Sunday, January 20, 2008

Know your Customers

There's two basic ways to start a business: See what other people are selling and then sell that yourself, or figure out what people want to buy but currently isn't available and then sell that. Of the two, the second is obviously the hardest.

When it comes to RMT in MMORPGs the customer type we're most familiar with is the hard-core gamer. This is the individual who devotes so much of their recreational time to this single activity that they find it's cost-effective to spend money to gain even more than they can on their own. There's also the more casual gamer who wants to keep up with the hard-core crowd, but can't afford to invest the time (and therefore chooses to invest more money instead). Whatever the type, the ultimate motivation is the same: immediate gain of something that they would otherwise have to spend a lot of time to obtain.

From the customer's perception, the instant it becomes easier to earn enough real-world money to purchase the item/currency than to get it themselves, the purchase is the preferrable choice. Say for example that I can work for an hour at my job and make $15, and it takes me one hour of playing to earn 500,000 gold. If the cost of gold is less than $15 per 500,000 then for me it is a better use of time to work, earn money, and buy gold. I'm then free to spend my game time doing more enjoyable things.

So as an entrepreneur the goal is to determine what it is that players don't enjoy about the game and how you can supply them with a solution to that which is both priced affordably for them, and profitably for you. After all, if you spend 10 hours a day "working" in the game for an average of $2 an hour you probably wouldn't consider that worth pursuing. By the same token if you raised your prices to where it earned you $100 an hour you probably wouldn't get any buyers.

First, let's look at what people don't like about MMORPGs. Read THIS.

This isn't the best list from a business owner's standpoint, since these complaints have more to do with the design side of the game, but it is what the most people complain the most about. Can you solve every one of these issues? No, probably not. But that's not your "job" (it's the game developer's). Rather, your "job" is to provide the customer with a product or service which enhances something they do enjoy or limits something they don't. Say that number 3 (Grinding) is a major gripe in your game. Perhaps a Powerleveling service would be a good business. If it's number 2 (Classes) selling accounts might do well.

Of course these examples are well-known products and services, but don't limit yourself merely to what's been done before (but don't ignore it either). Take for example THIS article.

Many new games are being developed specifically to appeal to "non-gamers". Who are these people and what do they want out of a game? What are they going to be willing to part with their hard-earned dollars (or pounds, or yen, etc) in order to obtain? If you're the first one to offer it, you'll be the one with the enviable position of being the only place to buy it. Of course that's a good thing, but often times the second, third, or later salesman is the one with the most success because they see the mistakes being made by the first guy and are able to create a far more successful business model.

Every single analyst and study shows that the online gaming market is expanding at an astounding rate. The gold seller is probably never going to become a has-been, but that doesn't mean that's the only game in town. As new, innovative game types are released the potential for new types of RMT businesses is going to unfold and expand in ways no one can imagine.

Study these markets and, much more importantly, the customers that use them. If you can discover a want or need that no one else is filling you very well could find yourself poised to build a business empire devoted to meeting it.

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