As many of you know we announced last Thursday that we were raising the lucre levels needed to earn rewards in our Lucre Store.  Some of our players were irritated by this move, while others took it more in stride.  Let me start by saying that we appreciate all of the feedback we received on this issue, both positive and negative.  Having said that, I want to be clear – we didn’t raise our prices to deny anyone an opportunity to cash in their lucre for a reward prize.

So why did we do it?   As you know, Figment is a free online game and as of now, the prizes we supply all come out of our operating budget, so to keep lucre prize levels artificially low while simultaneously increasing your opportunities to earn lucre would be suicide for the site.  We also feel the players who play the game consistently have received a fair opportunity to cash-in their lucre for rewards, and to my knowledge there aren’t many sites that even offer rewards of this kind without some kind of monetary outlay on the part of the player.

So that begs the question, why did we create the Lucre Store in the first place?  When we began developing Figment we were unsure how many people would actually share our love for creating and role playing with fake bands.  In our research, we could only find 2 previous examples of web-based music-related role playing games, and both had collapsed after only a year or so of operation because they weren’t very well regulated and provided no incentive for players to create a successful community.

In an effort to avoid the pitfalls that doomed those two sites, we set out to create a game that had relatively easy parameters, allowed for creativity and provided an incentive to various levels of players.  The lucre rewards store was the incentive – a way to engage new players who might otherwise have dismissed Figment as a waste of time, and reward committed players who created successful bands.  In both regards, I think the lucre store has been successful.  The problem is that the Lucre Store was never meant to be how you “won” at Figment.  It was merely designed as an incentive to encourage and reward players for helping to build the Figment community.

While many of you have helped to do that, and we’re proud of the vibrant community we’ve built, it’s still a small community.  The costs of acquiring new players and maintaining a free site that gives away physical prizes merely for participating is not sustainable unless it ultimately leads to a community that supports itself through advertising, direct sponsorship or even the development of a subscription model.  Advertising and direct sponsorship are very challenging models due to our relatively small size.  The subscription model is interesting and probably the best model because it allows the contributions of the most dedicated players to guide the further development of the game.

So how does increasing the prices in the Lucre Store help?  First of all, I think it’s important to remember that we (the game’s administrators) don’t introduce lucre into the economy, Figment’s players do.  So as thehoseman pointed out in his comment on the original post, by introducing more lucre into the economy you do in essence diminish the individual value of a piece of lucre.  This is why I’m always preaching against buying anything and everything that is released.  Not only does this tactic diminish the quality of submissions on the site, but it also diminishes the actual value of a piece of lucre.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we’ve yet to employ any type of market forces in our game (charging you lucre to release an album, lucre losses for not getting enough fans of a tour – which could connote poor ticket sales).  We haven’t done this for a variety of reasons – some that are platform related and others that have more to do with keeping the obstacles to entry and the rules as simple as possible while we build a base of players big enough support a virtual economy that includes those types of market forces.

In the meantime, as new players join Figment (we added 65 in July) and begin to play the game more lucre flows into the economy.  When you combine the lucre created by new and existing players it’s easy to see how the growth of the Figment economy was fast out-pacing the Lucre Store pricing.  So as our Terms and Conditions clearly allow, we raised the artificially low Lucre Store pricing to be more in line with what we felt the Figment economy could now support.

So what plans do we have for the Figment Lucre Store going forward?  Well, we’re very pleased to hear some of our more established players express an interest in moving to virtual prizes/goods in our Lucre Store.  We have been planning a move to virtual goods for some time, and should be instituting the first wave of these goods in the near future.  We see this as a more sustainable method of incentivizing and rewarding our new and established players.

With that in mind, we’d be interested in hearing what types of virtual goods you’d like to see in the store.  You can leave a comment on this post, but we’d prefer if you would add your ideas to our User Voice forum by clicking on the red “feedback” tab on every page on Figment.  By posting your ideas in User Voice other users can vote on each one and we’ll do our best to incorporate those ideas that make the most sense and receive the most backing.

We’d also like to know what you think of the idea of a premium version of Figment and what you’d be willing to pay for such an enhanced version.  I’ll be posting it as a User Voice idea, so let us know what you think.  We think it’s one of the key ways that we’ll be able to keep Figment solvent and growing into the future, but if you don’t agree we want to know that as well.

We look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts on how we can keep growing Figment.

17 Responses to “Why We Made Changes to the Lucre Store”

  1. theHoseman Says:

    Very well stated Eric.
    From my perspective the Lucre store is a good incentive, especially for new users. When I first started, I thought “No way am I ever gonna get enough lucre to cash in on anything”, but soon it became clear that you can very quickly amass a sizable quantity. I’m not really concerned with what the prizes are or how much they cost in lucre. Realizing that they come out of the operating budget (which costs me nothing) I felt guilty after cashing out for the iTunes card back when I hit my first 10,000.

    The subscription idea does seem like the best possible business model.
    Though I must say…the fact Figment is free is a pretty big determining factor in my continued use and enjoyment of the site. For me it’s pretty much another creative outlet – someplace I can design or devise a character or a song title etc and put it “out there” – see what resonates.
    I’m not really caught up in “winning” or earning prizes. (I didn’t even know there was a “winner” here!?)

    I think everyone should be thankful that Figment exists, that it is pretty free reign on what you can do, that it is free and that it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

    (and now I’ll step down from my soap box…sorry!)

  2. TMTYTF Says:

    Thanks a lot for clearing that up Eric, I completely understand that what you guys did was necessary to keep Figment up and running. It was sad that those other two similar sites shut down and I’m super stoked to still be a proud member of the Figment community.

    As far as a premium version that costs money…maybe, depending on how much it costs and what would be offered. I do understand that it will help to keep it up and running.

    I’m just gonna say this here b/c I’m not very good with the red feedback tab. Virtual T-shirts, hats, and posters made for our bands as a lucre prize would be pretty cool. Maybe they can be posted on the band page (similar to winning Figgies).

    I have one more idea but I’m not really sure if it could work out. Perhaps players could win signed merchandise of another Figment band they like. For example, for if I “won” a custom made Stonekrank poster, and it was sent to me, the band could sign it, send it back and someone else could win it. Just a thought.

  3. frizbee Says:

    I completely agree with Hoseman. I’ve never been concerned about how much Lucre I’m amassing because I want to spend it all on prizes, I just look at it as a sign of success. If there was something that I absolutely had to have in the Lucre Store, I would probably take the Lucre hit and get it. But, as of right now, there’s nothing that I feel the want or need to spend it on, and I don’t like the idea of parting with my Lucre. I think of my Lucre the same way I think of my fans: I cherish every single one of them. I feel like I’ve worked hard for that Lucre, and I’m not really in a position where I would be comfortable just tossing it around.

    The idea of a premium Figment where you would have to pay to be a member seems like the most obvious and logical way to keep the site growing bigger and better, while allowing for a bit of weight off of Eric and the gang’s shoulders, I’m sure. Though, I do agree with Hoseman that the fact that Figment is free is a huge draw for me. Had Figment been a pay site when I first discovered it, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I would feel saddened that I wouldn’t be able to partake in something that sounded so awesome, but I just wouldn’t be able to bring myself to pay for it. Having been a part of the Figment community for a long time now, and knowing how amazing it is, I would most likely break down and pay the membership fee, should the site ever go in that direction. My wife would probably not be happy about it, but I would do my best to convince her.

    And while I understand that making Figment a pay site would greatly help the site from a financial standpoint, I think it would ultimately alienate future users. Everybody loves free, but it takes a lot to make people pay for something. I love my Xbox, and I love playing Halo, but I even have a difficult time paying to keep my membership going each year.

  4. Childofalma Says:

    Paying for it would alienate a lot of people not because they wouldn’t want to pay, but rather because they couldn’t. There are a lot of young users on the site who are too young to even get jobs at McDonald’s, and I doubt their parents would be so happy as to shell out the cash if they weren’t interested themselves.

    I do understand completely full well why changes were made. They were necessary, but that doesn’t make them enjoyable. That’s all.

  5. frizbee Says:

    Good point, Childofalma. I think I meant to make that point during my rambling, but I forgot to mention it.

  6. Eric Says:

    Let me start by saying that we are not proposing getting rid of the free version of Figment, we agree with you that it is a great way to attract new players to the game. Our thought was to offer both – free and subscription. How do you feel about having both?

  7. TMTYTF Says:

    Well that depends. What would the subscription version offer that the free version wouldn’t??

  8. Eric Says:

    TMTYTF – I’m not sure why that’s relevant to the question of how people feel about 2 versions coexisting, but suffice to say the subscription service would include enhanced features that the free game does not. I’d rather not get into listing features right now, because we’re not at that point just yet.

  9. frizbee Says:

    Hmm. Incorporating both a free version and a premium version would certainly be the best of both worlds. But one has to wonder: why buy the cow when you get the milk for free? The premium version would have to offer some seriously awesome perks to convince people to pay for it.

  10. bmick14 Says:

    hey how about putting up like fake podcasts and radio stations making it legal in later versions of the game

  11. crypt_keeper Says:

    I think the premium subscription idea is good, as long as it isn’t too expensive. I love this site and I enjoy it very much, but if it were $10 a month, I might not be able to do that. I think $5 is very reasonable and I wouldn’t mind paying it. Also, an idea for a thing in the premium subscription would be allowing people to make fake record producers and negotiate deals with bands to produce their albums.

  12. bmick14 Says:

    will non premium users still be able to play cause i ain’t paying no money

  13. bmick14 Says:

    @Eric come on guys its a fake band website don’t overkill it it ruins the whole thing

  14. Javdoc Says:

    Finally getting around to commenting here….

    I am not surprised this has happened, given the rapid expansion of the Figment community and the dramatically-increasing [and basically unlimited] supply of Lucre out there. Coincidentally, I have actually thought a couple times recently how much easier it must be now to get to 10,000 Lucre versus a year ago with all the new players. So, in addition to getting our creativity fix on, we are getting a free lesson in macroeconomics – thanks Figment! 😉

    Regarding the premium service, I think that’s an interesting idea and would be open to paying a little something if there were some enhanced capabilities. Will be curious to see what’s on the table there….

  15. bmick14 Says:

    Hey Eric shouldn’t you be able to listen to an album BEFORE you buy it

  16. frizbee Says:

    bmick, I understand where you’re coming from with this question, but I think I can speak for Eric and say that in a normal, real world cirumstance: yes, you would generally be able to listen to an album, or at least sample it, before buying. However, since Figment isn’t the real world, and no real music is being created here, listening before buying really makes no sense.

  17. bmick14 Says:

    frizbee- yea i guess youre right haha

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