Is F95zone driving discovery of adult games?
The drawbacks of a huge and engaged audience in Naughty List News #59
Netting about 64 million unique visitors every year, F95zone.to is the biggest forum for adult games on the Internet. Fans gather there to discuss topics related to adult games, while game developers and artists use the site to showcase their work.
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But the biggest draw of F95zone is that you can find pirated versions of all the latest adult game releases there. So is the site helping adult game developers by giving their projects some much-needed exposure or harming their potential sales? It’s probably a bit of both, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the site to your advantage.
Let’s dive into it.
What is F95zone?
At its core, F95zone is an English-speaking forum that almost feels like a throwback to an earlier version of the web, one that wasn’t dominated by a handful of social media websites.
Members can make posts about topics related to adult gaming, including the making of art and animations, programming games, or just finding out what’s new. I’m going to focus on the games for this newsletter.
Developers can create threads about the games they’re making to receive feedback from an enthusiastic audience and members can use it as a database of pretty much every English-language adult game in existence.
A very popular section is Latest Updates, where you can see every thread that was recently updated on the site. This section will be filtered to adult games by default, but you can also filter on comics, animations, and assets. Hovering over a thread gives you some quick info thanks to the tag system.
Similarly, you can filter by tags to find threads that feature both management and corruption, or any other flavor you might be interested in.
Because F95zone features pretty much every recent adult game, it’s a great tool for discoverability. Not only does it come with an enormous audience built-in, but it also provides tools to narrow that audience down. If you are, for example, interested in games about female domination, you can find those games easily by browsing the female domination tag.
Note also that the page allows you to watch a tag, which will send you a notification if any activity occurred within that tag. This is very interesting if you have a niche interest that doesn't show up in games very often. Similarly, it allows you to avoid titles with flavors that are not to your liking, e.g. female domination.
If you're an indie developer, this tagging system is hugely beneficial to you as well. The site makes no distinction between big-budget releases and projects made in someone's bedroom, so your project can easily be found under similar games as long as it has the right tags.
And when people subscribe to notifications from the tags on your game, you instantly get a boost of interest from an audience that is tuned into your exact flavors. This can be instrumental to your growth when you don’t already have a following elsewhere. People can't buy your game if they don't know it exists.
So posting on F95zone is a win for players and developers alike, right?
Piracy is a fact of life in gaming, especially adult gaming. Adult games can not only be inaccessible and prohibitively expensive but there's often a stigma attached as well. While gaming as a whole has gained begrudging acceptance thanks to mobile devices, the same cannot be said for games about love, sex, and romance.
When it comes to posting on F95zone, the scales are heavily tipped towards piracy. Developers are encouraged to make their own threads about their games but it's much more common to see a few extremely active members upload all the games to file-sharing services.
While the game threads always include links back to the developer's official channels, I don’t think that’s what most visitors are looking for.
Because the audience for adult games tends to skew younger, they have less disposable income, and a motivation to keep things secret. You don't have to explain a weird credit card charge to your parents if you never have to use their credit card to buy adult games.
But I also don't think the response from gamedevs should be to crack down on F95zone or add digital rights management (DRM) to their games. DRM only makes things worse because it is a very expensive way to anger your potential customer base.
Not so innocent?
Another problem with combating piracy is that developers aren’t totally innocent themselves. Many lewd games use character designs from intellectual property that they do not own the rights to. For example, Zuleyka Games makes and sells a game called Wonder Slave Trainer that uses characters that are owned by DC Comics.
Other games, like Harem Hotel, use a tool like Illusion’s Honey Select 2 Studio to generate their art assets. Even though the resulting images stretch the definition of “original work”, they still used assets made and owned by Illusion to generate them.
I don’t think it’s a winning argument for adult gamedevs to take the moral high ground on piracy when many successful projects rely on piracy themselves. I think it’s better to take a different approach.
What gamedevs can do instead of fighting piracy is to embrace "free" downloads as another way to market their product. When players download your game from F95zone, they're most likely not getting the latest version. So let them know what they're missing!
You should always be able to compare the version of the game someone is running against the latest version using a web service on a domain you control. With that info, you can display a pop-up in the game to let your players know about the cool features you've added and the bugs you've fixed since the version they're playing. And wouldn't you know it: they can get this version right now by subscribing to your Patreon or by buying the game on Steam.
It's unlikely that a pop-up dialog will be enough to convince a majority of pirates to convert to paying customers. But if I learned anything from my short stint in free-to-play games, it's that improving conversion by even a few percentage points can make a big return when you have enough eyeballs on your product.
Do you feel like you’re using F95zone to your advantage? Let me know in the comments!
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
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VenusBlood FRONTIER launched a Kickstarter to localize three fandiscs. The game seems quite popular since they’re already funded twice over.
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Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
Thanks for reading this far!
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Until next time!