What I Learned from Neopets

ponyI use to play Neopets every day. I’d log in, do my dailies, play some games, then do something else only to come back later in the day to play my favorite games again. I figured if I was going to play those silly little flash games I may as well get something for my trouble. That “something” was a digital pet with color patterns, digital toys, digital books to read, and hours of time… wasted. Right?

I do check in with my Neopets now and then. Now it’s more to waste a little time in between writing, or when I have a spare moment available. Usually my pets are starving when I get there, and they stay starving more often then not. But as I was playing today I realized there were some things about Neopets that reflected lessons I’d learned in my every day life. Lessons that a child playing Neopets could easily understand and use later on.

Buy low, sell high!

This could be a stock exchange commercial. But seriously, it works. It works when you’re buying supplies to make jewelry or trinkets to sell  in your Etsy shop. It works when you’re sourcing the paint for your canvas, or the fabric for your dress. It works when you are scheduling your time for working on your novel. Put in less money then you sell it for. Money includes effort, time, etc.

But remember, the first few are usually the loss leaders. You don’t make money on them, you make money on volume. So don’t out price yourself. Realize that you probably will have to settle for breaking even for a little while until you manage to gain a following and some fans, and then you can go hog wild and make a living.

The more stock the more sales

This was the one that got me thinking about this article. Neopets gives you your own shop where you can sell the digital items you’ve gathered. I was filling up my shop, setting prices, when it dawned on me: the more items in my shop the more likely I was to have sales.

It wasn’t just that my shop would be more visible because I was more likely to have the specific item someone was looking for. It was the fact that the more I had in my shop the more people might just find my shop organically, and the more spur of the moment purchases they might make. Even if the prices were high. Even if they didn’t necessarily want that copy of “Babaa Care”.

It’s the same with my own Amazon store. The more books I have in there the more likely I am to get a random customer. The more likely he is to just pick up a couple of things instead of just one while he’s there. It works with other types of merchandise as well. Who goes into a shop that only sales milk? No, we want a store where we can get eggs, bacon, and cheese too. So give your customers what they want. Create more things for your shop.

Work a little every day for the best rewards.

A big part of Neopets is the dailies. Every day you can go to a website that has a link to all the dailies, or you can remember them. I preferred the websites to start with, though few of them listed all the daily activities you could do. Each activity gave you a new item, a few neopoints, or an avatar. Each one got you closer to the million neopoint mark in your bank.

But this applies to the real world as well. Every day, adding a little bit to your art, or writing, or music.. every day studying or going to your day job. It all adds up, little by little, till you have something to show for it. It’s just another reason for me to write every day, even when it sucks. Even when it’s hard.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Neopets often add items that are limited time, or seasonal. They change games, update areas, add and subtract things. Everything changes, both online and off. Nothing lasts forever. And one of the things you learn in Neopets is that it pays to collect those things that are limited. Just like comic books in the real world. If only a few people can get them, or if they disappear over time, then they slowly become more valuable.

Gambling doesn’t pay.

There is a bit of controversy around the gambling available on Neopets. They have their own version of the Lottery, and scratch cards. You rarely win. In fact you make more money from scratch cards by selling them in your shop then you do by actually scratching them off. Other things, like Poogle Racing and Keno allow you to pay in money, but rarely pay out. Thankfully it’s all neopoints, but you get the picture.

The virtual doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stay virtual.

Some time ago Neopets added real life items to their catalog. Plushies, console games, wearable, etc. Working in digital media as I do with books this is a great lesson for me as well. Digital items shouldn’t always stay digital. There should be some branching over to the 3D world. What if I made a plushy that I could sell? Or a poster? Or wearables? It’s a great marketing strategy and makes the real life and digital life closer to each other because you have something you can touch and feel on this side of the screen. What’s more, they always gave a digital item with the real world item. Tokens, free items, and digital merch to go with the plushy you bought. These items were FREE for Neopets to give away, so it made sense to add value to their real world objects by having digital items go with it. As a writer/artist/etc you can do something similar. Add QR codes for free books, or digital backgrounds. Give something digital away with every real world purchase. At the very least a free (or greatly reduced) ebook with every print book.

I’m sure there are more, but I am too tired to think of them.

Apps are where it’s at!

Not long ago Humble Bundle updated their Android app.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Humble Bundle it is an online marketplace that bundles games together and let’s you pay what you want for the games. A portion of the proceeds goes to charity. They also expanded to ebooks, digital comics, and often add sound tracks in with their games.

The app use to allow you to download the Android games you bought through their bundles,  now it allows you to download the ebooks,  comics and music as well.

This is amazing news! It is a pain in the neck trying to side load ebooks on my phone or tablet. Now I just open up the Humble Bundle app and download the comics and books I want to read, or the music I want to listen to, and it’s all right there. All accessible and regale right in the app.

This is the future. Eventually someone is going to put an app together that will go around all the side load bs and just let me read the content I bought. It isn’t here yet, but I can see enough people asking for it that it is coming. Eventually. Maybe some authors child will be really into programming and will set it up for them.

Not only that, but if there are apps out there that provide this service then amazon will be forced to add an auto install for ebooks as well, something they haven’t done yet probably because they want it to be hard on you so you buy direct from them.

Truth is I don’t mind buying stuff from amazon  I do it a lot. But I don’t buy EVERYTHING from amazon so I don’t want to be stuck side loading things all over the place. Plus I’d really like to see all my media in one spot so I can just search for books, games, or music I own and download from one app instead of all of them.

It’s interesting times we live in. Things are changing rapidly and in ten years this will probably seen like a minor irritation along the way to progress.

In app game purchase! Grrrrrr!

I went to goggle play looking for a new, interesting game and saw a list of half off games. I’m okay with paying a little bit to own a game and play it whenever I feel like it.

But no, this wasn’t 50% off to own a game. This  was 50% off in app purchases. Because in app purchases make more money.

You might think I’m pissed off at devs for doing this, and you’d be slightly right. It is annoying as F to get interested in a game and really enjoy it only to get half way through and run out of  “energy” or have long ass wait periods for certain things to load. Even worse; power-ups that cost $1 each.

But no, it annoys me far more that people will actually spend $20 or more on Candy Crush on in app purchases, making this a viable option for devs in the first place.

Candy Crush had over 300 levels. If they split the game up into 50 levels a piece and charged $2.99 for each game package, with chances to win power ups, then I would totally buy it. But I’m not their demographic. The people they want to play their game will spend hundreds or even thousands just to solve one more puzzle.

It seems like more and more games are turning to in app purchases.  Thankfully Google now warns you before you download a game. I rejected 20 different games because of the in app purchase tag.

Sadly they don’t tell you what kind of in app purchase is available. If it was a purchase for an expansion, or for new skins I’d be okay with that. It’s pay to win games that really bug me. Or pay to have an enjoyable experience.

Just put a price tag on your game as a whole instead of doing in app purchases!

I don’t Wanna! – Day 10 NaNoWriMo

Every morning I get up, I take a shower, brush my teeth, and go to work. I put on a pot of coffee to slowly sip and wake up. I greet my customers with a smile on my face, even when inside I want to run away. Go home. Slip into bed with a book and a bottle of orange juice, and forget the outside world even exists.

I don’t want to be there, but I go. I have to pay my bills, and take care of my children. This isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. And I go, even though I don’t wanna!

This month I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. And this week… I don’t wanna. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to sit in front of the computer. I don’t want to fill in paragraph after paragraph of someone else’s life.

But I’m going to.

There are those who say you should only write when you are inspired, and I heartily disagree. Inspiration is not what gave me thirteen books, and over 100 thousand words in stories published on Amazon. Inspiration started the story, but sheer determination finished it.

I don’t want to sit in front of my computer typing. Not today. Today I want to cuddle up and play a game, or watch TV. But TV and games won’t put words on the page. And they won’t further my goal of being an author that makes my living from my writing.

So I’m going to go write. I might have to rewrite it. But I’m still going to go do it.

Pax Prime 2013

2013-08-30 11.08.31 Got back from Pax last night around midnight, and I am exhausted. And… I’m going back tomorrow, and the next day.

I’m actually glad I took a day off from all the hub bub at Pax. It’s so much fun, but I think four straight days would have killed me. It’s just too much.

On the plus side, I met a lot of cool people, traded buttons, gave out a few buttons to people who I talked about my book to. I never actually got to give out a copy of my book, but I’ll have a two more days to do so.

I also played a lot of games, and got to test drive the Oculus Rift. Hint: I suggest you be sitting, leaning up against a wall, or strapped into an Omni Treadmill for this thing. I could not feel anything, not even the floor under my feet really, and when the me in the video game left the surface of the ground, or walked THROUGH trees, I got a little queazy.

However, playing a plat-former on the Oculus was kind of cool. I could look to the left and right, see down the tunnels, but I didn’t lose perspective of where I was. I could feel the desk, and the ground, and even though I was looking into the virtual world of the plat-former, I did not get queazy like I did in the 3D environment.

My friends and I agree… Oculus + Omni + Noise canceling headphones + Horror Survival = FUCKING AWESOME SCARY TIME!

For more pictures you can check out my G+ post. And expect more on Tuesday!

Why I Won’t Buy the XB1

No one disagrees that the future is going digital. Nor do they disagree with Microsoft’s rights to do so this soon. It does seem a bit pre-mature to a lot of people who are without internet, or have sporadic, or bad internet. The same people who love their console games because they do not have to get online for downloads, updates, multi-player and the like.

I do, however, disagree with the fact that the game you buy as a physical disk isn’t actually yours and you can not do anything with it except install it onto your personal XB1. You can’t give it to a friend to play. You can’t really sell it to a used game store. I can already see used game stores are going to refuse to take them because they can only be re-registered to a new console once. How does Gamestop know if someone else already registered it? They don’t. So they can’t do it.

On top of the money you pay to Gamestop to get the game, you also have to pay the publisher/Microsoft again, for a used game. This is like Ikea charging you for buying a bookshelf, then charging someone who buys that bookshelf at a garage sale. It’s ridiculous.

Then there is the kinect. Always on, always watching, always listening. With NSA recording, watching, and storing anything they damn well feel like, and Microsoft being one of the companies that are supporting the NSA in doing this, then it just doesn’t sound safe to me. I wouldn’t want it in my living room watching me. It’s just creepy. What if I want to play Skyrim while I am skyclad? No, not happening. 

Yes, digital is the future, and honestly, I buy most of my games on Steam because the prices reflect the fact that you can not resell them. They have great sales, and they allow you to download it to any computer you want, as many times as you want and play offline if you like. Want to play with a friend? Buy them another copy, it’s probably less then $20.

Microsoft will be selling you brand new games with a physical disk that you can not resell without a lot of trouble, for $60. 

Maybe other gamers can afford that… Maybe they don’t mind invasion of privacy, or limitations put on your personal property. That’s up to gamers. I, personally, will not be getting an XB1.

Move over! I’m coming through!

Early a friend tweeted a link to this article, in which Joe Abercrombie (a traditionally published writer) said self publishing is too much work. He doesn’t want to publish, he wants to write.

Yep. He’s right. Self publishing is a LOT of work. There are covers, editors, formating, and months and months of writing with little return.

But it’s worth it!

For centuries art has been funneled through publishers of one sort or another. Book publishers, music producers, game developers, TV executives, art curators… you name it! There was a gate keeper set in front of your goal that you had to get through.

It’s like a lottery. Someone wins, and a whole hell of a lot of people lose.

And publishing, like any lottery, wasn’t dependent solely on talent or content. It was also marketability, how much money they could make off you, and sometimes your ability to stroke their ego.

Guess what? It isn’t a lottery anymore. The gate keepers are starting to notice wholes crashing through the walls, bypassing the gate they so carefully erected.

Indie game designers have produced, sold, and created major hits among gamers. Like Limbo, Journey, Minecraft, and Bastion. Games that skyrocketed past all the game publishers, earning millions.

Indie authors, like Hugh Howie, and Amanda Hocking proved you don’t need a publisher to make it big. They refused to give their rights away for someone else to make money off their talent, and they succeeded.

In film we now see some amazing special effects, animations, dramas, and story telling available right on youtube. For free. Netflix is offering some of them, like the Guild, streaming. Theaters are playing others, like Plurality, as ‘pre movie vignettes’. Others will follow suit. Indie films will get longer, and better, and eventually be available along side everything else.

Musicians, like Maclemore, are hitting the top charts without signing their life and their music over to some producer.

Even physical objects, and hand made goods. You can go to Etsy and by something directly from designers, artists, and makers. Or you can download designs from Thingaverse and print them on your 3D printer.

Publishers… the gate keepers who so carefully erected that wall so they could decided what was published, and who succeed, are starting to see that their wall looks more like swiss cheese then brick.

The status quo use to be that people produced things, and the person who sold it and distributed it, was the one who made the most profit off it.

I see a future where the person who designed, created, wrote, painted, filmed, or made an object…. they will be the one who makes the most profit off their IP. They made it. They should.

Copyright is broken. DMC is bulky, and intrusive. Publishers are more interested in the bottom line then the creators they say they serve. We’ve known this for a while, and now we have ways to combat it.

Move over publishers, I’m coming through.
If all that’s standing in my way is a little hard work, then I’m rolling up my sleeves, and I’m doing it.