Why do people hold game making contests? To reward their sites visitors? Partly. But competitions also have the potential to attract new people to a site and boost the number and quality of games on offer.
I was asked recently to give my opinion on a contest that an unnamed Game Maker focused site is planning and this got me thinking about all the benefits competitions can bring.
Because there is limited data available about cash prize contests the focus of this article will be on the four Game Maker competitions held by YoYo Games. Each contest offered a first prize of $1,000, a second prize of $500 and a third prize of $250 with the winners being decided by YoYo Games staff.
Game uploads and game plays
Over a 44 day period around YoYo Games’ end of 2008 Save The Planet competition an average of more than 62 games a day were uploaded to the site. In a similar period of time starting two days after the closing of submissions the number of uploads per day had fallen to 46.
The increase in site activity was not just limited to uploads. From November 26th 2008 to January 6th 2009 the games on YoYo Games were played on average more than 14,100 times a day. The mean number of game plays per day since then has been 12,875 and has remained fairly consistent.
The competition was announced on September 16th 2008 and ran until January 4th 2009 and unsurprisingly most of the entries were made towards the end of that period.
Games entered into contests are likely to have more plays than those that are not. The games are given special prominence on YoYo and entrants are likely to want to see what they are up against.
The average number of plays per game in the first (Winter) YoYo Games competition is more than four times the site wide average since launch of 232 a game. Almost 20% of entries have been played (as of now) more than 500 times. Across all 38,000 plus games hosted on the website only 5.7% have received more than 500 plays.
It is worth noting however that these figures are likely skewed as I do not have figures for the proportion of total games that were uploaded by the date of the competition.
Costs per game
While the prize fund on offer remained the same at a generous $1,750 per competition the number of games entered has increased in each subsequent contest. This has resulted in a dramatic fall in the amount that YoYo are spending to acquire each new game.
Building a strong collection of games that people want to play and come back to play again is key to YoYo Games’ business model. Without good games people will not visit YoYoGames.com.
If all games on the site had a cost to YoYo Games of $5.89 they would have spent over $225,000 building their current selection or $0.025 every time a game has been played. Games submitted in the first competition have cost the equivilant of $0.009 per play.
That’s pretty expensive although obviously these games can be replayed (each year!) without additional prize money needing to be paid and the vast majority of games on the site were acquired for free. The creators of these games are also likely to go on to upload new creations.
Attracting new developers
Examining the profiles of the creators of a random sample of 10 entries in YoYo Games’ second, Ancient Civilization-themed, competition returns the following results. [see table on the right]
Although only 2 of the 10 users registered at YoYo Games shortly before submitting their entry 50% of entries came from people who had not previously uploaded a game to the site. The fifty percent that had not added any games prior to the competition went on to upload a further 9 games between them, with the two new registrations both making later use of the services.
As well as attracting people who had not previously used the site (or at least registered for an account) activity levels amongst those that had been registered for a while but were not using the upload facility increased.
Promoting the website
As well as building up a large collection of user created games for the YouTube of games idea to work many more people must visit the site than have made use of the hosting facilities. The contest announcements were featured on Indie gaming sites such as TigSource, IndieGames.com and GameDev.net which introduced the site and free game creation platform to new audiences.
The table below shows the inlinks generated to the pages on YoYo Games which contained details of the competition criteria (tracked using Yahoo SiteExplorer). Although the combined figures are much less than the 2,778 inlinks Yahoo tracks to the YoYoGames.com homepage they aren’t to be sniffed at. Bizarrely the third contest received far fewer links. We have seen that the competitions gained links and increased the number of games that were played on YoYo Games but what is the effect on overall levels of traffic? For this we will look at the variation in the (easily manipulated) Alexa traffic rank.
The lowest ranking (most popular) occurred in towards the end of January 2008 in between the run periods of the first and second contests.
There does not appear to be any correlation between low traffic rank and contests however this is not particularly surprising as although uploads increased during competition times and the number of game plays per day increased during the contest the percentage changes were small.
The highlighted Alexa graph above shows that for the vast majority of 2008 a contest was running. I’m pretty sure I mentioned before (but can’t locate the post!) that I felt Game Maker users were being spoilt by the rate at which competitions that were being held. YoYo’s decision to hold so many contests so often after a long period in which none were held has lead to some people now expecting YoYo Games to hold an indefinite number of competitions for them to create games for.
See also: Quick look at Game Maker competitions that took place in 2008
Would also like your opinion on this type of article. They take a lot of research and a long time to write.
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