Big Fish Games changes affiliate program

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Maupin, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. Maupin

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    Big Fish Games is ending their PNP/My Game Space program immediately and starting a new affiliate program (called the Big Fish Games Affiliate Program).

    Under the new program, instead of earning a lifetime commission from every customer referred, affiliates earn a commission (now 40%) on the customer's purchases for one year. The affiliate who refers the customer last (up to 90 days before their first purchase) is the one who gets the commissions, unlike before.

    Presumably after a year passes the customer is up for grabs again (and by that time probably already in Big Fish Game's marketing clutches. ;)

    Big Fish Games are promising new reporting features, which many of us have been asking for for quite a while.
     
    #1 Maupin, Feb 5, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2010
  2. papillon

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    It's not clear, but I get the impression that after a year the customer belongs to BFG only and will NOT be up for grabs. Might be worth asking about.

    Some other issues people might want to question, from the new contract:

     
  3. GolfHacker

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    Yeah, that part concerns me too. It's pretty subjective.

    Another other part that bothers me is that they don't say anything about what existing affiliates need to do other than sign up for the new program. Do my existing affiliate links continue to work, or do I have to spend my weekend going through my site and updating all of my links? And I notice that the Tools page only generates links to a game's product page? Does this mean we can't link directly to a game download or buy link anymore? I can't find any answers to these questions in their Help section. I sent them an e-mail... we'll see what they say.

    One more thing concerns me too - it sounds like you can only exclusively use their graphics and text to promote a game, but they still don't provide much in the way of graphics. And the graphics they do provide aren't the best-looking. In some cases, I've gotten better-looking game logos directly from the developers. I've also gotten some of my own screenshots, to help supplement game reviews that I've written. Does this mean I can't use any of those graphics anymore?
     
  4. Matthew

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    Here is my understanding after talking to Big Fish about this:

    Commissions are earned for one year after first purchase. Once a purchase takes place the referring affiliate will earn all commissions on any purchases during this year. Up until purchase time affiliate cookies are now "last touch", which means they can override each other.

    After a year of commissions the customer becomes 100% Big Fish owned. The only time the customer will open back up for affiliate referral is if they go an entire year without a purchase.

    Existing referrals are transitioned over--if one of your referrals first purchased a game less than 12 months ago, you will get the remaining time (if someone you referred bought a game 8 months ago, you'll get commission if they buy anything in the next 4 months).

    If you referred someone who bought a game more than 12 months ago, you lose that customer.

    Less than 2% of our contacts survived the transition, despite the last 12 months representing 22% of our website traffic. Your mileage may vary (but probably not). This is likely due to affiliate cookie saturation in the last year, compared to when we became active affiliates in 2006/2007.

    They're trying to open up affiliate cookies to get more growth, but the thing is--in a year's time Big Fish will own all customers referred and everything will be just as locked up as it is today, except entirely in the hands of BFG instead of loyal affiliates.
     
  5. Escapee

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    I wonder how this will work for big site like playfirst, which recently has shifted their payment system to BFG. Maybe they have different kind of contract ?

    I can feel emphatically how the top loyal affiliates are going through right now. (It sucks) ..........
     
  6. GolfHacker

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    I haven't gotten any response, but I do see a notice on the affiliate login page now about affiliate links. It looks like you can still link to the download and buy pages directly, but they're recommending you update your links to the new format. Sounds like the download links are backward compatible for the time being, but the buy links are not.

    No word yet to clarify the use of graphics and text to promote the games...
     
  7. chanon

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    Wow, this is a big change.
    I guess our monthly BFG affiliate income is going to evaporate.

    If in a year's time the customer will be locked up by BFG then what's the point??? PNP used to be the best program IMO because of the lifetime income. It was a good longterm investment to build up your customer count because of the lifetime revenue. But now it is only a year??

    The part that lets affiliate cookies override each other is good I guess, but I'd rather that the last referrer get affiliate share for lifetime until another referrer grabs the customer away (instead of just a year).
     
    #7 chanon, Feb 6, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2010
  8. chanon

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    I guess you're not happy about that :(
     
  9. cliffski

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    This is hilarious. I think BFG don't want to pay affiliates a penny any more and are moving everything in house. This is just the bit where they decide to see how much they can push their affiliate 'partners' around and kick them in the face before they actually complain. They are probably doing this just for giggles.

    I'm surprised more people can't take the hint. BFG lured in a big affiliate program to get a million inbound links and free SEO. Mission accomplished, so you can now all sod off. BFG do not need you, not to develop games, or sell them. They have reached critical mass and you are now not required.

    Why does everyone pussyfoot around stating just how rubbish these terms are?

    Full props to BFG's management. They are very clever, and very successful. In fact I think I'm more annoyed at 'indie' devs who put up with this, than I am at a publisher just maximising its income.
    I probably still have some games on BFG, but I'd be mad to add new ones, and clinically insane to join their affiliate system to big them up even more.
     
  10. Spaiz

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    At first, I liked the changes, because some of them are fair (Last Touch Referral Model for example) ... but guys ... the idea with 12 month income share is a very very unfair ... unfair, because after a year, customer doesn't become 'free agent' -> he becomes contracted to BFG for life.

    So,during this year all affiliates are going to bring traffic to BFG for 40% and in a year they will be left with nothing, because then, all your customers are in BFG's clutches and it will be hard to find a new unsigned, just like it was yesterday. And what's the point to look for new, in a year you won't get a dime from them ... actually, this is antibusiness for affiliates, not a business.

    BFG tired to pay affiliates for 'nothing', however, I'm sure, most of us could earn same money without BFG if we were able to leave customers on our sites, not giving them away to BFG. So, it looks that they decided not to kick off affiliates in a day (closing PNP at all) and to secure their reputation and to attract some newbies, they decided to give us all an extra year ... but you don't need to be a farsighted to understand how things will look in a year.

    I'm disappointed, really, not because I lost a substantial source of income ... I'm disappointed with an attitude, but this is not a surprise for me, this is life, life and business, so anything can happen here and you need to be ready.

    P.S. I don't see links in XML feed at all ... where are the links?
     
  11. princec

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    Indeed. Props to BFG for extremely shrewd business management. Shame on indies flopping like dying fish in the puddle BFG slowly drain away from them. Affiliate sales are now competition for BFG - they will make more money by luring people directly than having to support you lot. So you've all got to go.

    Cas :)
     
  12. papillon

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    Because if they were desperate enough to keep what dregs remained of their affiliate income to click the signup link, they don't have much choice.

    (It's almost like someone knew people would complain!)

    But really, there's zero reason to sign up. If any of your affiliate sales survive the transition, they won't for long. And since they've made it perfectly clear that they can kill your account at ANY time for ANY reason and NOT pay you monies owed (is that even legal?) - better to take the payout from the old program and move on.
     
  13. Jack Norton

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    I must make my apologies to tolik, berseker and Co. When they posted here that in a few years all casual games would be $0.99, or casual download market would dry up and so on, I thought they were mad. After seeing all that's happening recently in casual world I think they might be absolutely right :eek:
     
  14. tolik

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    Let's meet at casual connect and create a revolt! We'll tell 'em we are moving to social and MMO!
     
  15. princec

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    No! I vote for hardcore RTS games with multimillion £ budgets!

    Cas :)
     
  16. jmc

    jmc
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    "customers for a lifetime" OHOHOH, i can't believe some of you still believe in santa claus at your age :)

    And it's only the beginning, wait what's coming up this year... ( i'd be scared if i were a bfg employee... )
    Jmc.
     
  17. Escapee

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    Last i check the top affiliate (Oliver Pearl?) earned about 400K in total. follow by at least 150K for the rest of top 10. This meltdown is gonna cause great emotional and financial pain for the top exclusive affiliates who devote their time and effort in promoting BFG life time Santa Claus program oh no i meant life time customers. Hope they have not taken a mortgage for giant bungalow just before the meltdown. I'm only slightly affected (or hurt) since i derived most of income from mainly ads(>60%) and combo of other programs (gamecenter, plimus,etc).
     
  18. Grey Alien

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    Hi all, there seems to be a some incorrect info/assumptions flying around here. Since I am on the inside at BFG, I will do my best to give you the straight facts, as I understand them, about the new system:



    1) Economics.

    The program pays as follows for a full year (see figures below). BFG makes very little in this first year. BFG hopes that they can keep a customer engaged for more than a year to get a return on their sales. If the customer goes 12 months without a purchase they are available to be referred again. There is no other referral program that comes close to those economics for a full year. Keep in mind the affiliate's job is to refer them, then they get the benefit of the follow on sales that are generated by BFG’s ongoing marketing efforts. BFG spends a huge amount of money to keep those customers purchasing and the affiliate benefits from this activity through ongoing royalties.

    Here is how one dollar in customer sales flows through with the new system for the entire first year a customer is with BFG:

    $1.00 in gross sales

    -$ .08 Ecommerce fees

    -$ .35 Developer Royalties

    --------

    $ .57 Net Revenue

    -$ .41 Affiliate royalties (71.9% of Net revenue)

    -$ .05 Bandwidth and hosting fees

    -$ .03 Customer support costs

    -------

    $ .08 BFG contribution to overhead



    2) Available referrals.

    BFG removed 98% of all consumer IDs in their database that were previously not able to be referred in the old system because those people visited BFG sometime in the last 7 years. The new rules are such that the ONLY referrals that are not eligible are those that are active BFG customers (they bought a game in the past 12 months form BFG). All others are available to be referred. Previously if an affiliate referred 100 people, odds are 90% of them were disqualified as they had been referred by someone in the past 7 years or had visited the BFG site on their own in the past 7 years. Now if you refer a 100 people, 98%+ them are eligible to be earning referrals. Also, customer retention is very difficult when you are competing with dozens of other big game sites, not to mention social games and MMOs, so the 12 month active purchasing being a disqualifier is not as restrictive as has been suggested.



    3) Last to refer system.

    This fixes the issue of affiliates rampantly “cookie stuffing” every visitor with the previous BFG cookie, and then benefiting for years to come even if they never refer anyone to BFG. The last to refer model ties the purchase action more directly to the affiliate who triggered it, not to the affiliate who may have placed a cookie on the user browser in years past. All affiliates, including the very large ones mentioned above, play by the exact same set of rules…they have to or the system would not work.



    4) Customer migration effect.

    As a result, BFG is not paying less in affiliate fees after the migration than before. Affiliates who have been very active in the past year will receive larger payments and be able to sign up customers much faster than before. Affiliates who referred the majority of customers in years past but have not been as active in the last 12 months, will see royalties decrease. Matthew may have been misreading the stats: In the old system it counted BOTH trial downloaders and paying customers. In the new system it only reports paying customers. If he saw only 2% of the prior referrals, the earnings will likely not be any different as 98% of his old referrals were trial downloaders only and 2% were customers. In the new system 100% of the reported referrals are active customers. As most people know, only 2% to 4% of people who download games end up being paying customers. So if the new number is 2% of the old number…that may not be a bad thing, especially at the higher rate (41% of gross instead of 25% of gross sales).



    My advice is to try it for a month and see how much easier it is to ramp earnings and if you will make more or less money now than you did with the old system. Yes you only receive earnings for 1 year, but other referral programs only give you a percentage of a single sale or at best, sales for 90 days (research them). If after a month it isn't working out for you, sure drop it, but right now it may be a bit premature to assume failure with no data to back that up.

    I hope this post helps to clarify matters and I sincerely hope that your affiliate incomes remain stable or grow.
     
  19. papillon

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    Maybe not in games, but I can find you plenty of porn affiliate programs that do 60%+ of revenue shared for the entire lifetime of a customer. 50-60% is standard, 70% is usually a special offer or a new program trying hard to get attention.

    Some referral programs also let you continue to keep the customer thinking they're buying games from YOU rather than from a bigger site, so they don't wander off to that bigger site, and make subsequent purchases from you, allowing you to get that single sale again.

    I cannot sign up for anything whose terms include 'We can cancel your account at any time for any reason and not pay you'. I can't even sign up for it as a test, as by complaining about it I'm already in violation of the terms. :)
     
  20. Escapee

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    Hi Greyalien, Would you be able to clarify the above term ? This is the one that scared me the most because it feels a little dictatorial ( Either you're with me >80% or you are fired kind of message conveyed there )..

    Myself plus many others here have been using gamecenter white label program/plimus/bmtmicro to grow and promote our little sites (BFG competitors ?:D ) for years. In order to use the new BFG program without having the fear of getting TERMINATED, Does that mean we will have give up all of our existing programs significantly?

    Many thanks for your clarification on the economics of BFG new program.
     
    #20 Escapee, Feb 7, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010

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