Friday, May 15, 2009

The Future of World of Solitaire

Hello everyone.

A few years ago when I first launched World of Solitaire it was just an experiment. A little hobby project of mine that I did just for fun.
When I launched it I just hoped it would make a few people happy each month. Maybe 50.

Since then the popularity of World of Solitaire has skyrocketed beyond what I could have imagined and now over 350,000 unique players get joy from playing each month.

Knowing that so many people are getting so much pleasure from the site has truly been a wonderful thing for me. It makes me very happy to know that so many are getting some pleasure from something I've created.

Unfortunately a side effect of having so many more people playing is that the cost to run World of Solitaire has been increasing. The bandwidth and computer power needed to run World of Solitaire is not cheap.

Each and every month I pay the monthly server costs out of my own pocket.

I've never had any advertisements on the site because I didn't want to 'clutter' up the page. I like the clean, sleek look World of Solitaire has and I don't want to ruin that with ads.

Another reason there are no ads is because money is not a big motivator for me. I have no desire to try and make lots of money from the site by putting up ads all over the place.
My primary motivation is just to make people happy and provide a fun place for everyone to let off a little stress by playing some Solitaire.

With the number of players continuing to rise however, the costs to run World of Solitaire continues to increase.
I am far from being rich and have a day job that pays my bills. But it is starting to get really expensive and I'm trying to figure out some way the site can make enough money to pay for the costs of running it.

I've had a few different ideas on how I could help pay for cost of running World of Solitaire.

I'd like to run these ideas past you, the players, and I would love some feedback from you.
You can reply to this blog post or e-mail me at: robert@cosmicrealms.com

- Donations
I thought about putting up a donation button where the players could donate whatever they feel comfortable donating to help pay for the server costs.
This to me seems like the cleanest and best option.
My dilemma here is that I'm not sure that it would be enough to cover the costs of the servers. Also I feel that most people would just donate once, so even if it pays for the servers for the first few months I think I would wind up right back where I am at now.

- Sponsorship
Find a company that would 'sponsor' the site by paying the costs to run the site. In exchange they would get their company logo and name on the site that would link back to them.
This to me seems like a good option. No annoying ads on the site and the server costs are paid for.
The dilemma with this option is finding a company willing to sponsor the site. It will take a lot of time and effort to try and find a company to do this. And in the end there might not be anyone willing to do so.

- Membership
Another idea is some sort of yearly membership. Players could pay this membership and in return get some sort of special features. Maybe additional member only decks, maybe special starts by their names in the leaderboards.
The problem with this of course is I'd need to come up with features useful enough to be worth paying a membership fee, but not too useful as to upset non-members who can't afford to pay.

- Ads
Now we are down to the dreaded ads option. I could put up an ad right now that would probably cover the costs of running the site, but as I've said above I really don't want to do this. I don't want the experience of playing on World of Solitaire impacted by an ad.
There are other issues with ads too. Most ads on websites are designed to pay based on the idea that users are only on the page for a minute or so and then they load another page.
On World of Solitaire however players play for hours and the ad would be visible the entire time. Thus I feel that ads on World of Solitaire have more value than the normal ads on other pages where they may be scrolled out of view or the user may leave the page after just a few seconds.
This means that the normal ad programs out there (such as those from Google) are not very well suited to World of Solitaire.
The other thing to mention about ads is if I were to go this route, I would certainly want to provide some sort of yearly membership where for a small yearly fee you would not see any ads.


So those are the options I've come up with.

I really wish I didn't have to do any of them, but the costs of running World of Solitaire are only going to increase and the above methods are the only ways I can think of to keep World of Solitaire running.

I really would like to hear your ideas about this.

If anyone has any ideas at all, comments or offers please either reply to this blog post or e-mail me at: robert@cosmicrealms.com

In the mean time, I hope you all continue to enjoy playing :)

24 comments:

LegoStar said...

You could use ads only in the statistics or when I game is over.

Robert said...

@LegoStar:

That's a good idea. The problem with that is internet ads are designed to be shown with actual pages, and the statistics and game over screen, etc. are all just 'fake' pages made with JavaScript. It's usually against the terms of services to show ads like that. The ad would need to be on the main screen in order to be valid.

Fabrice said...

There are so many ways you could generate income, thought some may be worthwhile others not dependeing on how much time and energy you could devote into it.

The first thing that came to my mind when reading your post (I'm not an avid player btw, just visiting Chromeexperiments).. is that you have a huge background there that you can "brand" and of course the back of the CARDS8 Coca Cola? Sprite ? XYZ Airlines? Why not? To an advertiser that's like 100% all the time under people's eyes, yet in an unobstrusive way.
A cool tropico background with the beach and some logo? (your next holidays in morocco, whatever). The opportunities are definitely out there; Other than that DONATIONS is something you should put right away, you deserve the money. And people will donate, and you should put a clear dopnation button always visible in a corner of the screen or the end-game window etc. I ran a site for one year + without a donation button, offering a useful service to people. That's a stupid thing to do, don't deny yourself and don't say no to people who have thought about sending you a little something.

Some kind of affiliations may work too, or maybe there are some products on Amazon that would work, but you need to see what your audience is into.

If you have several THOUSANDS of people connecting each day, AdSense may work. If you don't like it, simply create a MEMBERSHIP that removes ads. Put the ads in a side column, it will not bother people playing AdSense doesn't look good but at least you can choose text always and it doesnt move or blink or annoy people busy playing.

At the end of the day your provide VALUE do you not?

Fabrice said...

"I really wish I didn't have to do any of them"

Read Pavlina's article:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/12/making-money-consciously/

Robert said...

@Fabrice:

Excellent information and tips! Thank you very much for your input and your link. I am taking it all into consideration :)

Anonymous said...

I love world of solitaire. You had us at hello. But I hate that new ad bar. I'd pay YOU for the fun to play. YOU, the developer. It's called responsibility. But that side bar you've "been forced" to bow to. It's Noise. It's Obamah's socialist way. The world is in chaos and you've fallen prey. I'm so sorry. What has happend to us? Everyone wants a free ride, and Obamah has said "I PROMISE TO GIVE YOU JUST THAT" Good bye world of solitaire and your simple pure motives.

Dykam said...

The Anonymous guy doesn't make sense at all. Robert can leave the ads away, but then the site will be taken down within a month. Robertj just has to pay is server provider.

Myself, I don't play Solitaire, so you won't see me coming back a lot, but I'm impressed on how bugfree and solid your webapp feels.

- Maybe... somewhere... smetimes, I will play a game, and be convenient with the background having a faded stamp of some sponser.

Robert said...

The google ads I put up last night were just an experiment.

I've removed the ads for now.

I'm going to be investigating the donation method next.

Also note, if the ads ever do come back, I will be providing a easy link/button above them that will let you hide them and recover that space for playing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Robert for your thoughtfulness. Because of my eyes, could you have the field of cards fill out the page like before last night. Thank you again.

Robert said...

@Anonymous:

This morning when I removed the ad I also made the 'playspace' fill the entire page again.

If ads come back, then hitting the 'Hide These Ads' link will also recover the space these ads took away from the cards and you'll again have nice and big cards.

Anonymous said...

Why not host it on the AppEngine? Might cut your costs a little.

Robert said...

@Anonymous (AppEngine): That's a great idea actually. I never took it seriously before, but I just went and checked on how much bandwidth/CPU time they allow and it's quite nice. It would still require some significant work to be able to run on AppEngine, and I still have some concerns regarding control of caching headers, uptime and response time, but it's certainly something I'm going to investigate.

Molly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molly said...

I already have an ad that pops up on your site. Thank goodness I can close it. I love your site and play almost every day so do what you have to do to keep it going.

richardb1935 said...

background ads would be cool.. i like the idea

Double Easthaven only shows a maximum of a certain number (15) of cards in a column

great setup and game selection

Anonymous said...

I would like to just win a hand once in awhile. It is very discouraging for those of us who are not out for blood, just a nice game before bed.

Rick said...

Thank you for such a wonderful online experience with "World of Solitaire". I currently maintain a blog and posted an article about "World of Solitaire".

I completely understand your dilemma in finding ways to pay for the bandwidth, etc... Whatever direction you take with this, I'm sure will be well received.

Rick

Robert said...

Rick:

Hello, thanks for the blog post! :)

The only thing I'd mention is that your blog mentions it's 100% Java, this is actually not correct, it's 100% JavaScript.
Although they both begin with 'Java' they are two very different technologies.

hostilefork said...

I'm always saddened to see people who develop cool things lose control of them with advertising! :(

So I'd suggest taking this one step at a time. If you want anyone to get involved with the costs, then I think a good start is transparency. That means charting your bandwidth, saying how much you've paid month to month, showing what revenue has been made, etc.

As for reducing that bandwidth: first of all, you have put YUI into your "combined.js" instead of letting Google serve that for you. Cut your bandwidth AND get faster load times by using their hosted version of that script:

(Unfortunately MochiKit is not hosted there yet.)

If you are going to incorporate advertising then it should ideally be done in a way that is pleasing and coherent. One of the worst things about most ads is that they are ugly: bad typography, horrible images, and no integration into the visual scheme of the site. The ads you're using now fit into this category and just look spammy.

What Fabrice said about making the default deck or background be a **well-designed** and subtle advertisement for a sponsor is a nice angle. It might look *better* than the generic cards and wood texture you have as a default now.

But don't just wait for some impersonal ad network to approach you. Take a product you believe in and contact them. Why not ask Google to foot your bill in exchange for a default deck that has the Chrome logo on it? Google can afford designers who are better than I... but even a naive treatment looks more appealing to me than the default.

I can't imagine taking care of your server costs would be an issue for them. 350,000 visits of a page that does most of its work on the client and is just a couple of scripts? That's nothin'.

And if you're an enthusiast about card games, then why not weave the occasional affiliate deal to review one you like and offer it on the blog? Disclose that you get some amount per sale from your site, and then it's all fine.

So yes, many options here...!

Anonymous said...

I love how you ignore my blogs even though i know the reason why because my opinions are very strong add i am sure that you do not agree with them but its the truth. I voice my opinion as do others and yet mine are ignored. when you run a website you need to consider all options and all opinions when you ask about flaws and ways to make the website better. all opinions need to be voiced and all considered no matter how harsh or truthful they are. -Serenity

Marie said...

I love World of Solitaire. I have one question; by closing ads it doesn't make you pay more by not having as many ads does it? I don't want it to cost too much, but some of these ads are so annoying!

Robert said...

@Marie: Don't worry about hiding the ads, you can close them as much as you want :)

It won't impact the site costs at all, so feel free to hide them :)

Christiana said...

Hi Robert,
I'm new to World of Solitaire and I'm very impressed not only with the gameplay and wealth of options but also hugely by the deck art. Browsing your back-blog, I encountered this post on revenue generation and wondered whether you had considered selling the physical decks via Amazon or otherwise? I love the Torres deck and would happily pay for this (including import taxes to the UK).

If marketing the decks isn't feasible, please could you tell me where I can find details of the artists in order to discover (and maybe purchase) their work?

King regards,
Christiana

Robert said...

@Christiana:

I have thought about getting physical decks produced, but haven't run it past the artists yet. Been busy with some other higher priority things :)

You can find the artist information by going to the 'Decks' menu at top and choosing 'More Decks...' at the bottom. Then select the deck you are interested in on the left and the artist's name and website will appear at the bottom of the window.