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(in process)

I've tried to place extra / ancillary information in parentheses. Partially, this FAQ is eplanatory and exploratory, to try and describe the situation as we see it. The issue that we've seen with other subcommunities in Gaia is that we'll say, "Such and such is the current situation" and people will take it as meaning such-and-such future intent, but it's easy to drive yourself crazy with that. I'll try to explicitly call out the actual implications.

Current

Q. How popular is zOMG in Gaia?

zOMG is currently the second most popular Gaia-themed flash game on Gaia, just behind Towns but ahead of Rallies -- about 5% of the daily active users play zOMG sometime during the day, and the rates are similar when you look at the entire month. A significantly higher percentage of users have tried zOMG. International users make up a higher percentage of the zOMG user base than the site as a whole.

(Confounding these numbers: a) unknown number of players that are just bored with zOMG and will pick it up again if we have new content, b) a significantly higher percentage of mules in the daily numbers, mostly to bypass the gold curve, and c) a percentage of users that play zOMG mostly for the gold.)

Q. Why aren't there sponsors for zOMG?

At a high level, sponsors come to us and say they'd like to do a campaign, and we lay out a number of different options for them. The two things working against a zOMG sponsorship here are: sponsorships would like the cheapest campaign possible, and they would like the widest audience possible.

(Mind you, if a sponsor wanted a zOMG tie-in, we'd love to do it, but from the sponsor's point of view there would have to be some specific attribute of the zOMG audience that would make it worth the extra development costs over, say, a custom profile page or flash space.)

Q. Why don't you advertise zOMG more?

The marketing budget for Gaia Online is really limited. Games are problematic at the moment because there is so much competition -- right now the cost to bring a new user into an MMO game is about $7 / user.

Q. Why not more ties to Alchemy?

Yeah, we're in the process of balancing out alchemy, and would like to have more ties to all the features on the site. So far our experiments in that direction (i.e., Golden Giftbox) didn't seem to increase zOMG usage; after GGB was released we did not see an uptick in the amount of zOMG play.

(Some counters could be raised here, such as "well, you didn't integrate alchemy ENOUGH," but remember that we have a marketplace that circulates items pretty efficiently. For alchemy to drive appreciable traffic they would probably have to be items that were not attainable by other means, i.e., you have to prevent distribution on the marketplace by potentially soulbinding both components and the results of alchemy. There is also the question of whether people "forced" into zOMG because there is no other way to get a particular item would be inclined to fund it).

Q. Why not more ties to the rest of the site (i.e., achievements)?

We're planning on more achievements for zOMG. Our sense, though, is that achievements are useful for driving limited engagement into new features (i.e., someone might wander into a forum to grab an achievement as a one-time event) but don't necessarily drive long-term use.

Monetization

Okay, brief digression here, skip if you like:

I'd like to get away from the notion that the worth of something is entirely related to how much money it provides. It's easy to fall into that trap.

Bad metaphor, but maybe it makes the point: given a choice between picking up a $5 bill on the ground or seeing the smile of my newborn niece, I would pick the smile. However, that doesn't mean that my salary can be henceforth converted into NNS (newborn niece smiles).

So, in the below discussion, if we say "so-and-so gives us about nnnn revenue," this doesn't mean that we're saying a) people are slacking, or b) the users are undesirable, or anything of the sort. We're more looking at it from the business perspective.

Q. Why all this talk recently of "monetization"?

Every business, in an ongoing fashion, needs to be evaluating different features and deciding if it makes sense going forward. It breaks down as features on Gaia, it may be menu items in a restaurant, product lines for a big corporation. It's an ordinary part of business.

One of the things that we've been concentrating on recently is how to change the zOMG model to be self-sustaining; that is, having it pay for itself in the costs of development.

Q. Why does it always seem like we have to buy more stuff to keep zOMG alive?

None of the official announcements that I looked at ever said "buy this or this feature gets it," but there certainly seems to be a strong undercurrent of that sentiment in the zOMG community; I'm not sure if it came from [JK] informally or has just been telephoned between users to that state. However, like any business, if we are doing something that doesn't make sense financially, we need to change what we are doing.

Last year we did set certain revenue targets for zOMG based on a presumed development team size, but we haven't hit them. Partly we've been experimenting with different models to see what works the best.

(If there's anything working in zOMG's favor here, it's the community's passion for the game. It has been difficult finding a good model. We've said we won't do pay-to-play, so subscriptions are out. The Gaia marketplace is extremely fluid, so there is less incentive to buy something when you can just play a few hours to earn the gold. Power-ups are not so critical that they're necessary for the game. Many younger players + many international players mean more players with no access to Gaia Cash. Many of the suggestions for monetization in the forums are good, but they won't have a dramatic effect on revenue because they don't fundamentally affect the model).

Q. Have any of our efforts made a difference?

Yes, very definitely. The community's financial and non-financial support contributed to us deciding to go ahead with DMS. The zOMG team's thought was that DMS was the best shot for trying to infuse some new life into the game.

Q. What is considered zOMG money?

Power ups, summons, gold potions, Bloodstone amulets, advertising in the zOMG frame (when we do it), and I'm probably forgetting other things but that is the main bulk.

Q. Where does it go?

Well, it doesn't go directly into the pockets of the people working on zOMG -- accounting doesn't work like that. It goes into the general pool from which operating expenses and salaries are paid. Currently, zOMG takes in less than it costs to maintain the ongoing development, so it can be fairly said that all zOMG funding is going into zOMG development.

Q. Why not make more zOMG themed items?

We have a few that are being considered but for the most part they don't seem to improve the incremental revenue very much. Incremental revenue is the difference between, say, one item, and another item with a zOMG theme. It's possible that we haven't provided the right offering, but also keep in mind that zOMG-themed items are competing against all the other ideas for items in the pipeline.

Q. Why not put more advertisements in zOMG?

We tried advertisements but they don't work really well, for a few reasons: a) zOMG has a lot of international users, and advertising outside the US pays less well, b) showing an advertisement on the loading screen doesn't drive that many impressions (since once you load the game you'll be in there for a long time), c) any of the advertisements that showed DURING the game (i.e., a flash banner under the game proper) would slow down the game every 30 seconds.

(There are potentially things we could try here. Moga is using a mandatory video every 15-20 minutes that does well for them, and we're looking at that. Unfortunately, they don't provide any videos for non-US traffic. Advertising pays better for videos than for static images, for obvious reasons. Non-video advertising doesn't really pay very well, so showing an advertisement as a replacement for the loading screen wouldn't drive much revenue. With any type of advertising we're going to run into high rates of adblock. Making users wait for 30 seconds every time they do a zone transition may be obtrusive enough that some players quit rather than ensure the wait.)

Q. How well did the Bloodstone amulet do? Why did set the limit to only 5000?

Bloodstone amulet was put on sale 9/16 as a non-exclusive item. Initial sales were pretty slow, and they didn't pick up until 9/21 when we made it a poseable / exclusive item. We made it exclusive at 5000 because, based on the initial numbers, that was a number we thought that we could hit. We plan to have an another offering to allow people to enter into DMS when we are very close to ship.

Futures

Q. Why not take developers off Moga and put them onto zOMG?

The allocation of people and resources within the company is decided at the board level. They've decided that FB games are the best shot at growth right now. That said, if we had a viable business plan for zOMG that showed growth / revenue potential, we could certainly try to convince the board.

Q. Why not put zOMG on FB?

We seriously looked at this. It would be a sizable development effort, as we would need to tie into the FB backend and rework the interface for the restrictions of the FB canvas. Also, the games that are successful on FB are games that you can play in little 5 or 10 minute increments and then go do something else; additionally, multiplayer is asynchronous (i.e., the other players do not actually have to be online at the same time). zOMG requires longer minimum playtimes and synchronous multiplayer (i.e., all the other players have to be online at the same time). Our best guess is that zOMG is not a good fit for FB.

Q. Why not make it PVP?
Another variant: zOMG was never what we wanted, we wanted PVP!

Making zOMG PVP would require a fundamental restructing and rebalancing of the game and should just be considered off the table for now. (There are also some questions as to whether PVP has a broad-based appeal.)

Q. Why are you doing DMS?

Overwhelming feedback from the community was that new content was the thing that would interest them most. The zOMG team thought that DMS was the new content that was closest to completion.

There is some audience currently on Gaia that is not playing zOMG that will play zOMG when there is new content; DMS is our attempt to find out how large that audience is. Additionally, by getting more people playing zOMG again, we (hopefully) get more people being brought in via word-of-mouth.

Q. What would it take to get incremental updates every two weeks + major updates every six?

Lots of vague definitions here (i.e., what's the difference between incremental vs. major updates?) But for purposes of discussion, assume that an incremental update is rebalancing / quest tweak / drop tweak, and a major update is significant new content potentially including new rings, bosses, and/or areas (i.e., DMS level). At that point you're talking about 4 or 5 developers. To fund a 4 or 5 man team with existing monetization schemes + some level of advertising, you'd need probably about 5x the audience playing day to day; that is, zOMG would need to be about 30% of daily active users.

(Many caveats here. This number presumes certain assumptions about a model that would be acceptable to the community: a) no subscription mode; b) no requirement to pay money for new areas; c) game play not so hard that it requires power-ups. Varying one of those parameters does change the number of users required for a viable player base. Our gut feel is that while players will increase with the release of DMS, but it won't increase by that much; so you can see why we're looking at this from the viewpoint of trying to change the model).