-promotion.
Ladies and gentlemen, help each other and release your shackles!
At Digital Chocolate, we know that we cannot compete with the free traffic that Zynga can generate on Facebook. But Zynga lacks that advantage on other platforms. And when we compare ourselves against nearly all other competitors, we think we can gain an advantage by getting more than half of our traffic for free and having a much lower eCPA. We will use any method in the book to get traffic and we’ll even add some chapters to the book.
One big example is that we can allow a customer to try a free game in the convenience of the browser on a PC, but still be drive and enable them to play on other screens and devices as they prefer. A mobile game developer that has no browser version cannot do this.
An even bigger example is our willingness to collaborate with our Indie brethren to cross-promote and to lift ourselves as a group. While none of us can drive traffic like Apple, Google, Facebook or Zynga, any form of consortium in which we can help each other gives us scale that is comparable with the titans. We’re willing to do this between any two games with similar audiences, in the form of a link exchange of free trial offers on banner ads in the games. We’re also collaborating with our industry to create FreeGameLeaders.com, a cooperative game website that has its own traffic sources and operates as an even bigger link exchange. It’s a bit like the Yellow Pages except that it’s not owned by anyone with a profit motive. This kind of collaboration requires fairness, trust, openness, transparency and the recognition that we can all hang together or we can all hang separately. And it is set up as a collectively-owned non-profit to establish the right foundation for the future.
We want FreeGameLeaders.com to be the single most convenient way to try the best games of a certain type. This means instant free trials in the browser that don’t require plug-ins, installs, downloads or platform memberships. With a well-curated, merchandised and reviewed collection of the finest virtual goods games we can cross-promote well with each other and give the public consistently good experiences.
Together, we can all step out into the light and find a better reality.