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Winnable Solitaire article

Eric's MSDN article on Winnable Solitaire is out:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/Longhorn/default.aspx?pull=/library/en-us/dnsoftware/html/software09012004.asp

Can't wait to see the sales figures myself. :)

Thom Lawrence
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Wonderful article. The only downside to the experiment is that we know that it's an experiment.

"I am primarily doing this product as an experiment, but the product is still very real. I'm selling it to real people and I'm charging real money for it. You can check out my product Web site."

This could skew sales figures. Recall the Stephen King online book that was poised to be the watershed to legitimize or ostracize tip-jar style online sales. At first it did great because every Slashdotter trying to prove a point lined up to contribute, but soon enough sales collapsed when the traditional prisoner's dilemma kicked in.

Dennis Forbes
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Nah, I don't think his target market (such as it is) reads MSDN.

But I predict one sale per month.

Ron
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I wonder how many of Eric's Google AdWords will get used up by MSDN, etc readers searching for his ad in Google.

Nemesis
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"But I predict one sale per month."

Heh, I am equally cynical about the market for this, which is what makes me think that as an experiment it is so easy to significantly skew -- if just one of us enjoys Eric's writings, feel that it's a pretty funny experiment, and runs over to his webpage and humorously ponied a couple of bucks to it, that could significantly alter his sales (of course Eric is sitting in the darkened corner laughing manically whlile the loads of humor purchases come rolling in by the couples a year).

A better experiment would have been blind (it would have added intrigue too - somewhere out there there's a shareware project by a mysterious backer that is actually Eric Sink). Let's face it - this isn't an experiment, but is rather Eric's take-over-the-world fallback plan if Team Services is a great success.

Dennis Forbes
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

But doesn't Team Services include a Solitaire function...? ;-)

Nemesis
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"But doesn't Team Services include a Solitaire function...?"

Hmmm..."team" and "solitaire"...

Ewan's Dad
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Yes, but when has anything involving "Team" been winnable? ;-)

Edward
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

This could skew sales figures. Recall the Eric Sink Solitaire game that was poised to be the watershed to legitimize or ostracize competing against a product already free in Windows from day one.? At first it did great because every softie trying to prove a point lined up to buy, but soon enough sales collapsed when the traditional prisoner's dilemma kicked in.

(Sorry Dennis, couldn't resist)

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Yes, but when has anything involving "Team" been winnable? ;-)"

You mean besides football, baseball, basketball, team gymnastics...?


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Anonymous, would you like a single or round-trip ticket?

Edward
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Nah, I don't think his target market (such as it is) reads MSDN."

Well if he isn't spending money on advertising, that sure would be a good way to get a lot of the free type.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

How difficult would it have been to create a new website totally separate from the company site, with no references?

With the advertising from MSDN, and the references to/from SourceGear, the sales results mean practically nothing.

The legal issues that micro-ISV's have to deal with are different, since SourceGear owns all rights.

Micro-ISV's have to battle customer hesitations regarding stability, and the "Will this company be around in 3 months when I buy a new computer and my key won't transfer" issues.

I developed shareware for a year or so, and this experiment doesn't address any of the major problems that were in my way.

What is this experiment for? Why not just make up a new company (just costs a few dollars) and a new web domain?

I just don't see the point here.

Edward
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"I developed shareware for a year or so, and this experiment doesn't address any of the major problems that were in my way."

Out of interest, what were they?

Thom Lawrence
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I'd like to know what credit card processor would give him an internet-based account without getting the cardholder name, let alone address or zip. I don't think ANYBODY does that... sounds fishy to me! (Or maybe it's part of the "experiment" not to actually charge money, just tally results?)

Lou
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Pretty much the points I mentioned ;-)

There were hundreds of others as well, such as bug management, etc., but any ISV has these issues.

Don't get me wrong -- I think it's all interesting, but I don't see what lessons could be learned from this. Eric?

Edward
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

It should probably have a version with a special installer that makes it a nice present. I couldn't imagine buying one for myself.

You know, people could buy it for their favorite cubicle-dweller. There could be a setting where if you press ESC or any of the top bank of keys, it will quit as fast as possible.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Of course, the biggest thing on my mind is I never, never know what to get people other than a book, as presents. So I'm maybe just projecting.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

> Don't get me wrong -- I think it's all
> interesting, but I don't see what lessons
> could be learned from this. Eric?

Maybe for you there are no lessons to be
learned.  After all, you said you've done
shareware development already.

I haven't.

Eric Sink
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I think it will be very interesting to see Mr. Sinks stats.

I don't believe the rhetoric generated from MSDN, his blog or this forum will skew his sales figures as long as he continues to market the game the way most shareware authors do.

I also believe that the game in and of itself was barely ready to hit the shelves.  Don't get me wrong, it is a good game and I like it.  Maybe I will purchase the next version with upgraded cards and artwork.  Polish is very, very important in a game.  Most games are released once and must be done right and polished up the first time.  No bugs, the best artwork you can afford, flawless operation on all systems etc, etc...  I'm not talking about feature creep here, I'm talking about polish.

That is where, I believe, Mr. Sink made his first mistake.

(BTW: If you are reading this Eric, there is a minor bug in the game where you can click anywhere in the upper left corner (not just on the face down cards) and the next three cards will flip.  If you consider that a bug.)


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I like the way Eric put his money where is mouth was rather than just think up an opinion on shareware he actually tried has hand at it.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Eric, who's processing your credit card transactions?! If you're not collecting cardholder names and addresses, it sounds like you're trying to (illicitly) use a POS terminal which is going to be contrary to your terms of use with your merchant bank... and is going to bite you in the ass when they take back all their money once they find out! I suggest you check up on that.

Lou
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I have no issue with that Eric. I learned a great deal from the experience; enough to pray that I never have to repeat it. ;-)

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what your experiment is about then. If your goal is do walk in the footsteps of other sucessful shareware developers (not me), then why not do it anonymously?

Seems to me you'd really have the experience that you're looking for?

At the same time, you could comment in your MSDN column about the process, without revealing the actual product that you're developing and selling.

Looking forward to the next column,

Edward
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

You don't have to collect address information to process credit cards online, the minimum required is the credit card number and the date it expires.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, September 02, 2004

From the MSDN article:
'With Winnable Solitaire, I want to own the word "winnable" in the mind of the market. That's the only attribute I'm seeking to own.'

Say your main competitor is Pretty Good Solitaire. What happens if they spend a month or two and make Pretty Good Solitaire, Now Winnable. Is that your key differentiator gone, and now the differences between Winnable and PGS are in PGS' favour?

If PGS did this, what would you do?

Colm Larkin
Thursday, September 02, 2004

It wouldn't steal 'winnable' entirely, indeed it would validate it as a 'Good Thing'.  Eric could then go and rename it as 'The Original Winnable Solitaire', so emphasising the ownership of that namespace.

Compare this with 'Soft, strong and very, very long'

Simon Lucy
Thursday, September 02, 2004

>It wouldn't steal 'winnable' entirely, indeed
>it would validate it as a 'Good Thing'.

This might be the case for a  ISV where the copycat may come to the market a significant time after the original, and the origin has had a chance to even been able to the owner of that namespace.

In the micro-ISV space 'Pretty Good Solitaire, Now Winnable' could be hitting the market a fews weeks after 'Winnable Solitaire'. The battle could now be down to marketing and advertising, which would not be a nice for a micro-ISV.

TommyA
Thursday, September 02, 2004

"Most games are released once and must be done right and polished up the first time.  No bugs, the best artwork you can afford, flawless operation on all systems etc, etc... "

A little gripe relating to this - a couple of days ago the wife got me Doom 3, and when I finally got a chance I brought it down to install on my workstation PC (where I work and selectively game at night). This PC is running Windows 2003 Server (legally) for a variety of reasons, such as IIS 6. My first surprize was when the installer informed me that it needs Windows 2000 or XP to run: Apparently the guy making the installer checked off the mandatory OS options, not realizing that there would be newer OS'. There is absolutely no technical reason why this won't run on Server, and I have the brains to shut down unnecessary services and to set foreground applications as prioritized, so there's not even a subjective reason to discriminate against Server.

Anyways thanks to some web info I copied CD1 over to the hard drive, ran a vbs script that removes the OS check and finally installed it, choosing to install it at C:\Doom3, even though my "home" drive is D:. Trying to launch it I'm surprized that it says that Doom3 can't be found...turns out it installed half of the game at C:\Doom3, and half at D:\Doom3.

The moral? Don't leave your installation to a last minute hack job, and make sure it works properly on edge cases.

Dennis Forbes
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Um, Dennis? It's not unusual for games to refuse to install on unsupported Windows versions. Doesn't matter if your version is "newer".

The reason is purely economic: their testers didn't test on 2003, their support people don't know anything about 2003, and any lengthy support call from a 2003 user completely wipes out the publisher's profit on that copy of Doom 3.

So they prevent installation on unsupported systems, to be on the safe side.

Chris Nahr
Friday, September 03, 2004

In other words, this was quite deliberate, not a "last minute hack job", and you bet that they have not the least intention to support "edge cases". In fact they would very much love such edge cases not to buy their games in the first place since they're far too risky economically.

Chris Nahr
Friday, September 03, 2004

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