Musings about a subscription-based business model

Non-bug comments, suggestions, and feature requests for BRPG and/or BGE
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Musings about a subscription-based business model

Post by Shayd3000 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:54 pm

Edit: This topic was split from another thread.
heruca wrote:I wonder if Battlegrounds v2 would be better served by a (non-recurring) subscription model...Thoughts? Wouldn't it get wider adoption than BRPG if it had a lower initial cost, like say, $15/year for a GM Client, and $8/year for a Player Client?
I imagine opinions will vary widely on this one. The subscription based products usually go to the bottom of my list. I am less likely to subscribe - especially if I have to pay for GM client and floating licenses. I prefer to pay up front and own.

Another problem, subscribe (and not own application) makes not wanting to buy artpacks, because then you have something you may not be able to use in the future.

Now - if the subscription license came with 3 floating licenses - and was around $10 - $15 a year, it might get a little tempting.

A thought on the artpacks - they really delayed my purchasing BGRPG - It was confusing how they fit into the overall scheme of things. It is nice they are free to players, but when I was first looking I was wondering and confused by how it all went together and what I would be getting into. I am sure others mileage varies on this one.

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Post by Kazander » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:35 pm

Shayd3000 wrote:The subscription based products usually go to the bottom of my list. I am less likely to subscribe - especially if I have to pay for GM client and floating licenses. I prefer to pay up front and own.
I'm afraid this is the reaction you're most likely to see from most people.

Over the years I've seen the question come up with various VTTs, and invariably anything subscription based goes to the bottom of people's lists.

It would have to be truly freakin' amazing software to change anyone's mind about this--i.e. include everything that's on everyone's wishlist would be a good start.

It's just a hobby for people in the end, and there's only so much people are willing to spend on it. The hobbyists are a different breed than car-nut hobbyists, who will willingly spend $1000s on upgrades for their vehicles.

Unfortunately that leaves you in the unenviable position of trying to make a viable business out of hobby that people won't part with their money for.

I have 2 thoughts on this matter.

The first is that I can see it working if you want to charge a subscription for the GM license, but not for the player client license. Trying to extract money from the 'player' crowd is often like trying to squeeze blood from a rock. GMs are more giving; they already have to buy all the source books (etc.) for their game of choice, and they've already made the commitment to spend a substantial portion of their time in game preparation. They're more committed, and more likely to be open to modest subscription price. Something on the order of $15/yr seems about right. Maybe even more; spread out over a year, $15 isn't that much.

Second, you are your own worst enemy. Learn the lessons that all big software companies have learned: have a new major release every 2-3 years, and charge for the upgrades. You keep giving major new features away with minor releases. Work on the Big Update, version 2, and charge for it. Of course if you charge for it, we all expect it to be bug-free. And have some of the new features that require a 'major rewrite' that many people have been harping on. :D

I've been using BRPG for over 2 years now, and paid only once for the license. I've paid for various artpacks too, but that's incidental.

Of course, these 2 points are pretty much in conflict; if you go towards a subscription, we'll expect upgrades to be free. We'll also expect a continuous stream of minor updates to improve the product. That's just the expectation when you are continuously paying for a product. Some of the features that require a major rewrite will have to begin to make their way into the product--no more putting them off! Subscriptions set high expectations.

Those are my thoughts; I hope that helps.

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Post by david.steele » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:07 am

Well, for one, I would pay for a subscription... I would pay for a subscription as long as I didn't find another product that did more. As soon as I found another product I was happier with, I would stop paying for the subscription, obviously. Of all the VTTs that I have evaulated (and I even have purchased one other one), BG currently fits my needs the best. That said, there are features that I REALLY want that BG doesn't currently offer. These features have been discussed in other posts (not necessarily my posts) so no need to go into them here. If another VTT ever offered all the stuff I wanted in a single software package, I would certainly switch - subscription based or not.

I think the previous poster is correct. Being a GM, I am much more willing to spend money on the game than my players. I would probably be paying for their subscriptions as well. I have done this sort of thing in the past (provided all my players a WotC subscription as a Christmas present for example).

I think Hernan is possibly too generous with his adding of new features. I certainly appreciate them - and it is one of the big reasons I picked BG over all the other software packages out there. He simply provides AWESOME customer service - he responds extermely fast to any issue and tries his best to implement features that people request.

That said, most software packages I have purchased only offer new features in new versions that must be paid for. The only fix bugs in current versions. Customers are typically expected to pay for an upgrade if they want new features.

I would pay for an upgrade.

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Post by heruca » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:15 am

A couple of things deter me from charging for upgrades.

1) I said right from the start that all v1.x upgrades would always be free. I'm not ready to commit to years of developing and supporting Battlegrounds v2 (which would require nearly a ground-up rewrite), so I'm deliberately keeping all the feature additions in v1.x releases.

2) Competing commercial VTs haven't charged for upgrades in the past (even when the version number increased), and I don't want BRPG to get a reputation as the VT that you have to pay, and pay, and pay again for.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Shayd3000 » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:00 pm

I have to say I agree with previous posts. As you know, I made a significant purchase from you to get my Battlegrounds setup up and running. That including purchasing all the user licenses for my game. Yup, you guessed it, I'm the GM. I do not think my players would have agreed to pay to buy a floating license. In fact, when I looked at that other package that has walls, one player balked at the $3 a month subscription fee. One player did offer to pay if we went that route. The others, well...I think they were hoping it wouldn't come to that.

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Post by heruca » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:24 pm

Shayd3000 wrote: In fact, when I looked at that other package that has walls, one player balked at the $3 a month subscription fee.
I would, too. That works out to $36/year, which is considerably more than the $8/year that I proposed for Battlegrounds v2.

OK, so most people hate subscriptions. Even non-recurring ones. I get that.

But what if subscribing was merely an option, in addition to the option to purchase the software outright? I can see someone wanting to "kick the tires" for a year on a Player Client for a mere $8, without having to commit outright to a $30 purchase (or however much the Battlegrounds v2 Player Client ends up costing).

Perhaps one could even "lease with an option to buy", like many car dealerships offer. For example, when you pay your fourth $8 subscription fee, you now OWN the Player Client outright, and don't need to subscribe anymore. Yes, you paid a bit more in the long run than if you had purchased the Player Client outright, but you were able to pay that in small installments over many years.

I don't know, I'm just trying to think of things that would make it easier for people to "buy into" Battlegrounds. A college student who moved far from home, or someone enrolled in the military and stationed god-knows-where, probably doesn't have a lot of cash on hand at any given time, but has the desire to continue gaming with their buddies they left behind. Something like this might put Battlegrounds within their reach.
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by david.steele » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:43 pm

I can't think of anything wrong with offering options... Well, as long as you don't offer as many software licensing options as Microsoft. :P

If you feel that subscription-based licensing might have a bad reputation, I would just suggest that you emphasize the normal package and ONLY make the subscription thingy an option.

Might not want people that have never heard of BG to discover it and think that BG was originally a subscription product and later a paided product for example.

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rent-to-own

Post by markuwp » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:49 pm

I also try to avoid subscription-based products.

You might try the "rent-to-own" model where people can start by paying a few dollars a month or per year and then could purchase, but that seems like a hassle to keep track of.

You could try the "TiVo model" of offering a yearly subscription price with the option for a "Lifetime membership" at the same price as a normal purchase.

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Post by heruca » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:38 am

david.steele wrote:I can't think of anything wrong with offering options... Well, as long as you don't offer as many software licensing options as Microsoft. :P
Or Adobe.

"The complete mid-cycle lineup now features Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection, Creative Suite 5.5 Design Premium, Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium, Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium, and Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard."
:arrow: Please help spread the word about BRPG and BGE, and never hesitate to tell me how I can make them better suit your gaming needs.

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Post by Shayd3000 » Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:53 pm

I do like options, an din fact, if I had an option to own, then a low cost ability for me to subscribe for a little while to kick the tires, with that amount being discounted from my final purchase (or a portion of it maybe), then I would actually be MORE inclined to take a look, not less.

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Post by Omnidon » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:32 pm

I seem to have arrived in this convo late :P

But anyway, as you know, I hate subscriptions for all the reasons listed above. (I like to "own" stuff outright, I hate feel like my money is going down the drain when I'm not using the software I'm subscribed to, and I like to be able to use my stuff "on demand" rather than knowing in advance that I'll be using it.)

Subscriptions are especially inconvenient for me in the case of VTs, since due to conflicting schedules of my players, I tend to play with them in short bursts with long periods of down time between games.

If BRPG had been subscription-based when I found it, I wouldn't have been interested.

I'm fine with you offering a "rent-to-buy" option for subscription fans, as long as the software can be purchased outright and as long as doing so is cheaper in the long run.

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