When people approach me regarding a freemium plan for Shmeppy they usually suggest what I laid out in A quick essay on why Shmeppy won't be a freemium product : adding features and placing them behind a pay wall.
I think my reasons for not doing this are fairly easy-to-grasp and uncontroversial.
In other words: let GMs create games, but don’t let them invite players to them.
I’ve considered this version of freemium more seriously over the years. I want to touch on it directly in this post, because I think it’s been brought up enough times now to warrant some sharing.
Freemium by disallowing players to join game
I’m going to touch on a few of the biggest pros and cons in my mind. I’ll also talk about how I’ve evaluated the “uncertainty” or “error bars” in each.
Impact on growth rate for Subscribers
Shmeppy will get a lot more users: no doubt. Free stuff is great.
How many more “paying subscribers” Shmeppy gets though… that’s not so clear. There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty here and I don’t see a way to clear that uncertainty away.
My prediction is that the number of paying subscribers won’t be that much larger… Like 2x more (than what I’d have with my current non-freemium based plan) seems a huge stretch.
Honestly, I’m worried the number of paying subscribers I’d have would be less with a freemium model. But who knows .
Growth is not as valuable to Shmeppy
Shmeppy is a one-person company, and I plan for it to stay that way.
The growth provided by freemium models is attractive for companies that want to grow infinitely because growth is an such a valued metric (more users = ). Shmeppy is not a normal company though.
I have a target growth goal that does not need to be exceeded. I need to pay for my life, that’s it. Shmeppy’s growth just needs to match attrition.
So when measuring up the scales, a pro of “multiplies growth rate” isn’t as valuable to me as it would be for another company.
Creative user with free account vs subscriber account
Imagine a creative user. They’re using a free plan plus “View as Player” in one window that they’re screen casting to Google Hangouts. This is super close to being as good as the full Shmeppy experience. @DaniBani mentions this:
If this creative user “upgraded” by subscribing to Shmeppy, they wouldn’t get much that they didn’t already have. Just players moving tokens and players having individual control of their viewports. Not nearly enough value for Shmeppy’s $5 a month price tag.
Personally, I would stick with the free plan plus screen sharing (though I might pay for Shmeppy just cause I appreciate the creator ).
It may be that any user who does this would never pay for Shmeppy anyways, but I’m not so sure about that. (Obviously I can try and prevent users from doing this but that’s pretty uncomfortable and tricky).
A free userbase isn’t free
A free userbase costs resources. “Equipment costs” (like server and image hosting), but also (at least) support time, dev time, design time, marketing time, marketing cash, and UX complexity.
Since I want Shmeppy to stay a one-person company, this con carries extra weight: I’ve got very limited human resources.
Changing my mind is easy in only one direction
Going from earliest access to a paid plan will shove many users off the platform. Moving to a freemium model won’t change that, it would only affect the percentage of users who leave the platform.
This is an uncomfortable thing to do. I warn that Shmeppy won’t be free forever all over the place to make this very uncomfortable action feel more comfortable to users.
If I transition to a freemium model, and decide it’s not working and want to switch to my fully-gated plan instead, I will need to again shove users off of Shmeppy. This time around, I won’t be able to set expectations quite as well and it will be even more uncomfortable than the first time.
But if I first transition to a fully-gated plan, and then decide to open it up to freemium afterwards, the second transition will be quite pleasant I’m sure.
The pro feels dinky. Of course the error bars are large, so it could be a much bigger pro than I’ve laid out here (like what if this affected the paying subscriber count by 10x or 100x), but who can really know.
The cons feel heavy.
It just doesn’t seem to make sense.
I hope this was interesting. Let me know if you enjoy this insight into more business-focused decision making and I’ll try and write more as it comes up.