We update ourWorld every other Monday, pretty much like clockwork. That's a lot of changes, updates, improvements, fixes, and additions to a site that was pretty darned modest when it was launched on April 1, 2008.
Buzz Cafe, ourWorld, circa 2008
Things that didn't exist when we launched:
- Gems, or anything you now buy with Gems.
- Friends (at least not like friends are now)
- Gifting in any manner
- Chat for under 13 year old players
- Electric Avenue, Wonderland, Soho, Nevermore, Beat Street, and the Beach
- About half of the Games in the Arcade
- Poker, Pool, nor Dance Planet
Buzz Cafe, 2010. Note the massive changes to the interface, including the Friend's Bar
We get massive numbers of requests and suggestions for ourWorld, and most we can't act upon. The reasons are fairly universal for a game of ourWorld's sort, and I expect the managers of our competitors (YoVille, SmallWorlds, etc.) base their upgrade/addition decisions on similar criteria as us.
Will this make us money?
That's the big question. If the answer is no, chances are we're not doing it. We can't. Every update and improvement, no matter how small, costs the time of our talented staff, and that time costs money. What's the return going to be on that cost? Features that we charge for (for ourWorld that means Resident Members only or items that cost Gems, our premium currency) are an easy sell. If the idea is cool and it will obviously generate revenue, the team rolls up its sleeves and gets to work. Those sorts of projects usually have top priority. Our new Critter Garden fell into that category.
That doesn't mean that every update has to actually be a direct revenue generator, with a monetary cost to our players. Non-revenue generating improvements happen all the time, but we weigh them far more carefully before tackling them. If we don't think the change will move the needle in terms of the overall quality of the site, player retention, and ultimately subscriptions and Gem purchases, the project will likely get a pass. We gets lots of requests for small improvements to this or that portion of the site, and while we often agree making the improvement would be, well, an improvement, the effort involved would not drastically impact the overall quality of the site. Such incremental changes are unlikely unless they are very simple to make happen.
Example: We get requests for improved Email tools, where players can review sent messages and recover deleted ones. Yes, that'd be super, but there's no way that impacts the bottom line.It's also the reason some of the older features haven't been improved, even though we know they could use the attention. The same effort could create a new location that would generate attention and excitement, while renovating an old feature provides far less in terms of reaction. Bummer, but true. On the other hand, when we discover an actual problem, like when it was hard to arrange furniture in your Condo, we redid the interface so it was far more clear. The change was simple to make and it made a distinct improvement to the experience for all of our players. The effort required matched up with the improvement to the site, even though a better User Interface doesn't contribute to the bottom line in any measurable way. General improvements do have value, they're just more modest and harder to measure.