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Wednesday
May222013

GAME.minder IndieGogo - Bring GAME.minder back from the brink!

In April, we let our community know that if nothing changed soon, we would be forced to shut GAME.minder down. We got a ton of great feedback with lots of good ideas and after weighing them all, we've settled on transitioning GAME.minder into a subscription service. But that's not something that happens overnight so...

We're raising $25,000 to build a subscription infrastructure for GAME.minder.

With your help, this will make GAME.minder self-sustaining and allow us to grow the service with even more features in the future.

There's more information at the IndieGogo page, including a short video that will quickly bring you up to speed. For as little as $5, you can help us build the next phase of GAME.minder and ensure the service stays around through this exciting year of Playstation 4, Xbox One, OUYA and more!

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Links:

IndieGogo Campaign

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Back From the Brink

Thursday
Apr252013

The GAME.minder Report #42.5 - The Follow Up At The End Of The Universe

I dropped a lot on you on Monday and you fired back. Here's a run down of where we're at, and where we're hoping to go.

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Transcript:

Thanks for all the great support! I wasn’t sure what to expect reaching out to the community like this but you’ve shown that you really do want GAME.minder to stay around. I do too!

I’m going to take this opportunity to address a lot of the feedback directly but before I do that, let me lay out exactly what some of the hurdles are here.

First and most importantly, the data in the system needs maintaining. That is priority #1. Without that, there is no second step.

If we can find a way to keep the system up to date in the short term, priority 2 is to become self supporting, and then profitable.

The good news is that we’ve received a number of offers from GAME.minder users to help maintain the data. Going with a fully crowdsourced option where anyone can edit would be nice, and is still a long term goal, but unfortunately, the administrative interface as it stands now simply isn’t ready for prime time in this way. However, with some training, it won’t be too hard to allow several trusted individuals into the belly of the beast. Keeping as much of GAME.minder up to date as possible was essentially a part time job for one person doing nothing but that. 20-30 hours a week of updates, research and the like.

Assuming we can divide that workload amongst 5-10 people, it should be a pretty manageable couple hours a week. The trickiest part is going to be finding a good way to divvy everything up to make sure people aren’t duplicating effort but that’s a question for me to worry about. If you are interested in being one of these people, and you haven’t done so already, drop us a line.

So moving on priority 2 - making money.

We’ve had a lot of people contact us with ideas about how to bring in money so let me address the most common-

  • Why not just put ads on it?

    • This is not a bad suggestion on the face of it. In fact, some sort of ad system has always been something that was in the long term plan. However, the ads we used to have in GAME.minder were removed because they were driving even less revenue than we’re making now. Our user base is currently at least one order of magnitude too small for typical ads to drive any sort of revenue that matters. To understand why, read  Ben Kuchera’s piece at the Penny Arcade Report from last week.

    • We pulled the generic “iAD/Admob” ads because we wanted to build out an in-house ad system that was more gaming specific, and catered to the needs of game developers to speak directly to the GAME.minder audience. This system would still need to be built as it doesn’t currently exist.

    • To build this system would require a not-insignificant amount of money. To do it right? At least something on the order of $25,000 probably much, much more. And that doesn’t take into account getting the ads to fill such a system, and making that worthwhile to the advertisers. When you add this all together, ads are not a path to short term profitability. A fully funded startup with more than a year of runway could do it but that is not us right now (investors, get in touch if you think we should be!)

    • All that being said, we may decide to do this, even to just drive the tiniest bit of additional revenue in the short term.

  • Let people donate

    • Similar to the above, this may be a good short-term way to bring in some cash, but it’s not a sustainable business model.

    • Additionally, while I very much appreciate how much love people have been showing us this week, I’m a strong believer in providing value for your money and there’s no real connection between a donation and what you’re getting for it.

    • Many people have commented that we’re already providing a lot of value and that we’re not charging for it. That may be true, but I’m still not sure that simply asking for handouts is a good path.

  • Make the app a paid service

    • Another solid idea, in a vacuum. Some people said they would pay $1, others said they would pay $5. But examining the numbers, I’m not sure how sustainable this would be.

    • As I said in my last update to you, we have a total membership of around 27,000. Let’s say every one of those people paid $1 - for $27,000. That’s nowhere near enough money to make GAME.minder a viable business unfortunately and you have to remember that it would probably only be some smaller percentage of users that would choose to pay.

  • Make it a tiered subscription service

    • Now this is an idea we had barely considered before but it’s one we’re exploring. We could do it so that your first 5 RE.minders are free, over that requires some sort of paid subscription.

    • As our average RE.minder number per user is 14, this could conceivably drive a decent amount of revenue, or, it could be that it means people simply use the service less.

    • Either way, this is a direction I could see us going.

  • You should ask GameStop / Rooster Teeth / IGN / etc to buy you.

    • This is a tricky one. We’ve had several conversations with potential purchasers over the last year or two. As you have all rightly observed, what GAME.minder does is valuable, especially to gamers and companies that serve gamers.

    • While most of these conversations fizzled of their own accord, I’ve always been reticent to simply sell unless I found the perfect partner and I will share with you the reason for that -

    • The .minder concept was never intended to be only for games. In fact, when I started Handelabra, I wasn’t sure whether to do GAME.minder or FILM.minder first. We settled on GAME.minder because we (mistakenly it turns out) assumed that the video game release cycle was a simpler one than the movie release cycle. Games only come out once (HA!) vs movies that come to theaters, home video, streaming etc.

    • The overarching goal was to create the system that could handle one type of media, games, and then expand it to the others. If we were to sell it to a gaming company, the dream I had of a system that could track and inform about just about anything in the world would be lost.

    • The new backend that was launched in December takes some significant steps toward this goal. Obviously at this point, we have little choice in the matter regarding selling, time has made these choices for us.

    • If you have any connections to companies that might consider a purchase of GAME.minder, please get in touch with them or us or both.

    • One final note on this - we have had several people ask what sort of price we’d be looking for to sell the entire system. What I can tell you is this - we have spent more than $200,000 building the GAME.minder system. Do with that what you will. And by all means, make me an offer!

  • Do a Kickstarter (or IndieGoGo)!

    • Crowdfunding is a remarkable tool but it is just that - a tool.

    • If your goal with a crowdfunding campaign is “get money”, then you are doing it wrong. We’ve worked with several companies that have successfully and unsuccessfully used crowdfunding and we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

    • GAME.minder, right now, is essentially a concept in search of a business model. As such, the only way a crowdfunding campaign could help would be if it funded the development of something that puts a successful business plan in place.

    • By way of example, let’s say we determined that it would cost, say, $25,000 to build out our in house advertising system. We then do a Kickstarter, raise that money, and build the system. Without a much larger audience, we’d be right back where we started after several months have passed. We’d have a nice piece of code that can run ads, but not a big enough audience to make that matter.

    • The one way that I could see a crowdfunding campaign work is if we were to use it to build the subscription feature I mentioned above. That is something that would be manageable in project size, could reasonably be built in a relatively small amount of time and also has built-in rewards (for $X, you get this many months/years premium subscription once it goes live).

    • I’m hoping to explore further how we could make this work and report back soon.

So that’s a run down of the arguments for and against the various revenue generating options before us. As I said right at the top, none of those will matter in the slightest if we don’t get data management under control so that is priority #1 right now.

If you’ve already contacted us to offer your help on the data management front, I’ll be reaching out to you in the next couple days. If you would like to help but haven’t reached out yet, please do.

The skills you will need to be able to handle the data management system are pretty rudimentary - Basic internet research skills, and the ability to work with (an admittedly overly complex) set of web forms.

Thank you again for all the feedback. I think we may be on the right track and that GAME.minder will live to see another day. We’re hopinh we can make this work for you guys and as always, Don’t Forget To Play.

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Episode 42.5

Thursday
Apr182013

The GAME.minder Report #42 - Life, The Universe and Nothingness

What is to become of GAME.minder? Watch or listen, or read the transcript below.

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Transcript:

Welcome to the GAME.minder Report. This is Jeremy with something a little different.

First off, allow me to set up the irony - This morning we launched GAME.minder for OUYA! Getting this version of GAME.minder out the door was a fun challenge and if you’re just learning about GAME.minder from the OUYA world - welcome!

If you are listening to or watching this show, you probably know that the stated goal of GAME.minder is to track every upcoming video game so that gamers don’t forget to play that next great game they are waiting for. It was a good way to keep a handle on the AAA titles like Bioshock Infinite who’s ship date kept slipping but it was also a tool for grabbing info on that little indie game that wasn’t going to ship “until it’s done” and wouldn’t have a marketing budget to compete with the big names.

If you are a GAME.minder user, you’ve also probably noticed that the data in the system has been growing more and more stale April 1st, which was the day we could no longer afford to pay someone to manually curate the incoming game requests and reports. A lot of the info in GAME.minder is updated automatically via several tools we’ve built but the nature of what we’re trying to catalog means that no automatic tool will ever be good enough.

It has always been our goal with GAME.minder to eventually move to a crowdsourced system of data management. Users would be able to add, edit and vote on entries in the system wikipedia+reddit style. The new backend that we launched in December has support for this but the front end support has not yet been built. There are 3 different clients (web, iOS and Android) that would all need updating to make this happen.

In my mind, a game’s GAME.minder entry would be one part twitter stream, one part facebook fan page, one part wikipedia entry. The whole thing would be powered by users dropping in content Pinterest “Pin It” style, with entries voted on like reddit and funded by in house advertising and affiliate game sales. I still believe that a system like this is possible, but unfortunately, it is looking less and less likely that Handelabra will be the ones to accomplish it. This episode of the GAME.minder Report is going to go a bit behind the scenes to explain GAME.minder’s current situation. The reason is that it is very likely that GAME.minder as a service might be going away and I wanted to explain why. This also serves as an official request for help. 

Handelabra, and therefore GAME.minder, is almost out of money. We used quite a bit of it rebuilding the original GAME.minder system into what it is today, the system that launched in December. This system has in place the scaffolding to handle a lot of what I’ve listed above, but we simply don’t have the cash or resources to realize the full dream and I’ve been incapable of drumming up enough investment interest.

Some numbers for you 

The GAME.minder app has been downloaded around 160,000 times across iOS, Google Play and the Amazon App Store. There’s also been 51,000 Unique visitors to gameminder.com for a total “new user” number of just over 200,000. Our active user base (users who have actually signed up for an account and set a RE.minder) is just over 27k. Those 27 thousand users have set more than 420,000 RE.minders for an average of 15 RE.minders per user.

GAME.minder currently only makes money when users buy games through the website or apps. Our 2 affiliate partners are Amazon and the iOS AppStore. To put it all on the table, affiliate sales from the AppStore only drive about $60-80 a month. Amazon is even tougher. The majority of Amazon sales are pre-orders which means we don’t get any money until the game actually ships. And even so, months with games like Halo 4 or Bioshock Infinite (in other words, heavy pre-order sales) still only top out at around $100.

To put this into perspective, the hosting costs alone for the GAME.minder backend are usually in the $150 range per month on Heroku. So clearly, the system itself isn’t even at break even, before taking into account the ongoing costs involved with manual curation of data (which is still necessary until the user content creation and voting is ready for prime time) or any ongoing development.

The failure on this front is my own. When I started Handelabra, I envisioned GAME.minder as a simple utility app. As we got feedback about how people wanted to use it, I allowed the concept (and the time spent on it) to grow far beyond it’s ability to support itself financially. I allowed myself to believe that “The GAME.minder Story” would parallel the “Twitter Story”, and the “Instagram Story” and the “Facebook Story”; that we would have investors lining up to fund us at a loss while we built the “next great social games discovery system” with thoughts of turning a profit at some point in the distant future.

We’ve also expanded the GAME.minder name into other areas, this podcast being an additional tentpole for the GAME.minder concept for almost a year now. And just last month, we threw “The GAME.minder Expo” at the Launchhouse in Shaker heights for more than 150 local gamers and developers.

So what’s the point? Well, as we’re at the end of the runway here, I’ve decided it’s time to reach out to the community to see what our next move should be. GAME.minder is just one of the products made by Handelabra, but it is far and away the most financially draining. Ironically, the app RE.minder has become our biggest seller and it was only developed as a way to take the GAME.minder concept in a more generic direction while expanding the .minder brand. Most notably, our other apps don’t have any ongoing costs associated with hosting in the way that GAME.minder does.

So what are the options?

The first, simplest and least useful option is simply to kill it. We would flip the switch on the GAME.minder Servers, pull the apps down from the stores, call it a fun experiment and that’s that. The GAME.minder Report might continue in some form or another but it would be strange to have it continue at least in name if the GAME.minder app and site are gone.

Another way to go would be to sell the entire system lock, stock and barrel to the highest bidder. If you think you can take GAME.minder from what it is, and turn it into what it can be, please get in touch with me by visiting GAMEminderReport.com/Contact. Over the life of the service, we’ve had several conversations with potential purchasers, several with the word “GAME” prominently displayed in their name. All of these talks have fizzled.

Yet another option would be to crowd fund continuing development. As the main failing of GAME.minder appears to be its business model, giving people an opportunity to pay for the service directly might work out. I have no idea what people would be willing to pay for what GAME.minder does. For the majority, it might be “nothing” and that’s certainly fair.

We’ve explored this option before but there are several “gotchas” here. The first is that GAME.minder is close enough to a social network that we would likely not be allowed on Kickstarter. There are other crowd funding tools, but kickstarter is certainly the most well known. Second, running a good crowd funding campaign is a full time job in and of itself and as I’ve already said, we are severely limited on resources right now.

Another option would be to open source the whole thing and hand it off to the community. If you are interested in helping in this regard, please get in touch by visiting GAMEminderReport.com/Contact.

I jumped into the deep end of the pool when I decided to take GAME.minder from “simple iOS only app” into “global video game tracking system”. I made a bet, not only that the idea was a good one, but that I had the ability to manage the building of such a system and it appears that I have lost that bet.

But the fight isn’t over yet. I’ve met a lot of gamers over the last 3 years at events like PAX and RTX and I know that you like GAME.minder and you like what it does. If you don’t want to see it go away, now is the time to act. If you have any ideas whatsoever about how to keep GAME.minder from ending, please get in touch with us by visiting GAMEminderReport.com/Contact

Thanks for listening and as always - Don’t Forget To Play.

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Episode 42

Tuesday
Apr022013

The GAME.minder Report #41 - PAX East Superinterview

We chatted with lots of great folks at PAX East this year. All the video is in our Youtube playlist (embedded below) or, for the more audio inclined, we've cut them all together into a single episode of the GAME.minder Report Podcast. Pick your poison and enjoy!

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Links:

Ray's The Dead
Tengami
Gamebook Adventures
PWN
Drunken Robot Pornography
Guns of Icarus
Girls Like Robots
They Bleed Pixels
Octodad: Dadliest Catch 

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Episode 41

Monday
Mar182013

The GAME.minder Report #40 - LIVE! From GMX with Hashtag Nerd

This week we recorded live in front of a studio audience at the first ever GAME.minder Expo. Over 130 gamers, developers and fans gathered at the LaunchHouse in Shaker to share their love of gaming and maybe even learn a thing or two. Topics include gender swapping game characters and our shared gaming culture.

 

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Headline Stories:

God of War "Bros before Hos" Controversy
Dad genderswaps Donkey Kong for his five-year-old daughter
GAME.minder Expo 
Hashtag Nerd 

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Episode 40