More Up-To-Date Game Lists

September 26, 2007

A bit of a quiet week for enhancements and news, I’m afraid.

However, I am taking steps to improve how regularly new games are added into the database. This has been one of the biggest problems with the whole Swopster experience so far for both myself and members.

Currently, it’s a manual, time-consuming, brain-destroying task that I’m not that keen on doing.

Through a combination of games constantly being released, and my inherently lazy nature, the lists for all the consoles simply get more and more out of date until folks start screaming at me on the forums or e-mailing me.

I’ve devised quite a neat semi-automated solution that will trawl around the net and update the games lists. It’s only about 40% built so far, but the initial tests are looking very encouraging.

So, soon, you’ll finally be able to select from fully up-to-the-minute games lists.

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Game Swapping Overview

September 25, 2007

Rather than going straight to your Swopster swapping page when you log-in, I’m toying with the idea of sending you to an overview page first.

The reason is, the swapping page is becoming just a little bit too crowded – there are now swapping reminders and notifications of messages, as well as listings showing the details on all your swap matches.

Having an overview page gives me a little more scope to publish useful tips and messages too – as well as summarising all the (sometimes lengthy) swapping details.

It’s a Karma Thing

September 24, 2007

As a bit of an experiment, I’ve been playing with the referrals promotion over the last few weeks.

A long time ago, I built a referral mechanism into Swopster to reward those members who took the time and effort to encourage other people to join up. When someone signs up, if they use the referring member’s username or have been directed to the site via a personal referral link, the referring member gets a nice little rating boost.

Members personal referral links used to be displayed all the time in the previous incarnation of Swopster and proved to be a popular scheme. Since the site redesign a few months ago, however, the referral link was removed. Despite this, the benefit to your rating is mentioned around the site quite a few times.

However, after checking through how many referrals came through over the past month or so, I found there weren’t many at all.

Members may simply have been unaware of how beneficial referrals can be to their ranking, so now your personal referral code is displayed prominently after you log-in:

This seems to be working well as the referral numbers are picking up once again.

XBox 360 – Early Interest in Halo 3

September 23, 2007

Although Halo 3 will obviously go shooting up the offical XBox 360 game charts, it’s still floating around #3 in the Swopster wanted chart – I guess quite a few members won’t bother adding it to their WishLists since there’ll be little hope of getting it in a swap for a while yet.

Interesting to see Rainbow Six Vegas still right up there just behind BioShock though:

  #1   Bioshock (13)
  #2   Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas (11)
  #3   Halo 3 (10)
  #4   Crackdown (10)
  #5   The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (9)
  #6   Gears of War (9)
  #7   Forza Motorsport 2 (9)
  #8   Colin McRae: DIRT (8)
  #9   Guitar Hero 2 with X-Plorer Guitar Controller (8)
  #10   Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (8)
  #11   Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (8)
  #12   Assassin’s Creed (6)
  #13   Dead Rising (6)
  #14   The Darkness (6)
  #15   Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (5)
  #16   Grand Theft Auto IV (5)
  #17   Mass Effect (5)
  #18   Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (4)
  #19   Burnout: Revenge (4)
  #20   Call Of Juarez (4)

(note: This is Swopster’s US chart)

Do Canadians, Australians (oh, and New Zealanders) Buy Video-Games?

September 22, 2007

As I compulsively check the site stats, it’s quite noticeable that the USA and UK members make up most of the membership:

Since I intended Swopster for the English-speaking world at large, its been capable of supporting Canada, Australia and New Zealand from day one. I’ve even had inquiries about producing a German version.

But I have to say, the take-up in these three countries has been a little disappointing.

Now, I can understand New Zealand not being able to compete with the USA and UK in terms of numbers of video-gamers, but Canada? Australia? These are huge countries with pretty large populations.

A quick check over at Wikipedia shows the following populations:

USA    300,000,000
UK    60,000,000
Canada    33,000,000
Australia    21,000,000
New Zealand    4,000,000

So how come there are so few Canadians and Australians swapping video-games?

Being Different – Defining a Unique Selling Point (USP)

September 21, 2007

In a discussion with a forum owner this week he warned me that I’m in a very crowded market with this game swapping stuff.

Perhaps he’s right. But that has never really bothered me.

Generally, unless you’re some sort of genius pioneer, all markets are crowded. Indeed the absence of any competition could be very worrying. There may be no market at all! Assuming there was, though, you’d then have to be a trail-blazer and convince people of the benefits of your new and wonderful service.

It did get me thinking about my USP – Unique Selling Point. Any marketer will gabble on for hours, days, weeks about this. You need a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I’m keen not to make ‘free’ my USP. I’d like the service to be of enough value to members that money isn’t that much of a factor.

So what is Swopster’s USP?

I think it’s direct swapping.

Direct Swapping

Although there are quite a few swapping sites out there, the vast majority of them seem to have settled on an internal currency within their systems. So, each game will get valued based on popularity, etc.

This means members can build up credit by putting games into the system, and then use thet credit to get games out of the system.

Swopster bucks the trend here slightly because you simply swap a game you no longer want for a game you do want. This has three key benefits:

•   You get swapping as soon as possible (no need to build up credits)
•   The system doesn’t get swamped with cruddy games
•   Every game is equal. There is no currency, no credit and no complicated algorithms

The downside to this approach though was there needed to be a way to match gamers together. Thankfully that was all figured out very early on and the resulting matching process has proved to work pretty well.

Recently, the site was improved to allow greater flexibility and let gamers negotiate their own swaps. This has proved to be really popular too.

Time will tell whether direct swapping is the right direction to go in, of course, but the early indications certainly look encouraging.

Too Good To Be True?

September 20, 2007

One of my main motivators behind the Swopster idea was simply to save gamers some money. Having started the ball rolling on it, its now terrific to see how its growing. The more people who join, the more games get added to lists, and the more choice there is for everyone.

Its a nice feeling to just do something good and write a piece of software that benefits so many people.

Its perhaps a rare thing, but everyone really does win with this.

That said, I am finding it relatively difficult to publicise. The problem is, if I talk about it or drop a link on forum, more often than not my link will get flagged as spam.

Some forum members are so accustomed at seeing spam links for dubious sites they react to just about any link or service in the same way. I guess its to be expected, but it can be a little frustrating at times!

What’s been really encouraging though is the number of folks who’ve written to express their appreciation for the site. In fact I’ve been thinking about adding a testimonials page and am busy going back through some of the nice things people have said.

In the end, though, I’m guess I’m just really glad the site is proving to be useful – which makes it all worthwhile for me.

Interesting Shoemoney Interview

September 19, 2007

Apologies if I start rambling incoherently.

I woke at 2:30am this morning to the delightful sound of the cat retching (which he always does just a few seconds before he pukes). The realization that he was actually about to throw up on the bed prompted an unexpected airborne mission for little Mr furry features as he was propelled retching through the night air.

Despite that (or perhaps because of it), some weird synapse connections have taken place today. All manner of new ideas for Swopster popped into my head…

Although the cat would probably love to take credit for any inspired thinking, it was probably more to do with listening to this Shoemoney interview – quite an interesting discussion. As ever, Shoe raises some excellent points and even makes newbie marketers like myself understand what he’s on about.

Even though I won’t be plastering adverts all over Swopster, this sort of stuff really does get you thinking.

Comic Heaven – Without Robbing a Bank

September 18, 2007

I loved reading comics as a kid – I simply couldn’t get enough of them. Spidey was my favourite and I always hoped to (one day) have enough cash to simply buy all the comics I’d missed out on. Of course, many comics are now collectors editions and it would cost a huge amount of money to buy all your favourite ones.

Enter the digital age!!

Marvel has released over 40 years of Amazing Spider-Man comics on DVD spanning March 1963 through to June 2006:

spidey-dvd.png

That’s almost 600 comics!

They’re in PDF format, which took me a little while to get used to, but (as long as you have a reasonable-sized screen) you should be just fine.

One slightly annoying aspect is the way Marvel managed to interweave crossover stories between comic book titles, so some stories start out in an Amazing Spider-Man book, then jump across to another (now unavailable) comic title. Its a minor whinge however – having 40+ years of Spidey stories is simply unbelievable.

Incidentally, in my rush to get my hands on the Spidey collection, I bought the earlier version which consisted of 11 CDs:

spidey-cd.png

Marvel have released other similar collections such as the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Hulk, X-Men, and Captain America.

If you’re a comic book fan, they’re well worth the money. You’ll just need to put the rest of your life on hold while you read them all!

Filtering Game Browse Lists

September 17, 2007

Another little tweak that should speed things up a bit…

The latest change lets you filter down the list of games you’re browsing to just those that are wanted or available. As you may recall, the lists were tweaked last week to show how many swappers owned or wanted each game:

list.png

Seeing what’s up for swapping or which games are wanted has proved to be pretty popular.

Now a couple of little hyperlinks have been added to filter down the games list to only show only those games that are wanted or available:

filter.png

Note: All this is only available if you log in – there your browse list takes account of the country you’re swapping in. The public list that visitors can see simply shows bare lists of games.