Big Fish Games changes affiliate program

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

  1. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Considering you (and Bigfish) can terminate straight away without cause then the rest of it is kinda moot.
     
  2. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    First the reflexive price drop and now this... one more reason not to rely on the portals for any substantial income. Go out and do your own thing! Be independent!
     
  3. jmc

    jmc
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    In theory yes, in practise that would be unlikely, they would lose the inbound link effect ( that cliffsky mentionned ) from hundreds of smaller sites, resulting in an almost instant drop on google for them, so a loss of search engine traffic.
    The new person in charge of contract didn't make the connection between the seo effect of all those links and the affiliate program obviously. It seems to have been done by a traditionnal lawyer who doesn't know anything about the internet, so putting a clause like that is like shooting themselves in the foot. The bigger affiliates like Oliver pearl or even gamezebo have gamecentersolution games on their front pages...

    Jmc.
     
  4. amaranth

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    I wish there was a simple program that would only give you a sale for the specific game you referred. I think it would be a lot more difficult for the cookie cutter affiliates to generate a cookie for every single game if this were true?

    I suppose there are vendors who would sneak around this & try to install 1000s of cookies on a user's machine, but I bet there's a way to track this behavior and ban it quickly.

    I really like the Plimus/BMT Micro system, but they also have the same global flaw.

    It seems to me that all of these cookie systems are a bit broken. Does anyone know why none of these systems simply refer a specific game? Is this difficult?
     
    #24 amaranth, Feb 7, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
  5. Game Producer

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    This time I'm sort of disagreeing with Cliff radically. '8usually I just nod for anything he blurts out from his mouth :D)
    You don't need to help their SEO power to link them (use nofollow/redirectionstuff etc. to not to leave juice)

    It's bad for top affiliates, good for new affiliates.

    I'm not making casual games and have been BFG affiliate for quite long. Compared to time spent versus donuts received I think the program is okay.

    Yeh, there's going to be whining around and all that stuff but the fact is that people can choose to stay there or do something else.

    My humble opinion.
     
  6. Matthew

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    It's true the metrics are different (Gabriela helped clarify this for me after my initial post). From my understanding, though, we've still lost all prospects we had tagged. Customers transitioned to the new system are active purchasers we referred who have bought a game in the last year. If we cookied somebody 8 months ago, or 8 days ago, and they buy a game today, we will not be credited.

    How many purchases will take place with an active affiliate cookie that was planted in the last year? It isn't zero :/ The data I've heard is that customers can go a surprisingly long time before their first purchase (months, not weeks), so this hurts a bit. We no longer run active SEM campaigns, because it's too much a financial black box--props to BFG on promising to add campaign tracking, by the way--but I would be pissed if I spent any amount of money last week on prospects that were wiped clean on Friday.

    I disagree with this. I think there will be a bit of a blood bath as new/active/spammy affiliates scramble to tag as many open customers as possible. I think you guys are going to see more abuse, not less (for the record, cookie stuffing refers to using things like hidden iframes to fake a visit and get a cookie installed).

    The long-term affiliates I've known were all extremely careful specifically because of the lifetime commission. Why jeopardize your revenue for a questionable improvement in traffic? I know we have run BFG as the prioritized download on overlap for well over a year now (if a game is available from multiple affiliates we would link to BFG). If I am a fresh affiliate starting from zero, what do I have to lose?

    The terms of service is scary. BFG can kill our account whenever they choose. As an active affiliate for 3+ years, we're obviously on the short end of the stick with these changes. Even if the program improvements will help us in the long run, in the short term we're going to see a big revenue drop, as a significant number of our referrals are over a year old. Everyone in the top #10 is going to get hurt.

    So obviously I'd like to experiment now to try to maximize revenue on the traffic we do have. Maybe I can prioritize affiliates by genre, or randomize them, or try to cookie our users to cycle them through one affiliate each download. Is BFG going to feel threatened by any of these experiments? What is "substantially promote" or "substantially decrease" when it comes down to it? Heck, are they going to feel threatened by something like this post? Are they going to pass through exclusivity power struggles to affiliates (not offering BFG exclusive games to affiliates who run other programs, or disallowing affiliates to carry games BFG does not have themselves)?

    The technology exists to have our site query BFG in real-time to ask if a visiting customer is available for BFG commission or not. If they want to continue down the path of "fixing" the cookie situation they should implement this.

    Anyway, at the end of the day I am frustrated with the change. I'm partly frustrated because it came so abruptly--affiliates were notified 9pm on the 3rd that PNP was shutting down on the 5th. I was not consulted, despite a long and active relationship with BFG (I flew to the last Seattle Casual Connect specifically to meet about affiliate stuff).

    We had 90,000 cookied users in the old system, and we were in the top ten. BFG says they opened up 60+ million cookies, which is great. But we were 0.15% of that total. Couldn't they have offered affiliates the choice--stick with your revenue, or opt in to the new system? It's true our revenue hasn't grown--this January was almost identical last January's revenue--but we started planning our finances around the stability of the program. That stability is now gone. Time will tell if we're able increase revenue to the old levels or not...
     
  7. papillon

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    Of course you don't have to, but lots and lots of people did, and it did boost them.
     
  8. Grey Alien

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    @Matthew: I'm sorry that you are feeling frustrated. You have made some good points and I will try to find out more about the termination clause.
     
    #28 Grey Alien, Feb 7, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
  9. Escapee

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    Apart from the scary termination contract, it feels kind of demoralizing to know that after a year, BFG will own the customers (especially the repeating customers) and the affiliates get nothing and continue to fight for possibly shrinking pool of quality customers (ie the repeating one).

    With the aff program I'm actively in, I have many long term customers that order from my sites continuously for many years. So if I promote BFG exclusively (or significantly), I will lose royalties from those quality referrals after a year. I think this is very demoralizing for serious affiliates.

    Maybe BFG could consider offering a smaller % after a year ? say 7%, 5% for us poor affiliates who refer our precious visitors to install a beautiful BFG download client on their PC? It wont be a lifetime, because

    Just my humble suggestion and I know it wont be taken seriously. :D
     
  10. Grey Alien

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    OK I've got some more info:

    Regarding the Term of Use language: Yes I agree it is scary, but apparently it is the same language that was in the last terms of use. In the 3+ years of that program, there were maybe 2 or 3 instances of BFG ending relationships with other affiliates, and this was not arbitrary, it was for very flagrant violations of the rules of the program and only after multiple warnings to the affiliate. So, yes, BFG could terminate the relationship for any reason, but that would be pretty short sighted. Here it is perhaps wise to use history as a guide to the future. The intention of these terms of use are to give them the flexibility to change the system in the future, not to inhibit your ability to experiment with different ways to use the program.

    I asked them about the "substantially decrease or stop promoting the BFG Site" and this is simply a way to clear up unclaimed property. If there is money owed to an affiliate and they disappear or go absent, after a certain amount of time any unpaid royalties to this affiliate is forfeited to the tax man as unclaimed property or as the legal folks referred to it as "escheatment". This simply gives BFG the legal right to reclaim this and not have to forfeit it to the state. This also was in the prior TOS and there are many affiliates that changed their model substantially or quit being an affiliate, and BFG never cancelled those accounts. Bottom line is, all this scary language was in the prior TOS but it was never acted upon except with blatant fraud, but it did give them the ability to change the program as the market changed (which they did).

    I also asked if the content available to affiliates was going to be any different. It won't be different - ALL BFG content is available for the affiliate feed with the exception of games from Popcap, as they explicitly do not all allow BFG to add their content to an affiliate program. All other content is included in the feeds...both Mac and PC and in 5 (soon to be 10) languages. BFG now has distribution agreement for getting content with all the major developers with the one exception being Real Networks. This is an improvement from about a year ago when the portals weren't sharing titles as freely as far as I recall.

    So Matthew, it sounds like you are good to go with regards to figuring out the best way to maximise your revenue! Good luck with it, and the same to other affiliates too.



    Also to answer one question that was asked: "Why couldn't affiliates have the choice to stay with the old program or migrate to the new program?"

    Unfortunately, this is impossible based on the rules. If they let you have perpetual ownership of any referrals you ever made, then they would violate the "last to refer" rule of use for all others. If a new affiliate referred someone that at some point had been cookied by you, and then if BFG do not give that new affiliate credit based on the "last to refer" model, they would be breaking their own term of use.

    Basically the two rule sets cannot work together. The main point about the new rule set is to enable affiliates to get credit for who they refer now, not who they referred years ago - to tie the referral credit to the referral event. They had something like 90 million (!!!) users in their DB that were "reserved" for BFG or other affiliates, from as far back as 7 years. There is no reason that if someone visited the site 7 years ago, a new affiliate referral should not get credit. That is the whole point of these new changes. If a person wildly cookies users now (legitimately or not) it does not hurt other affiliates thanks to the "last to refer" rule set.

    I hope that clarifies the situation.
     
    #30 Grey Alien, Feb 8, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2010
  11. HarmonicFlow

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    I don't think Terms of Use needs to be written in the way it is now. To me the Terms of Use says 'Rule by Fear'. I've accepted several Terms of Use for other affiliate programs and none of them comes close to these lines.

    Personally I didn't get the email about the new affiliate program changes until Friday 5th and noticed the email Saturday morning. So it was a morning of writing a script to update to the new URLs. When I logged in to the program I noticed that XML feed of type=6 didn't return any download/buy URLs. (this was the default choice, however I've always used type=4 so used that one and it worked fine.)

    The program is half done at this point as I see it. We cannot even request payment yet.

    I do think it's a shame we affiliates are treated without any respect.

    I would personally never accept if BFG said to me I cannot have other affiliate programs active or I need to promote them less. I've accepted the Terms of Use but if this would happen I would let them terminate my account as it's just not acceptable.

    I also think that as affiliate having more programs active gives us a chance to get more users and this way increase revenue for all programs as a result. This is the historical case for Harmonic Flow atleast.

    Concerning the changes I guess time will tell how it will perform. I think it has good things and also bad things.

    Cheers to life :)
     
  12. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    As someone who deals with about 5 of these types of contracts a year...

    It is NEVER acceptable to put into a contract something along the lines of "We'll rape your ass at our discretion" and try to back that up with some sort of verbal rubbish about how said ass rapeage has never happened and is unlikely to.

    The whole point about a contract is that it leaves all parties with no doubt as to the implementation of the terms and required no verbal notes to modify it.

    So if they really don't want to arbitrarily bin people, they should remove that clause and replace it with something that describes what the offences might be and their outcomes.

    And a firm like BFG has lawyers and policymakers that undoubtedly understand that all too well. If these clauses are in there, it's because they intend to use them.
     
  13. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    To be fair, the binning works both ways.
     
  14. Escapee

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    Just received another friendly email from another really desperate BFG affiliate.........:rolleyes:


     
  15. Nexic

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    What's that, Big Fish Games shitting all over everyone?

    OMG THAT'S THE BIGGEST AND MOST UNEXPECTED NEWS OF TEH ENTIRE CENTURY!!!!!!!!!111oneone


    :rolleyes:
     
  16. Miguel Tartaj

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    What about the "past word given"?

    Regarding the previous affiliation system... maybe I didn't understand it properly... what did "lifetime value" mean?
     
  17. Jack Norton

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    obviously the "lifetime value" was based on a fish typical lifespan.
    From wikipedia: "Many freshwater fish average about 1 to 3 years of life."
    So since the original affiliate program started around february 2007, there you go. What are you complaining!?!?!
     
  18. Escapee

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    For the old system, It means when you refer a customer to BFG download client. You will get credit for any sales the customer has made for a lifetime.


    The new "improved" system has changed it to 1 year but arrrrrrrrrr ( feeling hesitant ) with arrrrrrr different advantages as stated on arrrrrrr the current system .......
     
  19. Escapee

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    LOL..... Very true indeed
     
  20. Xathia Vastar

    Xathia Vastar New Member

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    I'm trying to make some sense out of this...
    Basically, it was more profitable for game developers who had many affiliates that have been with them for years, but now, with this new system being put in place, the profits from these same affiliates are only good for 1 year, and developers will have to find new affiliates in order for the yearly profits to take effect?

    It sounds like a smart business move on BFG's part, since it would give the incentive for developers to find more and more affiliates to buy their games, however, it's also damaging to many developers who may not have a strong community/following to be able to acquire enough affiliates each year to buy their games.
     

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