How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

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How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Mathy » Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:38 pm UTC

Hi there.

I'm an entrepreneur
I'm a 20 year old guy who started programming when I was about 9 or 10. Through these 10 or 11 years, I've managed to release a video game that has been made available in stores in GameStop, Steam and Impulse. I also own a company with 3 employees that makes software solutions to the public, and customized business solutions for businesses, as well as hosting. In other words, I'm an entrepreneur.

Even though I'm a so called geek as well, I often think about the world as a whole. I know what I've been doing myself isn't exactly world-changing in any way, but I want to change that through the skills I have.

The other day, I thought about how many people spend all day playing video games. Personally, I would call this "a waste of time" (that said, entertainment is needed though - just saying that many people do nothing but gaming) - and let's face it. We can't change this easily, and I actually don't want to. But what if we could turn gaming into something useful?

Here's the question
Every hour, there's spent around 90 million gaming hours worldwide. What if we could use some of this time on something useful? And so it hit me. There must be some way of designing a game that uses human processing power to solve problems, instead of computational processing power. Yes, a computer processor far exceeds the brain in terms of general calculations. But what if we could find a scenario where humans had a better overview, could form solutions in a competitive way, and then use algorithms to verify the results and find the best ones?

My gift is also a curse. I keep getting ideas like this, and I have to let them out to stop thinking about them. I have also started a blog to let some of these ideas out, and to figure out if we can make people generate revenue and value to themselves and people around them. Feel free to look by http://thinkstartup.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/a-few-thoughts-to-get-the-engine-going/.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Griffin » Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:56 pm UTC

You do realize this is already done, right? I mean, it wasn't long ago there was that big news wave when they figured out that rare protein folding via a free protein folding game they'd distributed to people.

Ah, Foldit, that's what it was called.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Mathy » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:12 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:You do realize this is already done, right? I mean, it wasn't long ago there was that big news wave when they figured out that rare protein folding via a free protein folding game they'd distributed to people.

Ah, Foldit, that's what it was called.

Oh god. Now I just feel stupid. :(
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Griffin » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:18 pm UTC

Mind you, there's still plenty of room in the field! I'm pretty sure it has lots of untapped potential for other applications!
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Kryigerofe » Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:37 am UTC

It's called Human Computation or Crowdsourcing, and has been done to some extent, but the full potential is definately not tapped yet. If you manage to get any useful data at all from the WoW crowd, you'll be a millionaire. Most of the games like this I've seen have been little browser games that are fun for a few hours. There's one game, for example, in which two players are shown an image, they name it, and if they name it the same, they score. This is used to create search tags for images in the internet.(I can't find it right now, but I believe Google has cloned it for itself). I and my friend actually planned to create a company that'd use crowdsourcing to transcribe speech to text (but it fell apart before we got it started).
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:57 am UTC

Well, WoW was once used for research into the spread of pandemics, after a bug accidentally caused a pandemic in the game. I'm sure that all MMO's can be used as some kind of research, into things like economics, psychology, etc.

For example, I learned that in markets where supply is short and there are acquisition costs, the per-unit prices increase the more you have. Specifically, in the old MMORPG Tibia (haven't played it in quite a few years, things have changed since), a backpack (20 items) of Ultimate Healing runes could cost 2.8k. Having 5 backpacks could be 3.2k each, and a backpack of backpacks would fetch up to 3.5k each. The reasons were, the runes were always in short supply, could only be made by 1 class of character that was completely underpowered (so they were made almost entirely by bots), it either took time or a few hundred coins to travel between cities to purchase the backpacks of runes from people, and people wanted to do their shopping once and not 20 times. So unlike normal markets where buying bulk is cheaper, things that are perpetually in short supply are more valuable in bulk.

Also, it was great study into the reasons behind racism. All hunting grounds and loot monsters were crowded, so you wanted to make sure only your tentative allies could get to them. There were 3 major groups of players in that game; American, Polish, and Brazilian. Every time a new server opened up, it was a genocidal war between Brazil and the US/Polish for dominance (the US and Polish tended to band together, but not always). Minor groups were usually spared, until it was clear which side was the winner; then they were annihilated if they hadn't chosen a side.

I never tried to get involved in the genocidal wars; I had hotkeyed a few Brazilian shibboleths so I wouldn't be killed on sight. It went like this; a Brazilian player would say "Br?", and you would have to have a short conversation in Portuguese or you died. Oh, death took upwards of 10% of your TOTAL xp as well as everything in your backpack and 10% of any equipped items. You could pay RL cash for a membership that took xp loss down to 7%, and about 50K game cash to reduce it to 2% (that had to be repurchased after each death and it took 20 minutes or so to get), and another 50K to keep all your items. It still meant a level 200 (yes, some people get insanely high levels like that) could expect to lose 4 levels, that could take hundreds of hours to regain.

Oh, and racism and mass player-killing are against the rules. So people create pking-only accounts and gather en masse to kill without being traced (5 low level paladins* simultaneously using runes and bolts can insta-kill a mid-level player; a high level caught unawares just needs more paladins). But there are more worlds/servers than game-masters, and the game-masters almost never leave the old worlds/servers anyway...

Yeah, that game was some serious shades of fucked up.

*Paladins are the archers. Yeah, I know; everyone complains about it. Using magic doesn't affect your physical attack, so you get 2 attacks. Oh, and you can only block the first 2 physical hits each round.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Dec 16, 2011 3:50 am UTC

Eve Online employs (or employed?) an Economics PhD student who was doing his work on something or another, and using Eve's market as his test subject. He wrote quarterly economic reports on trends in the games economy.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Zamfir » Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:46 am UTC

People who play in an MMO game (or many other online activities) are already providing a very valuable service to other people, namely themselves to play/socialize/whatever with.

Sometimes a company manages to turn that into revenue for themselves, like Blizzard. In other places, like this forum, people offer that service to each other and back again without much monetizing involved. I don't think the second model is deeply inferior to the first, even if the first contributes to the GDP and the second doesn't.

In other words, when I play a game with someone for an hour we can be both happy. Instead, we could both spend an hour making a widget that the other likes, and then trade the widgets. Perhaps that makes us just as happy, perhaps more, perhaps less. But it's dangerous to call the first a waste of time and the second a valuable productive activity.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Qaanol » Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:06 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:People who play in an MMO game (or many other online activities) are already providing a very valuable service to other people, namely themselves to play/socialize/whatever with.

Sometimes a company manages to turn that into revenue for themselves, like Blizzard. In other places, like this forum, people offer that service to each other and back again without much monetizing involved. I don't think the second model is deeply inferior to the first, even if the first contributes to the GDP and the second doesn't.

In other words, when I play a game with someone for an hour we can be both happy. Instead, we could both spend an hour making a widget that the other likes, and then trade the widgets. Perhaps that makes us just as happy, perhaps more, perhaps less. But it's dangerous to call the first a waste of time and the second a valuable productive activity.

This speaks to a profound point. Namely, how can we devise a metric that accounts for the net benefit of any given action or industry, rather than simply adding up how much money changes hands?

For example, if $25 billion dollars are spent on healthcare (made-up number), that counts as $25 billion dollars added to the GDP. On the other hand, if someone cures all diseases, much less will be spent on healthcare, which means ceteris paribus GDP will now be lower, even though everyone is better off.

As another example, if 10 million copies of a book sell for $20 each, that counts as $200 million in economic terms. If instead someone published the book and sold it at cost, say $2 each, and 50 million copies sold, that would only be half as much revenue economically. But it would put the book in 5 times more hands, meaning much more total benefit (in whatever form it may take) is created by that book.

And, as an extreme example, currently lots of money is spent of food. If we were able to make robots do all farming autonomously, the cost of food would be negligible. Food could, in essence, be given away for free. The exact same amount of good (namely, food to eat) would be generated, just without any money needing to change hands.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Zamfir » Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:34 pm UTC

I don't think you can devise a metric. You can't collapse many complicated and subjective experiences in a handful of number and hope to capture more than a glimpse of reality. The best we can do is to stay aware of the limits of metrics when they are used.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby savanik » Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:40 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:As another example, if 10 million copies of a book sell for $20 each, that counts as $200 million in economic terms. If instead someone published the book and sold it at cost, say $2 each, and 50 million copies sold, that would only be half as much revenue economically. But it would put the book in 5 times more hands, meaning much more total benefit (in whatever form it may take) is created by that book.


Books are a bad example here, because of imperfect information transfer. Lowering price on a good of unknown quality (a book) can cause it to be perceived by the market as less valuable than an equivalent good that's priced higher and thus reduce demand. It's also influenced by a form of confirmation bias. If it's priced that high, then it must be worth that much, especially after you shelled out that much money - right?

Particularly, you see this a lot in the consulting business. A computer consultant who charges $25 an hour must be fresh out of college, where a computer consultant who charges $250 an hour must be highly experienced, even if they both have the same end work performance.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Cleverbeans » Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:46 am UTC

I think many free internet services work on a model where the consumer is the product being sold to a third party. They're either selling the consumers attention to advertisers or using them to generate data, or both. Yahoo's got a question and answer site where people can ask any question they like, and other users answer them, so all the content is user generated. They also run ads in the side bar for additional revenue. Overall the system is essentially user run at this point though, so it seems that it requires nothing at all to motivate people to generate revenue.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:44 am UTC

savanik wrote:
Qaanol wrote:As another example, if 10 million copies of a book sell for $20 each, that counts as $200 million in economic terms. If instead someone published the book and sold it at cost, say $2 each, and 50 million copies sold, that would only be half as much revenue economically. But it would put the book in 5 times more hands, meaning much more total benefit (in whatever form it may take) is created by that book.


Books are a bad example here, because of imperfect information transfer. Lowering price on a good of unknown quality (a book) can cause it to be perceived by the market as less valuable than an equivalent good that's priced higher and thus reduce demand. It's also influenced by a form of confirmation bias. If it's priced that high, then it must be worth that much, especially after you shelled out that much money - right?

Particularly, you see this a lot in the consulting business. A computer consultant who charges $25 an hour must be fresh out of college, where a computer consultant who charges $250 an hour must be highly experienced, even if they both have the same end work performance.


Alternately, this is why books are a perfect example of what Qaanol is saying and why revenue doesn't closely reflect reality.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby yurell » Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:04 am UTC

This thread may be interesting to you, especially the video linked in the OP.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby folkhero » Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:59 am UTC

Mathy wrote:
Griffin wrote:You do realize this is already done, right? I mean, it wasn't long ago there was that big news wave when they figured out that rare protein folding via a free protein folding game they'd distributed to people.

Ah, Foldit, that's what it was called.

Oh god. Now I just feel stupid. :(

Don't feel stupid that someone smart came up with the same clever idea that you did.

In addition to Foldit and some others mentioned, there's also phylo, which I had some fun with, though I haven't played in a while.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby nitePhyyre » Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:17 am UTC

While not a game per se There is also Galaxy Zoo
Galaxy Zoo: Hubble uses gorgeous imagery of hundreds of thousands of galaxies drawn from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope archive. To understand how these galaxies, and our own, formed we need your help to classify them according to their shapes — a task at which your brain is better than even the most advanced computer. If you're quick, you may even be the first person in history to see each of the galaxies you're asked to classify.

More than 250,000 people have taken part in Galaxy Zoo so far, producing a wealth of valuable data and sending telescopes on Earth and in space chasing after their discoveries. The images used in Galaxy Zoo: Hubble are more detailed and beautiful than ever, and will allow us to look deeper into the Universe than ever before.

Thanks for your help, and happy classifying.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Randomizer » Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:42 am UTC

Ok, I just tried Phylo, and it sucks balls. What sort of idiots thought it would be a good idea to put a time limit in that sort of game? You're supposed to use careful thinking and problem-solving to maximize one's score (and contribution to science), not compete in a Boggle speed-run. I would rant to the creators, but I don't see a feedback link.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby TrlstanC » Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:55 pm UTC

I always thought that the problem of training AI was ripe for this kind of treatment. There always seems to be lots of research/time/money spent making better AI algorithms, or better hardware, but it seems like it would be just as important to get the new AI lots of experience dealing with new problems. Something like an MMO where it's humans vs. learning AI, or humans + AI vs some kind of challenge? The idea being that we get better at problem solving by working on lots of problems, so wouldn't it be useful to have a new AI gets lots of experience working on problems (either with or against intelligent humans).
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:36 am UTC

That is a definite possibility, very much akin to the problem of finding massive amounts of printed text for training speech recognition algorithms. If the problem is one of collecting a mass of raw data and running iterations, I can't think of any better place to do that than from within the World of Warcraft servers.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby liveboy21 » Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:53 am UTC

I don't know if this is a good example, but I think that xkcd's internet colour survey gathered a lot of information at what seems to be a rather low cost. Along those same lines, if xkcd asked 'what did you have for dinner', 'what is your favourite food' and 'where do you live', they could potentially make the greatest 'nerd' themed restraunt of all time.

It seems to me that boring questions + popular name = interesting questions which is how a lot of tv works anyway. Like the examples before, this would allow you to gather data about rather subjective questions and in this case you wouldn't need to get some polling group to get between you and the data.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Ixtellor » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:27 pm UTC

Gold Farming generates $3billion annually.

Also, it sounds as if your trying to mix leisure and work. I game because its a non-work leisure activity. Its a break from work, and I think I prefer it that way.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby The Geoff » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:36 am UTC

I have to wonder about the rise of games like Battlefield. Whether you agree with it or not, it's giving players an awareness of basic military tactics. The importance of kit choice, awareness of your environment, playing as part of a team, and lots more. It has to be useful to the military to have kids coming through with some concept of how it works. When I was a kid I won a scholarship from the RAF, I'm absolutely certain that hours on an Atari ST flight sim (F19) got me through the aptitude tests, so it's certainly not a particularly newfangled idea.

If it leads to armed forces which can run new recruits through to operational level a couple of weeks quicker, then it's arguably a net gain for the economy. Not that I'm suggesting that military indoctrination of minors is a good thing you understand... :oops:

EDIT: Ref. Ender's Game
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby Qaanol » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:28 am UTC

All right, so hows about we all get together are write ourselves a multiplayer RTS game somewhat like Sim City meets Age of Empires, except the fundamental things to deal with are:

Sustainability of energy production, agriculture, aquaculture, and so forth.
Diplomacy, trade agreements, and avoiding costly wars.
Productivity, industrial relocation, working conditions.
Infrastructure, long-term investments, technological progress.
Improving quality of life, keeping peace among residents, reducing crime.

Hmm, looking over that list, it seems one way to “keep score” would be net happiness above a baseline. So, every resident of the player’s domain would have some “happiness” level. That would depend on the person’s current situation, so working in a sweatshop lowers happiness, going to the beach raises happiness, being in jail lowers happiness, earning more money than one’s peers raises happiness and so forth. It wouldn’t be necessary to actually track every individual citizen, just an overall “how many people are in jail”, “how many homes have indoor plumbing”, that sort of thing.

So the player has control over how his or her city/state/nation/empire works, from what the laws are to what gets built and interactions with other players. We can make The Tragedy Of The Commons be central, so if players chop down all the trees or hunt all the whales for lamp oil, there won’t be any left. Even the renewable resources have rates of regrowth, so even killing merely most of the whales will mean there are few whales for a long time.

The player should have an incentive to keep his or her residents alive and well. Spending time, energy, and resources building an army means those resources don’t get used making life better, so other players will get ahead in the scoring. Actually going to war means people will die, which decreases the player’s score. It’s possible to conquer land through war, and holding it for a long time could in theory get the player ahead in the long run, but they’d need to already be quite strong to make it worthwhile.

Let’s see…if your country gets conquered, you are still in charge of running its day-to-day operations. But your liege can impose laws on it. Of course, your liege wants to get productivity from your people, so he or she doesn’t want to hamper you too much. But if you stop doing what he or she wants, that could change things.

This might actually work. It would need to be real-time. It could be a persistent world, or a savable game, graphics could be 3D realish or 2½D cartoony. I think this could work.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby aoeu » Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:53 am UTC

Qaanol wrote:The player should have an incentive to keep his or her residents alive and well. Spending time, energy, and resources building an army means those resources don’t get used making life better, so other players will get ahead in the scoring. Actually going to war means people will die, which decreases the player’s score. It’s possible to conquer land through war, and holding it for a long time could in theory get the player ahead in the long run, but they’d need to already be quite strong to make it worthwhile.

What would inevitably happen is that the game would gain disproportionate popularity in some corner of the world, and the people from there would successfully team up against everybody else.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby liveboy21 » Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:11 am UTC

It seems from this thread that there are 3 ways to generate external revenue through games.

1. Use the game to solve/model a problem (Foldit)
2. Use the game to impart a skill (I believe the American army released a game and monitered the high ranking players)
3. Using a game to provide the illusion of creativity and then profiting from it (Minecraft, Second Life)

I added that third option because we are on the topic of motivating people to generate revenue and I think that making people pay to generate content is a brilliant move on the creator's part. By allowing people to generate content, the users get more original content and the creators get more profit.

The first two options were more in line with what was suggested in this thread but they both have a significant problem. That problem is the extra step of turning the solutions or skills from the games into profit/revenue.

With the first option, solving a problem, you need to design a game that solves a problem and also invent/find a problem which if solved gives you a profit. This would probably involve discussions with universities, schools, businesses or if you're very lucky, you can somehow invent a problem which if solved will benefit you (don't count on it though).

With the second option, imparting a skill, you need to design a game that imparts a skill and invent/find a skill which if imparted gives you a profit. This would potentially have a wider amount of possible sponsors as skills are more easily tracked that possible problems. Also, there are many skills that have very long learning times which could potentially be shortened if taught through a different medium. However, there is an added problem where you'll have to convince a business that it is worth investing in your skill building program (or programme! a rare moment where both words are appropriate, even if they mean different things...but I digress) and you'll also have to convince the business that the skill building program will impart the skill properly.

It seems that the real world is an annoying place. By wanting to make a program that will help the other sectors, you will also have to communicate with the other sectors.
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Re: How can we motivate people to generate revenue?

Postby KnightExemplar » Thu Feb 09, 2012 6:13 am UTC

The famous crowdsourcing example was the DARPA scavenger hunt a few years ago. DARPA (research wing of the military) decided to put up 10 Red Balloons across the continental USA. The first team to discover all 10 balloons won $40,000. Using Facebook and Twitter to coordinate and distribute funds, the winner managed to find all 10 balloons in less than 9 hours. An impressive feat when you consider the location list of the Balloons: http://archive.darpa.mil/networkchallen ... inates.pdf

So yes, there are ways to just spend money to motivate people into doing things. But not all problems are quite as interesting (or awesome) as a nation-wide scavenger hunt.
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