A spin on the ransom model

Started by Callan S., October 12, 2009, 09:45:32 AM

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Callan S.

The ransom model doesn't work in my mind, and yet games have been released on it regardless. I'm kind of thinking it's based on how well known the person releasing it is and, probably wrapped in that, releasing a product that matches general gamer expectations.

I don't think it's for me, but I was thinking of an alternative. Has anyone got much experience with google adsense or similar? I was thinking you could have a model where you ransom the product until a certain amount of money is made through adverts being clicked! The amount would be more modest than usual given how the adverts give little, but it seems more supportable. So people can click adverts on your site to forfil the ransom :)

Then again someone got 1k in advance because they said they'd love to write a supplement but needed to be given money first. It may be I'm underestimating the market?

Ron Edwards

Hi Callan,

People who've employed it can probably give a better and more detailed response than I can. However, through observation in two out of three, here are what I think are the key considerations.

1. Non-end-use funding, specifically from middleman outlets. A company with a centralized website for sales of the game/product may offer a substantial proportion of the stated total for some kind of exclusive deal to sell it from that site, for some specified period of time. I know this has happened, but not how common it is. I'm not criticizing the practice, but it is certainly different from the image or implication that the ransom was paid solely by interested individual customers.

2. Conditions of purchase once it's available. It strikes me that the conditions of getting the thing, and its availability in general, are a huge part of the technique, maybe even more important than the ransom itself. There are lots of angles to this, too. For instance, if you paid into the ransom, then do you get a copy of the game without further payment? If so, then "ransom" is pretty much the same as a pre-order with an option to pay in some more for simple support/donation toward the publisher. For another instance, Greg Stolze makes ransomed stuff free on-line, if I understand correctly (and speaking as an enthusiastic downloader of Reign stuff). So in paying ransom in that case, one is helping everyone who's interested. I'm sure there are many other possibilities.

3. Excitement about the product without any mention of or concern with the ransom technique. I think this is a big deal. It seems very unlikely to me (in other words, this is my perception, not a claim toward observation) that a game/product becomes exciting because it's presented in ransom terms. Instead, the ransom becomes a fun way to participate in and support something (or someone) which one already would like to be associated with.

Best, Ron


Hey, Callan; I've occasionally looked into using Google Adsense; one of the things your proposal might run afoul of is that you're generally prohibited from asking people to click your ads.

QuotePublishers may not ask others to click their ads or use deceptive implementation methods to obtain clicks. This includes, but is not limited to, offering compensation to users for viewing ads or performing searches, promising to raise money for third parties for such behavior or placing images next to individual ads.

I'd suspect that a similar clause will be in any legit ad scheme that isn't immediately selling something. (That is, Amazon probably wouldn't care, since you don't get revenue for eyeballs or clicks as an Amazon Associate, you get revenue when you send someone over and they buy something.)
Gods & Monsters

Callan S.

Thank Jerry, that's the sort of fiddley-ness I was wondering about. Of course you've got quotes from publishers on the google adsense page
Quote"Without the money generated from Google Ads we would not be able to fund our website and spend as many hours working on it."

- Vikram Goyal , Webmaster and Advertising Manager - Craftbits.com
And you get the absurd situation where no doubt the majority of visitors know their clicks support the website, but my gosh you can't tell people to click on the ads! There's a clear content for clicks connection there right in their own quotes. Not arguing that here - just registering that it doesn't have my "Oh, of course that makes sense" quiet acceptance.

I'll consider the symantics of the situation - people already know their clicks are revenue for the page owner. It's not impossible to refer to this knowledge without telling them to click ads. I'll mull that over, thanks for bringing it up.

Thank Ron,

I suppose I'm looking at the ransom idea not as something interesting in itself (either for me or for others), or there being some value in maintaining the integrity of the idea (ie, if it broke down to just preorders, that's ok, I have no attachment to the idea). What I'm looking at/for is some model of certain income for work done - normally that might seem absurd to look for, but then there's the ransom model going on and someone getting a K in advance of actually writing a supplement. My enthusiasm for 'put in effort then hope for the best in terms of return' has probably worn down to nil, ironically, because of gaming. Whinge, whinge. I'm reading your three point in terms of that particular objective (slightly different angle to the three points, though they are still applicable). Also in terms of point #2, I was thinking free to all once ransom is met. That is a pretty significant factor.


Quote from: Callan S. on October 12, 2009, 10:08:36 PMMy enthusiasm for 'put in effort then hope for the best in terms of return' has probably worn down to nil, ironically, because of gaming.

Yeah, I'm there with you. Open Design "solves" this problem by offering potential projects for patrons to "vote" on a commitment to. Once enough patrons have voted with their wallet, the winning project is green-lit and patrons get to watch the design develop and even contribute to the design project. Though I still don't know that ANY of these methods will work without people in the community already knowing your name and liking your work, the "pay me to produce a product" option is better than the "I've produced a product, now pay me" option.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Callan S.

Well in this case clicking on the google ads is relatively free to do (in direct money terms it's free), and so if there's good will out there to support various game designers, there aught to be enough good will to look at the links a second longer to see if ones worth clicking (I'm not directly saying they just click them regardless - just consider the advertising a bit longer and perhaps indulge a click on something that interests where otherwise you wouldn't - and that helps a game designer). I thought all that makes it considerably easier to support indie designers.

I was also idly considering accepting donations by paypal, and people can name NPC's or areas of the game in exchange. Though I'm not yet familiar with paypal at all and whether it lists who has given you money (so I can link up the actual donation with the person/the name they have in mind).


I'm not sure why you think the model doesn't work.  I mean, it doesn't work EVERY TIME but what does?  (Well, Colt 45 malt liquor, I suppose.)

The one I've got going now is http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gregstolze/regret-with-math-an-eternal-short-story and I think the buy-in isn't a bug but a feature.  I mean, think of it this way.  Wealthy philanthropists fund public art, and it's not just because they want to see the art.  If it was just that, they could as easily put it in their ski condo in Vail or whatever.  There's a good feeling from thinking, "Hey, I contributed to culture!" though I'm not sure people think of it in those terms.  Or, with gaming, "Hey, I contributed to creating a pool of fellow gamers for a game I like."

Today (I hope) I'm going to try and mobilize the kickstarter donors to go out and recruit, Amway-style.  If I'm right about the psychological reward of being part of the process, that might just put me over the top.


Callan S.

Hi Greg,

I think it doesn't fit my profile and history - I don't know this, but how much did you release material prior to ever doing the ransom model? I'm imagining a build up of reputation or community inclusion and such prior. Apart from grinding my teeth on the forge or however I appear to all and sundry, in practical terms I don't think I carry that. Or I'm way off, but I'm just evaluating myself clinically at the mo.

Anyway, rolling on and looking at adsense they do give more example latter which seem to proclude my idea (at first they seem to be giving half assed rules, where not only is everyone else to follow them, but also try and determine the companies own rules for them...but then they actually provided more examples in further text, enough to forfil their side of actually informing).

BUT I was thinking of some sort of model of getting a certain number of links to the monetized page (is that even a word?), before a product is released for free. This backlinking helps up traffic and is well within adsense rules. That seems pretty viable!

Speaking of, I have a wordpress page but found I couldn't put adds on it. Started up a blogger page, and google owns blogger - can I even google my own page? No! I even put a new article on my wordpress page by chance and about two hours latter it was googleable (yes, I tried to make a new post on the wordpress blog to include a link to it, which then hasn't shown up on google!). Some opinion I've read suggests it's search engine traffic that clicks links. Heh, which perhaps conflicts with the idea above, but oh well!

Ron Edwards

Callan, when you're asking Greg about releasing material prior to using the ransom technique, do you mean for that particular project? Or anything he did previously ever?

If the latter, then the answer is that Greg is a well-known author for a number of customer-favorite games and settings throughout the 1990s: Everway, Over the Edge, Unknown Armies, several White Wolf projects, and more. In other words, he's a good candidate for a lot of juice in my #3 point in my post above: "Greg's new thing" automatically generates interest across a number of potential customers, as well as among other game designers who also provide secondary advertising and support simply through mentioning it.

Best, Ron

Callan S.

Hi Ron,

The latter, and your describing exactly what I was trying to get at - I don't think it's false modesty at all to say I don't have that 'juice' behind me. That's over a decade of juice, there. That's why I was looking at more humble models.

And I should know my history of who's been involved in what, but I'm not very good at that. Sorry, Greg.

Callan S.

In further news, I didn't realise adsense had adds which pay a small fraction simply for page impressions, which is unique web page visits, I think.

I don't recall anything in their policy about asking for web page visits because that too adds revenue. Has anyone else seen any policy from them against that?

And just on the ransom model, I'd probably call it more of a group purchase model atleast in how I'm using it (though a more glamourous name is welcomed!).