A quick essay on why Shmeppy won't be a freemium product

I’ve had several people suggest that I (eventually) apply a freemium payment model to Shmeppy: where there’s a base product that’s free, and paid plans expand on that product.

I’m almost certainly not going to do this. I want there to be one single plan for Shmeppy. Right now that plan is free. Eventually it will cost some amount of money per month.


If Shmeppy had a freemium model, there’d need to be some portion of the product that was freely available, and some additional portion that could be used for a price.

I’ve focused on making Shmeppy’s core experience as focused as I can, so there’s not much cruft. I can’t think of any part of the current version that I can cordial off as “the paid part”.

So if I were to adopt a freemium model, I’d have to create something new to be the paid portion of the product. In other words, I’d be incentivized (or basically forced) to add cruft to the product.

Shmeppy’s wet-erase functionality is what’s good and unique about it. Chat, teleconferencing, note taking, or whatever else are better handled by other products that focus exclusively on those things.

Like do you think I could make a better chat implementation than Discord? I sure don’t think so.

Bonus Reason

Ever used Roll20? I’m guessing you noticed that ad reel that appears for 10 seconds or so when you join a game. If you have ad block enabled, they’ll still show the reel, but it’ll just advertise Roll20 Plus.

Roll20 is heavily incentivized to make the free experience shittier than the paid experience, and shoving ads in your face is one of the few ways they’ve found to do it. They are literally incentivized to annoy their users. I don’t think anyone blames them for it, they need to make money and this is how you do it within the freemium model.

I don’t like this incentive structure at all. I want to always be on the side of my users, and I think the payment model I’ve described is a good way to do that. It will definitely mean less users, and maybe even less profits (though I’m doubtful about that), but I think it’s worth it.

There’s even more reasons I can share for why I don’t want to adopt a freemium model. I think it’d be a fatal move for Shmeppy. But hopefully this gives ya’ll at least some insight into my decision-making.

Comments definitely welcome :slight_smile:.


I do respect focusing on a core experience and on doing one thing really well.

I’m no expert on freemium versus non-freemium decision-making. But I wonder if one aspect that freemium products do well is give folks a chance to try the product out to some extent without committing to paying for it yet. Like creating a marketing funnel of prospective customers.

There could be other workarounds, like offering a subscription trial period. Letting folks try the product to some extent seems like a potentially useful tool for building a funnel of folks who are on the fence about jumping into a purchasing commitment.

At the same time, it can be good to establish the value of a product by giving it a price. So from what I’ve read about marketing, discounts and sales shouldn’t be used without some forethought.

I’ve been wondering about a trial as well. Trials are tricky for online apps… How do you ensure that someone doesn’t just make a new trial account each time?

I’m considering having lots of “free month of Shmeppy”-type promos, and combine that with having a policy of always refunding the last payment made (so you could try it and cancel your account getting a full refund if you don’t make it a full month). Not sure.

Know your value proposition. Target the audience that appreciates that value proposition. People will pay for value. Loving what I’ve discovered with Shemeppy in the last few hours; keep it up!

You might also consider something like a Patreon to help fund development.

Will the paid model for all users (GMs and Players) or players only. I can appreciate a paid model for people running the game, but the GM’s may have problems getting people to pay just to play in a one off game.

Only GMs will pay, for exactly that reason. So a subscription gives you the ability to make and edit maps, and anyone can view those maps as a player or spectator without a subscription.


I was a little bummed when I first read that this awesome app wasn’t going to be free (cause free is always great). But when I hit the point in this post about Ads you sold me. Ads right now are ruining the internet and I greatly appreciate that stance you’re taking. If I can afford it, and my game is still going, I’ll subscribe. I love this simplicity clean design.


Hey, it’s months later, and this might not be relevant anymore, but here are my 2 cents:

The spectator function might be the thing to put behind the subscription barrier. It is crucial if you want to use shmeppy in your games, but absolutely unnecessary if you want to just try out the map editing functions.

Of course, some clever individuals will just use screen sharing to circumvent the subscription cost, and while I don’t think those were ever going to be paying customers, you might lose money if you allow it.

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This seems like a way of trying to force users who want to use Shmeppy in their games to pay, while allowing users who just want to try Shmeppy to do so for free.

But I can achieve that goal more directly by making Shmeppy accounts subscription based and having some form of free trial so people can try it for free.

“Some form of free trial” is complicated, though. Either you do it in time periods or you do it by trying to identify each user and have them only allowed to do a trial. The most common way to is require the user to provide a credit card; but a lot of users are resistant to providing that before they are certain they want the service. And only allowing during certain periods have problems with only getting users during those periods.

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I totally understand how evasive people are of a paid product in this day and age. I would be glad to pay to use Shmeppy. Your competition like Roll20 is $5 a month (Australian dollars) so I could see Shmeppy being somewhere below that. I just hope that Shmeppy doesn’t ‘bloat’ or become something that it isn’t simply because paying customers start making demands for functions/services. I like how barebones it is and I would hate to see it grow beyond what its appealing to.

I’m in a group that have 3 DMs on a rotating basis with a dozen or so players. All three groups have now converted to Shmeppy given the pandemic.

I raised the issue about the product moving to a paid basis last night to gauge our continued interest in the product and all of the players were overwhelmingly in favour of continuing with it. There was talk of setting up a pool of contributions to fund three accounts. No hesitations.

No real content to add, just to say that our group(s) all find value with the product and would be enthusiastic subscribers even at the current level of functionality.

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I don’t think having users becoming paid customers will add much additional pressure thankfully. But there are several features on the roadmap that may add new concepts to Shmeppy: increasing the complexity of Shmeppy’s interface.

I’m not too worried though. I think Shmeppy is pretty steadily approaching a point where “polishing how Shmeppy solves the problems it’s already trying to solve” is going to be all the work I’ll be doing.

For example, tracking spell AOEs can be done in Shmeppy quite effectively already, but it could be made nicer. And you can see in that thread how I’m committed to keeping the complexity of Shmeppy stable by looking for a way to combine multiple tools (measuring tool and laser) into a single more-effective tool.

If the system must grow, can you please make sure that parts of the interface can be disabled/hidden for the sake of simplicity?

Someone recently mentioned this. Take a look at Feature Request: Customizable Toolbar.

I would HIGHLY recommend the freemium model - as I would have never started to use Schmeppy if I couldn’t “play test” it before hand with my players. I don’t think people will be comfortable (at least I wouldn’t) in signing up unless they can actually SEE/USE the system before they pay for it.

That being said, I do have a VERY SIMPLE way to do this. In a free map - you are limited to ONLY a 40x40 (or 50x50 grid). This will let potential users “test” the system, see if they like it, and then chose to continue.

Alternatively, you could make the first month free.

Alternatively, you could make the first month free.

Users can already get a 7-day free trial. I’ll up that to a month before long, was just simpler to start with 7-day right now.