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What if every pirate was a potential sale?
Funneling pirates to customers in Naughty List News #81
Adult game developers don’t like to talk about it, but with about 64 million unique visitors every year, F95Zone is one of the biggest hubs for adult games on the Internet. Fans love to discuss the latest releases on this forum, but they are far less inclined to spend money on their favorite hobby.
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And yet, it is entirely possible to convert these adult gaming enthusiasts into paying customers. And I’ve got the examples to prove it.
A major challenge for adult games is that nobody wants to write about them. They are looked down upon as a weird hobby for straight men only, which is far from the truth.
As a result, only a handful of adult games manage to break through to the mainstream press. For example, consider Subverse, a game that grabbed a lot of media attention by being an explicit parody of Mass Effect and other science fiction games. But there are many such parody games out there. And most do not receive any attention at all.
I strongly believe that a large and untapped audience exists that would be interested in adult games if only they would hear about them. Just to illustrate, my interview with the developer of Private Dick: Lipstick & Lies in Naughty List News #79 caused a significant bump in interest for their Kickstarter campaign. The game’s maker reported on Twitter that they got dozens of new backers because of my coverage.
What I think really helped Private Dick is that my post on Reddit’s /r/gamedev forum did really well, which included a link to their campaign. (Ironically, it did not do much for my own subscriber count!)
But I think this demonstrates the dire state of adult game coverage right now. A healthy adult gaming ecosystem would have multiple outlets writing about the latest releases. That’s why I make sure to link to good coverage wherever I can find it; I shouldn’t be able to influence traffic like this!
Getting coverage for your adult game remains a huge challenge. But paradoxically, this means that piracy might be good for your adult game. It’s a way to get at least some word-of-mouth buzz about your game. And on forums like F95Zone, players are eager to discuss the latest releases amongst their peers.
The only problem for developers is that piracy doesn’t generally result in any sales. Sure, a small percentage of players might decide to throw some money your way out of the goodness of their hearts. But relying on charity is definitely not a sustainable business model.
Luckily, there are some reliable ways to increase your chances of making a sale.
Going down the funnel
In games marketing, we often talk about funnels. This means that developers must filter their market potential (the pirates) down to paying customers.
At the top of the funnel, you put in everyone who has Awareness about your product, even if it’s only vaguely. In the case of adult games, that’s everyone browsing the dodgy forum.
A percentage of those people will show Interest, meaning they were willing to click a dodgy MEGA link to check out a pirated version of your game. Some players will Desire your product, meaning they actually launch it. And some of those players will like it enough to take Action and convert into paying customers.
But what’s important to realize is that you, as a developer, have control over what action you would like players to take. You could want them to sign up for your Patreon, for example, or support your game’s Kickstarter campaign. But you have to make it easy to do that!
Setting up a funnel like this takes up time and effort, but it can be worth your while. When you have enough people at the top of your funnel, or if you can limit the number of people that drop off, you will get plenty of paying customers at the bottom.
So how do you get players to make the jump from “interested in” to “actively desire”?
Asking for what you want
I was playing a demo of Jupiter Moons: Mecha the other day, which is sadly not an adult game about romancing giant robots, and it had an amazing pop-up at the end of my play session:
The developers employed a very effective marketing strategy here. Wishlists on Steam are an important metric that can make or break your game’s launch. When a game launches on Steam, everyone who had it on their wishlist will get an email from the platform reminding them that the game is now available for purchase. Even when only a small percentage of recipients will act on that email, it still makes sense for developers to maximize the number of people who receive it.
The demo for Jupiter Moons is free, so the developers can use this pop-up to find players who would be interested in the full game. Since wishlists have a chance to convert into sales, the game’s marketing funnel becomes:
played demo → added to wishlist → received email → bought game
Now I think you can see why it makes sense not to mind the pirates so much. Unless players know about your game, they can’t try it out. And if they don’t try out your game, they can’t become a sale. So once you’ve got a player’s attention, you should tap into that. Use it as an opportunity to sell the game to them.
Especially for adult games, piracy may be the only way to get attention for your product. One thing you can do then is to remind pirates of what they’re missing by not playing the latest version of your game.
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Skip the hassle
Bringing it back to the realm of adult games, there’s a game called Two Horns that employs a similar conversion strategy. Whether you play a pirated copy or a version that is out-of-date, you get the following pop-up at the start of the game:
An information panel takes up half of the game's main menu screen, highlighting the changes that have gone into Two Horns since you last played it. The main menu includes links to the game’s website and Patreon as well.
Two Horns most likely uses a web service to fill this information panel. This means that they can always show players the latest updates, regardless of which version they’re running.
What I think makes this pop-up so effective is that it threads the needle between pushing pirates to become customers without being condescending to players who have already paid for it. Effectively, their pitch is:
Look at all these new features and bug fixes you’re missing out on by playing a pirated copy! Wouldn’t you prefer to skip the hassle of chasing down the latest version by giving us some of your hard-earned money?
Is it fair that adult game developers have to work so hard to convince people to give them money? No, of course not. It is incredibly painful to work hard on a game only to have people download it for free.
And platforms like Steam could do much more to promote the adult games already in their catalog. The gaming press could also spill more ink on this thriving creative space.
But adult game developers don't have to fight the pirates. They are still some of their most enthusiastic and vocal players. When you start to view pirates as the people already invested in your game, you can use that to drive them further down your conversion funnel.
Because sometimes, all it takes to get a sale is just to ask the question.
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
Chinese porn enthusiasts evade the country’s strict censorship with a wallpaper app on Steam. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
A student group in England has petitioned the government to censor school uniform customers in “sex shops and pornography.” Perhaps they should petition their school to eliminate mandatory school uniforms instead.
Ads on porn sites are being used to spread the news about Russia’s war. The sites are often less regulated and don’t apply Russia’s authoritarian censorship quite so rigorously.
Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
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Until next time!