A penny for your thoughts, a tenner for your time.
Take a London tube train. Any London tube train.
Look around, notice how many of the people travelling with you are not staring down into their phones. Two, three? Maybe even five? And how many are instead checking their emails, being nosy on Facebook, playing Candy Crush? All the others, of course. The great, vast majority.
I was once in a carriage with about 50 other passengers. I was the only one not looking at my addictive device, almost the only one with no headphones on.
In a situation where no one was paying attention to anyone, I was the weirdo, just because I was looking around.
That got me thinking.
Since the beginning of 2017, we have been experimenting with mobile ads at Strillobyte, reading a lot about monetisation strategies and what options to consider when building an app that should generate some revenue. The most shining examples these days are in the gaming industry.
Gaming companies like Super Cell (Hay Day, Clash of Clans) and King (Candy Crush Saga) make millions of dollars each day out of beautifully designed, cleverly engineered, free games.
Hang on, did you say free??
Yep. Free to install, free to play.
Up to a point, of course. When your brain is hooked to the action, when you have already spent hours building up your army, or your farm, or whatever it is that the game is about, then you will very likely, slowly evolve into a good paying customer. You will hit a barrier. You will need more gold, or more coins, or more diamonds. Or any other form of currency that the game uses to control your progress.
And currency of course, can be bought with hard cash through in-app payments.
If Clash asked me to spend $10 to speed up building, I’d feel far too guilty to agree, but if I have the option to spend 800 gems to speed up building, I could very well go for it.
Nate Desmond — The Secrets Behind a $5M+ Per Day Game
In Hooked, Nir Eyal perfectly describes the psychology behind users behaviour. The trick is to build a habit loop, to constantly engage you by letting you gain a lot of momentum very easily, only for then throwing little barriers in your way. Barriers that you can easily overcome with tiny amounts of cash. Once you have paid once, you will have passed the mental block of investing real money into the game. At the next hurdle, you will see that as a viable option to improve faster and advance in the gameplay. This can easily become a habit.
So on that day on the tube, I realised that probably about half of the people sitting around me (and some of the ones standing as well) where most likely playing a mobile game. Not talking to each other, not engaging their brains in conversation, but rather investing their time and potentially their money in isolation, making some remote gaming company ridiculously rich.
I thought ‘This is not fair. These guys are ignoring each other, wasting their brainpower and money in return for what? Digital chickens? An army of dwarves?’ (I also thought ‘This is not the way I’d like my kids to spend their time when commuting’, but that’s another story).
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad in playing and enjoying games per se. I’ve been a gamer too, and spent long hours on racing simulators and similar stuff. But I find it deeply unfair that someone makes millions out of it, and players get nothing.
Gamers should get a slice of the pie for all the effort they put in.
That was my conclusion: in a fairer gaming industry, both producers and gamers should enjoy the revenues.
So, we are giving it a try, with Tenner.
Enter a simple puzzle game.
This is something that I used to play as a past time in my school years. A very simple, yet challenging brain teaser, where you need to fill a square made of 10 x 10 cells, with numbers from 1 to 100. With a few caveats: you start from a fixed layout, you need to skip two cells when moving horizontally or vertically, one cell diagonally, and you cannot go outside the square or use the same cell twice.
We chose this simple puzzle to create our very own first gaming experiment, where we share the revenue generated with the players.
Our first attempt works as follows: every day, at midnight, whoever has reached the top score of the day wins £10 (yes, hence the name).
Simple, easy, fairer. The more you play, the more the game should generate revenue using mobile ads. Therefore the more you play, the more you move up the chart and increase your chances of getting some money back.
This is just our initial take on building a game where players get a share of the overall cash that is generated (by them). Our gamble now is that we get enough players to accrue more than £10 a day, or we’ll be actually losing money. That’s why at the start we are only giving the prize to one player a day. More will come as we are brainstorming other ideas, and any comments or suggestions for different sharing models are truly welcomed.
In the meantime, please do share wth all your friends and enemies and sign up for our early iOS beta below:
Let the game begin!