A Great Conversion Plan

There are many possible conversion plans available to you but I would like to outline what I believe to be one of the best. Opinions may vary, but few can argue the effectiveness of this plan:

1) Develop your game and begin promoting it early. This means getting your domain name early too, esp. if you are registering a new domain name being introduced to the web for the first time.

2) When your game is ready for Alpha testing, instead wait until it is ready for Beta testing, then invite others to test it but call it “Alpha”. Members will be writing reviews of your game while still in Alpha so if you lack content, your game will get unfair premature reviews.

3) Make sure your game is free. Nothing will help your promotional efforts more than being free. One model suggest that you lock out non-paying players after they achieve a specific mile-stone, that mile-stone could be 2 weeks, or it could be level 20. But this means that your game must be incredibly deep and addictive in order to get those members to start paying after only a couple of weeks of game play. In this case it’s not really a free game, but a free preview of the game, there is a difference. Not including geographic zones, 90% of the game content should be available for free to everyone; your game, for sake of argument, must be free, not just feature a free preview.

4) Make sure that you communicate to your player base that the game will always include a 100% free version without level or advancement restriction. If you fail to communicate this then your existing free players will lack confidence thinking that eventually they will have to pay, as a result, they’ll bail early in order to avoid getting hooked.

5) If you launched Alpha accounts when your game was ready for Beta, then you open Beta accounts when your game is complete. Your game should remain in Beta for at least 6 to 8 months, certainly no longer than a year. During this phase you will perform what is generally known as the first year balancing tweaks and minor improvements. But for the most part, you will be using this time to build content for future paying customers. This “gold” content must not overpower free players or else you will drive them away. The content should give the players an edge and more geography to explore but should in no way enable a new paying customer to overpower a veteran that still has a free account.

By doing this you give your players a “choice” in keeping their free account or upgrading to a gold account. If you restrict game play or remove elements previously made available to all players to paying members only, you will quickly drive away your large base of free players. This is important because all of your members that enjoy the game at no cost, will help to promote your game. The concept is incredibly simple, use the free players to advertise your game to draw in more paying customers.

6) Treat all players as “customers” long before you offer premium memberships, treat them fairly and without bias beginning with the Alpha release of your PBBG. Unconditional terms are common in amateur PBBG’s, essentially developers say “it’s my game so I can do whatever I want”, but this does not instill the level of trust needed for conversion. Develop a conditional TOS that stipulates that you can only act against a player if s/he breaks a rule, then clearly list those rules. As a developer, you may not be equipped to handle customer service. Don’t assume that because you are skilled in programming that you are also skilled in customer service, both are equally important. You may wish to consider letting a partner manage the customer service end.

7) If you opened Beta accounts when your game was ready to go live, then you go live when your gold content is ready. This means that your veterans have been enjoying the game for nearly a year now… they’re hooked and ready for new content. This is the perfect time to go Gold. Be sure to offer an incentive for those that sign up within a month of the launch of Gold, call these players trail-blazers and credit them with something truly unique that will only become available during the first month of going gold. Be sure to hype up the Gold content before it’s ready to launch, you want those Beta veterans virtually lining up with money in hand. Offer several payment options including PayPal and let members gift other players with premium memberships. Be sure to hand out a few free premium memberships to those that offered outstanding feedback during Alpha and Beta.

8) Don’t charge too much, you’re not Blizzard, and you don’t own the most popular MMORPG in the world, and you don’t own a 30 story building in Irvine to match it. You own an independently developed PBBG, your fees should reflect this. Under $5 a month will net you sign-ups, more than this will result in a low conversion rate. Consider that it’s better to have 200 players paying $2.95 per month ($590) than to have 20 players paying $6.95 per month ($139). Lower fees will make it easier for your members to sign up for gold content resulting in more income. Make sure your account holders can pay in advanced and with a discount for 3,6,9, or 12 months of advanced payments.

This is a solid plan and I’ve seen it work with several successful PBBG’s. With some careful planning you can make it work for you too.

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Whane The Whip is an SEM/SEO specialist and maintains a browser based MMORPG review site.


Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 marketing
  • Interesting post. I have stumbled and twittered this for my friends. Hope others find it as interesting as I did.

  • Very nice post, some good ideas here. I have been enjoying reading your blog even though my programming language of choice is not ruby or perl, the content is great and very informative.

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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.


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