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Mousecraft devs do Pay What You Want well

By on August 1, 2013
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The team at Crunching Koalas have just launched a Pay What You Want scheme for their new game, Mousecraft.

The title is described as a cross between Lemmings and Tetris: “MouseCraft is a tile-matching puzzle game where players help mice in their relentless quest for cheese by stacking world’s most famous blocks: Tetrominos.”

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Crunching Koalas have just released Mousecraft as an alpha, together with a Pay What You Want strategy that emulates some of the successful elements of the Humble Bundles. The site has only been up for a couple of days and 135 people have given $576.04, an average of $4.27.

The screenshot below shows some of the ways that Crunching Koalas is trying to encourage people to spend money on their game.

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  • It shows that 135 people are giving money, invoking Social Proof (a concept we’ll explore in another post)
  • It shows the average amount paid. This is an “anchor”. Many of us like to think that we are slightly “above average”, so hopefully will pay a little more than the average, driving it up over time.
  • It shows the ten most generous people, their names and how much they paid. This is more social proof. It is also another anchor, one that is higher than the average price so should also tend to drive prices up over time.
  • They invoke a spirit of competitiveness by platform: Linux users are more generous than Mac users who are more generous than Windows users. I suspect that this is unlikely to affect the behavour of the majority (Windows users), but might tend to make other platform users be more generous.

To date, Crunching Koalas haven’t raised much money. I suspect they need more awareness. I haven’t played their game: it is possible that it isn’t very good, although I hope not. I do have some things that I would do a bit differently:

  • I would try to get the “most generous” category to be topped by a much higher number. On the Humble Bundle, there is often a “most generous” of $5,000. (To be fair, it is usually Notch). The next highest is often $1,337. (I’m sure you know why it’s that number). I would consider making a gift myself to get that figure significantly above the cost of an average PC game (say, $100). Think of it as being like a busker putting some notes in his tip jar so that people know that is appropriate to give notes, not just coins.
  • Crunching Koalas has tried to make it a marketing virtue that there is no benefit in giving above the average amount, unlike the Humble Bundles where you often only get all the titles involved if you pay more than the average, a technique that tends to drive the average up over time. I would offer something – anything – as a special thank you if you pay more than the average. It might be a wallpaper. It might be a soundtrack. It might be an old game that is no longer selling well. Ideally, it would be something digital where there is essentially no marginal cost in selling it: once you have made it, you can give away as many copies as you like over time at no extra per-unit cost.
  • I would try to get a stronger sense of activity on the site. The Humble Bundle has a ticker that shows how much money is being added right now, but that is only possible because it gets such large sums of money. I would try to show the most recent donors and the amount given. If you can show their country, so much the better. The thing you are trying to get users to think is “people like me are giving money to these guys, perhaps I should.” The people most like more are my friends on Facebook and Twitter, but the effect still works with very broad groups such as, say, people from Britain, or people who use Macs. Mousecraft could harness that.

I don’t have access to the server stats, but I suspect that the biggest issue with Crunching Koalas is that they are not getting enough traffic to their site. All the clever merchandising tricks in the world won’t work unless potential customers see them.

So consider this me helping them out. Why not check out the video below and visit their site at www.mouse-craft.com. If nothing else, you’ll learn something about merchandising.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com