TryMedia/Reflexive style affiliation - worth it?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Phil Steinmeyer, Dec 31, 2005.

  1. Phil Steinmeyer

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    So now that Bonnie's Bookstore is out, I'm getting about 100 visitors a day to my company website, without any real effort/marketing by me. Seems to be search engine referrals, and some links from other sites that have my game listed, etc.

    My original plan had been to put zero to minimal effort into selling stuff from my own site, and just make good games and let others sell them, figuring that would be more enjoyable, and incremental effort spent on making new games would be more profitable than incremental effort spent on half-hearted game marketing on my site.

    That said, I'm tempted to sign up with TryMedia or Reflexive.net or one of those 'game-portal-in-a-box' services, and attempt to monetize the bit of traffic I am now getting, and perhaps set the stage to try to be a bit more ambitious about marketing my own site.

    For those who have done this, how much effort is it to set up with TryMedia or Reflexive, and do you really get much sales results out of it. Other than the two I've mentioned, what services are available, and what are their pros and cons? How much traffic do you need to generate, say, $100 in daily sales? I'm assuming the whole thing isn't too worthwhile unless/until you can get your daily traffic up to 1000+, but I'm interested in others' results.
     
  2. Savant

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    I think that's true only if you're not building a mailing list. If you're gathering the names/emails of the people who are downloading your game and are interested in what you're doing, that will pay off huge when you release your next game.

    Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy, has a huge mailing list. Whenever he releases a new book he emails everyone on his list and makes a killing. It's so worth it.

    Plus, and I don't know what kind of deal you have with PopCap, but selling from your site generally gives you a much larger chunk of the sale than going through portals.

    As for the affiliate selling ... I've always found it sort of odd to be selling other peoples games from your own game company's site. It almost reads like a last ditch money grab: "Well, if you don't like my games, maybe you'll like someone elses!" Unless you're going to be updating those affiliated games all the time (with new ones) I'm not sure it's going to drive anymore traffic to your site anyway.

    I dunno, that's probably just me.
     
  3. terin

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    Stuff

    Well, given the nature of your game, featuring some word games could be worthwhile...

    Though to be honest you are best off going straight to the few good word games out there...

    I'd say Thomas and the Magic Words, WeaveWords, Beezly's Buzzwords, Academy of Magic, ect.

    Otherwise, I suggest ArcadeTown... afterall, they pay the most per sale (35% of gross with no fees or deductions).

    -Joe
     
  4. Phil Steinmeyer

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    Is there anyone out there who has one of these kind of deals in place who can comment on either sales potential (related to, say overall traffic or something), and/or difficulty of setup/maintenance (i.e. how much time do you have to invest).

    Also, what's the standard for these sites as far as customer support? Would I be on the hook for some, all, or none of that?

    Terin - I was actually wondering if a vertical site that had nothing but word games would be worthwhile - best in breed for that sub-class of game. Probably not something I'll end up doing, but a thought anyways...
     
  5. terin

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    Sales Potential

    I think a vertical approach would depend on what your future plans were. In your current stage you have one game and it is a word game. This means the most likely event is that someone will purchase YOUR product and then be interested in similar products, which they could find on your site. Then, hopefully, each time they want a "word" product they would return to your site rather than a portal site or even the other dev's site.

    However, if you wanted to branch your OWN site away from word games by making a an action game next... then the story changes. In your current position vertical is best, but forward looking and forward thinking may see other reasons... but I dont know what you have planned so my vote is for using vertical affiliates.

    -Joe
     
  6. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Well Ill say this much about reflexives affil system. Its very easy to setup and get going. So there's not a whole bunch of "effort" to speak of for the extra sales you might get.

    However, Im still on the fence with regards to whether selling other people's games from my site is a great idea. In some ways it's good.. I do have a bit of traffic and I can sell a few copies, but on the other hand I dont really like it when the site starts to look like every other site on the net. The reason is.. if Im displaying reflexives top 10 that kinda looks like real's and bigfishs top 10 then what possible reason would there be to come to my site at all? Being a smaller company with less time to invest in the site I cant really match the experience the bigger portals provide. So if people get the idea that visiting twilight is pretty much like visiting these other sites then they'll just visit the other sites.

    Thats why I prefer to put up games that aren't top 10 hits on other sites if I can't. My ideal game is one that's great, and I can endorse, but which is a little out of the mainstream casual audience. DROD was a really good one for me, because it fit all those criteria. But there arent really all that many gems like drod that I can affiliate and display.

    In the end I expect Ill continue affiliating games in the near future, but move my site in a new overall direction focusing on some different ideas to generate repeat traffic and eventually weaning out most of the affiliate stuff barring those few gems that really fit nicely.
     
  7. terin

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    *nod*

    That's a disguised head nod towards vertical use... I agree you should avoid looking like everyone else.

    How many word games, other than BookWorm, appear on those portal sites? Few, if any... a great opportunity to distinguish yourself and still make affiliate sales.

    -Joe
     
  8. Chris Evans

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    In the last Indie San Diego meeting when we were discussing affiliate sales, I failed to articulate correctly to James what Svero just said.

    The points Svero raised is why I've been reluctant to put popular affiliate games on my site. You don't gain customers and your site begins to look like all the other casual top ten lists.

    However I do like how Positech and Twilight choose very selectively for their affiliated games. It's probably the model I'll try to follow.
     
  9. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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    I'll bite...notably I use a host of affiliate programs, but I can give you some ballpark thoughts as I do use the basic Reflexive frame for our "free game downloads" section.

    First off I wanted to mention...if I was generated anywhere near $100 a day I'd be doing the happy dance all the time!

    Trymedia - I have no real experience. They won't talk to me since I told them that I wasn't about to take 10% as my cut (I have contacted them SEVERAL times since then)

    Reflexive - Their set-up is amazingly easy to use, with great whitelist/blacklist settings that you can choose to make the gameframe work perfect for what you want. They also have more advanced options, like xml feeds available. Honestly Reflexive is a fantastic set-up (it's only missing the ability to add buy now buttons in my estimation)

    So let's go back to your numbers. If you are going through one of the portals and not directly to the developers, you are likely to get a cut of 10-30%. Keeping that in mind, let's say you are earning 20%.

    20% of $20 is $4.
    So you'd need 25 sales a day to make $100/day

    I average around 1 download per 10 (10%) visitors and think that is a fair number to work off of...though if you target a specific game time you may get more.

    So the next number you need is conversion rate... .01% is a healthy number that you aren't likely to hit unless you have targetted well. Still we are being generous, so let's say you do hit .01% conversion on your downloads.

    So let's see
    25 sales a day
    10% of visitors download
    1% of downloads turn into purchases

    You need 100 downloads to create a sale and 1000 visitors to create 100 downloads. To make 25 sales you would need around 25,000 visitors (not page views or hits).

    Now you were asking for numbers, I could quickly poke some holes through these numbers...you might have more people download. Game Tunnel is a news site, so downloads have been a secondary. If you have 50% of your visitors download you would only need 500 visitors to create a sale and 12,500 to make $100/day.

    Notably, between all of the affiliate programs that I run on GT I actually do better than a sale per 500 visitors...but not much. However, the various affiliate programs (plimus, regnow, etc) all take a lot more work to administer than the Reflexive gameframe.
     
  10. Phil Steinmeyer

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    Cyrus - thanks for the numbers. I was actually suggesting that to get $100 in revenue (not profits), you'd need at least 1000 visitors, but I was looking for harder data and you provided that - thanks.

    Also, I thought 30% was the going rate for affiliate commissions - why are you using 20% - is that 30% less associated costs, or is the actual going rate closer to 20%? And if ArcadeTown is actually paying 35% with no deductions, what, if any, is the drawback (i.e. small selection, less polished service, etc?)

    Finally, where does the customer support burden fall, and how great is that burden?

    Thanks,
    Phil
     
  11. cyrus_zuo

    cyrus_zuo New Member

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    I used 20% b/c if you are using one of the major services, Reflexive/Trymedia/Real/Game House etc. you will probably average around 20% between them... Most of the major services will deduct bandwidth from the percentage. I figure bandwidth costs at 15-20% of revenue for the major services (so if you were getting 30% you might be at 25% after deducting bandwidth)

    ArcadeTown certainly pays higher, and you can typically figured 30-50% working directly with the developers. The only issue is that there is more manual set-up. (not saying that is good or bad...I tend to think that investment of time is rewarded...however...if you don't have the time it is a moot point ;))

    Customer support goes to the vendor (Reflexive, etc).

    On Arcade Town it is certainly a great thing to use, won't speak bad about that one since I use their program as well! I will mention that for whatever reason I've had much lower numbers with BMT Micro (who does the affiliate processing for Arcade Town) than with most other services...but that may just be my experience.

    Hope the information is helpful...it's only one point of view
     
  12. James C. Smith

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    Most major affiliates should be able to get 40% of net (sale price minus COGs such as nominal fees from merchant account and bandwidth) or about 35% of gross. I would be surprised if cyrus_zuo was really getting 20% or even “25% after deducting bandwidth”. It should be higher than that. But I guess it all depends on the conversion rates. Most system also offer you the option of reducing some of the COGs by hosting your own downloads.
     
    #12 James C. Smith, Jan 2, 2006
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2006
  13. DFG

    DFG
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    For affiliates, this is how I would rate the popular services, I have used almost all extensively over the past 4 years:

    1 - RegNow - B Easy to get set up, lots of quantity, recurring commissions Bad - cookie based system, quality games are going elsewhere

    2 - Reflexive - A- Has most of the major titles in the casual space, super easy to get going, tags on the download instead of cookies which is great, recurring commissions, very low returns, high commissions for everyone, great reporting, very reliable payers, communication with affiliates is great, nice guys :) Bad - no buy links, purchasing only through game, customer support (not affiliate support) is fair

    3 - TryMedia - B+ Best selection, easy to get going once you are in. Bad - high barrier to entry if you don't have high traffic, bad starting commissions, high rate of returns

    4 - Gamehouse - B+ Good selection but not great, very nice system to get going in a variety of ways, good reporting, reliable payers, recurring commissions. Low returns. Bad - cookie based system

    Rated C or lower:

    BMT Micro - poor selection
    eSellerate - poor selection, questionable technology
    Plimus - poor selection
    element5/ShareIt - poor selection

    If Reflexive had a tad better selection (just a wee bit ;)) and buy links, they would get an A easily. If you have to choose 1 to go with, I recommend them.
     
  14. Miguel Tartaj

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    Regarding the difficulty; it can be very easy and painless.

    Potential; With the amount of traffic you mentioned I doubt you would get 100$/day, but if you offer more games maybe people will come back more often and your traffic can grow.

    Customer support; Normally not much and depending with who you make it you can count with a "second level" of customer support.

    One thing: why don't you give it a shot? It won't hurt and you can always turn it down... My philosophy is: if I an indie sells one copy more (no matter who, how and where) it's good for the rest of indie developers because the space gets bigger.
     
  15. cliffski

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    Not everyone will put up with high affiliate fees. No way would I let someone take 40% on my games. maybe I'm unusual though.
     
  16. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Well it might be a little limiting you know. Suppose microsoft said they wanted to put your game on the front page of their website because bill gates likes it but they'll collect 60% of the 100's of thousands of sales youd likely get. You gonna skip out on that 40% of 100k sales on principal? It seems to me that the hardest thing we all have to do is get the word out about our games. That is.. the customers are out there... reaching them is what's tough. So the microsoft example is an extreme one but its really not all that different than a number of small sites added together. The only exception Id say is when you feel you can reach those customers without the affiliates help and there's sufficient overlap. But let me ask you this.. Say I had a site called.. indiestrategygames.com and you paid 100$ to put up a banner ad there and sold 200$ worth of games making 100$ profit. Would that be a good deal to you? If so then I have to wonder what the difference is if the indiestrategygames.com site affiliated your title instead of you advertising. Isn't it pretty much just the same thing?
     
  17. jessycat

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    Your Site vs the Network

    There seems to be a bit of confusion between selling a game on your site vs selling the game on a distribution network.

    If you sell the game on your site (as with Bonnies Bookstore) you will *keep* at least 80% of your revenue once you pay for bandwidth, DRM, and credit card payment fees. Using a distribution service is quite easy and you can email me or someone at Reflexive to get set up. My email is: jessica @ trymedia.com

    If your game is sold on a portal using a distribution service, then you will keep a smaller percentage as the cost for maintaining 3rd party portals must be factored into the royalties in addition to service fees such as bandwidth, DRM and credit card payment fees. You should look to receive about 30% for a full service distribution service for an independent developer.

    If you sell other's games on your site, you will receive a varying percentage based on the quality of the customer that visits your site (ie their conversion rate) But this should be between 20-30% for each game created by another developer that you sell on your site. This number will rarely go above 40% for a non-top 10 portal.

    As for the poster who was quoted 10% from Trymedia -- I believe you must have read the contract incorrectly as this is far below our minimum royalty rate to any developer or publisher. You were probably quoted 90% to you, 10% to Trymedia to cover DRM + credit card fees. You may email me and I'll take care of this for you.

    I hope this helps. :eek:
     
    #17 jessycat, Jan 3, 2006
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2006
  18. cliffski

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    Steve you make a good point, although I guess with me its slightly different as my games arent casual so theres less of a mass market anyway.
    I guess the only real difference in the ads Vs portal situation is the control. As advertiser I can give site X $200 over a one week period and monitor what goes on. Most portal deals I have seen are over very long timescales, so if it turns out the traffic just moves from my site to the portal, and my sales income actually drops, I can't 'recall' it. Also, advertising draws people to MY site. with portal sales, they may not even know you exist.
    I'm not as hostile to portals as I seem, it's just my natural frustration when people seem to develop their first game as an indie and march right up to a portal and beg for 20% without even trying to make a success of their game direct. It seems like a total repetition of the retail market that many of us have fled. WalMart has just become Yahoo or Real, and the developer still begs for scraps.
     
  19. svero

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Right but i was specifically referring to affiliate sales.. which often is a sale that goes through your site. (I guess through reflexive wouldnt count) I agree that portal deals dont do anything for your own site traffic. I also agree the style of game you're aiming to sell isn't well aimed at sites like real etc...
     
  20. arcadetown

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    Here's a few observations have seen of the best affiliates...

    - They pull games from various affiliate sources.
    - They manually place each game and pitch the best sellers in appropriate places.
    - They blend each game into their site very consitently and are user friendly.
    - Some say cookie systems are bad. A good affiliate tested different systems and reported not much if any difference. It's typically based on a report where users stated they cleared cookies very often but another report that studied actual behavior said it was much lower as users lie to themselves.
    - Cyrus points out low sales on systems like BMT but think it's a fluke of bad converting titles. Last month was much better and perhaps his statement may change.

    DFG's rundown above was very comprehensive. Here's some additional points...

    ArcadeTown - 35% of gross, no fees. Online games for webmasters you can plug affiliate ID into. Decent selection. Online purchase option. Cookie based. Mostly manual system of adding games, working on improving.

    Reflexive - Good overall system. Great selection. Fees can really hurt, particuarly bandwidth fees which they lowered lately. No online purchase option.

    Trymedia - Good overall system. Online purchase option. No bandwidth charges. Weak payouts can only remedy if have leverage.
     

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