Oct 29, 2006

AW Pricing

This is a repost from the AW Forums from a thread about pricing in AW and it's effects that I had written explaining my stance on this issue. It will also help to clarify my train of thought when reading the "Interview with Inactive Worlds" (which is posted directly below this post for those who have come to read it). Both are the same topic, and both are worth your read.

This post appears (or may no longer appear depending on when you read this) in a thread concerning statistical graphs charting the massive losses in user base since 2001. For those who do not know, the main address for the active worlds forums is simply: forums.activeworlds.com and for as long as the thread exists, you may click on this link here to follow it's recent progress in the community. I thank you for your time in advance.

If the people in here are willing to keep it civil - meaning no total rampages or loss of tempers, then I'm more than willing to discuss this like a rational human being, this also applies to AWI (stonewalling, aggrevation, closing this thread, deleting this thread)This is an issue, and just because it's been ignored for nearly six years now doesn't mean it went away, it simply means it was ignored for six years while somebody hoped it would go away.

Whenever the topic is raised over the past years, it always leads to the same results. I have yet to see an overwhelming response saying that they thought the prices were fine.I also wanted to clear this up ahead of time - the people in the forums constitute the active and diehard users of this software. The opinions in this thread (at least by myself) do not mean I hate AWI or are trying to spread negativity. I am voicing my concerns, discussing rationally and bringing hard data to the discussion of why the prices are too high. This is a seperate concept than "I Hate AWI" or "We're trying to destroy the community".

We are clearly not doing either if we are backing with numbers, offering reasons for change, and doing so showing that these methods can actually be beneficial for both the community as well as the company. I fail to see how this is detrimental in any fashion - so I beg all involved (including AWI) to leave that baggage claim at the door.

There is a definite correllation between the numbers on those graphs and the price hike. The other thing I was thinking of while looking at those graphs was that they represent around 250 - 300 citizenships a month at $70 a year for nearly six years.

One observation from that is at their peaks they were charging $20 a year but had citizenships nearly at 3,500. We currently see an average of 150 - 400 users in here at any given time. So this indicates that the turnover for citizenships is also much higher since the price increase (whereas 300 new citizens a month for six years didn't seem to add to the overall user base).

What this leads me to is that when they are seeing 1/10th the userbase and subscriptions at quadruple the original price, while at their best before they raised the pricing they were seeing ten times the subscriptions at 1/4 the price. Some basic math with these figures shows they are making much less revenue from the higher citizenship prices than when they were lower.

One possible reason, and I can understand this to a degree, was that during that time there was indeed an open letter to the community about how they would not be able to create a version of the browser past 3.3 (indicating they were possibly about broke at the time). So for a short term gain, and to return to fiscally responsible numbers, they opted to raise prices and cut back on some of the features (like tourist access). For a short term gain, this was just fine, but they should not have decided to keep this as a long term strategy because it would have (and has proven to) do more damage than help in the long term scenario.

One of the other concerns I have are with AWI's assertion that:

1. They have no competition
2. They are not Second Life, nor are they trying to be.
3. AWI is successful.
4. The pricing is comparable to other MMORPGs

Without going on a rampage or screaming obscenities in this thread, I would like to address these point for point. These are not taken out of context, but simply in some visible order so we may discuss these things and maybe see their line of logic (at best).In a manner of speaking, all four of those points are directly interconnected and rely on each other in some fashion. If you were to call AWI today and ask them personally, I am sure they would agree to those points and that they believe in them.

Here is why they concern me; This topic came up again after the original thread was deleted in an area of outside discussion. During this discussion the following graph was also presented. Presented by MMOGChart.com, this is a statistics site that deals with Massive Multiuser Online Game statistics comparing all of the major MMOG game based on Users participating.

The thing here is that, in one breath AWI claims to be comparable to other MMORPGs (at least in price and if you ask them they feel also in quality and experience). This is a fine stance for a company, but there comes with it a major problem to their line of logic.

On a statistics site which tracks the major MMOGs, there is clearly representation for Second Life (with around 70,000 users as of that update) and also There (for which the graph abruptly stops possibly due to lack of activity). So, we now have a problem with the line of logic, being that AWI says they are not Second Life and they are not trying to be Second Life - which is fine. But they are also saying they "have no competition" and that they are comparable to MMORPGs (again, at least in pricing though they feel this experience is also worth it which leads to a direct comparison with other MMOG)

The problem is, on this graph, Active Worlds, in any form, is not listed. Even if it were to be listed (simply do a side by side comparison of this graph with the other AW specific graph in this thread) you would realize that as an MMOG they are dead last in most respects.

Again, I reiterate that I have no desire to ridicule AWI about this, or as I have been accused before, to "tear apart the community or hold this browser hostage". To say I am gravely concerned with these numbers, and be willing to voice these concerns in public means I do not fear the problem, nor will i deny there is a problem.

As a citizen of this system, I am willing to discuss it with others in a calm and rational way - while possibly finding solutions. I want only to see that the company involved is also willing to do this, and I may add that stone walling the issue or marginalizing it as a non-issue does nothing for finding reasons or solutions - those are merely tactics of an entity that have no useful arguments for their point.

Secondly, this is far more than a simple "temper tantrum". I would like to get that out of the way early in this thread as well. Tantrums have no reason and no proof to explain why things should change. Discussion and rationalization requires a little research and proof, of which we have, and I am sure we can easily find more if the need arises.

To summarize my points:

1. AW is not the current leader in the market.
2. They have competition
3. The current pricing has been shown to be excessively high
4. Current pricing has shown to be actually creating a long term loss
5. The original $20 per year was shown to have brought in more money than current $70 per year.
6. If AW wishes to compare to MMOGs, that is fine though they should face the reality that they are absolutely last in the active market.
7. AW can learn alot from it's competition.
8. AW is successful, but only through the sales of servers which is now it's real revenue source.

They may not be Second Life nor do they want to be, but if they are implementing the same types of features as Second Life, Saying they are comparable to MMOGs, and pricing in that realm - they might as well take a good look at how Second Life and other MMOGs are implementing these type of features too. (Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck then it's a moose?)

Just because you stopped charging tourists automatically didn't make it free if you started charging world owners to allow them in the worlds. Changing my shirt more than 3 times a year doesn't cost me $30 for a review process. I can buy virtual clothing in other programs for about a dollar and change up as much as I want after the initial price of the item for no additional cost.

Please face the facts, AW is in competition with the likes of Second Life. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Just learn from your competition and prior mistakes in order to move on and be better, that's all.

AW Universe is also a flagship product. When people search for Active Worlds, this is what they normally get in the results. If you are trying to sell this product, it's a good idea to make your floor model the best it can be. When potential server clients see a bustling, happy and large user base with the floor model - it's easier for them to visualize what it can do for them.

I feel that if I were actually willing to walk away and leave this topic alone, then that would contribute to tearing apart what community there is left and abandoning the environment that I have been a citizen of since 1998. Many good years. I cannot ignore it for that sake alone.


Post a Comment