I love update day on ourWorld. That's the day, roughly every two weeks, where we update the site and add new features.
This last update occurred on a Friday (normally it's on Monday) and instead of adding new features, we actually did some system house cleaning, which for many players, actually had a negative impact on their experience. It's been rough on many of those players. I agree with everything we did, but I totally understand how they are reacting. I'm sure I'd feel the same way.
Membership cancellation - We hadn't been turning off lapsed subscriptions. In some cases we provided a free coupon last year and those players had enjoyed most of the paid member benefits for months and months. Lots of players assumed they were keeping those features indefinitely, without subscribing.
Super Rewards - One of two features allowing players to earn free Gems (which normally cost real $) wasn't working out for us the way we wanted. It was deactivated. Now friend referrals and links like the image posted on this blog are the only ways to get free Gems.
Friends Limits - Some players in ourWorld have accumulated thousands of friends. It was drastically slowing down our system. Now free accounts can only have 200 friends, paid memberships can have 1000. This is causing the most pain for players.
Notice how all three of these features only (seriously) impact non-paying players. I'm being told repeatedly that players are leaving because of the changes, but how should I feel about that? If they aren't willing to become members, we're losing their contribution to the community, but little else. At least on an individual level. New players are still coming in record numbers, and they'll never know that players ever could have over 200 friends, that Super Rewards was ever there, and that back in the day, a one month membership could provide months of premium benefits.
The question remains, is the free experience of ourWorld good enough? I'm confident it is, as we keep adding to what is available to free players, just not as quickly as the premium features. Non-playing players don't consider what they bring to the table, and they shouldn't. Their job is to play and to come back if they like it, not come back if they don't. Our job is to try and keep them coming back in numbers large enough that a tiny percentage that do pay, will pay. Then, once they have paid, make sure they get their money's worth. Easy! (If only...)