Archive for July, 2007

Feature Focus: Game Condition

July 29, 2007

[Over the last few months there have been quite a few changes to the site. For those of you who joined before the site update, there are a host of new features to get to grips with]

Following on from some great feedback, I’ve enhanced the games swapping service to allow you to grade the condition of your SwapList games as well as being able to say whether or not the games come with box and instructions.

When you initially add a game to your SwapList, it’ll default to a condition of Used (well used/minor scratches). Of course, grading your games is subjective, so you should always err on the side of caution when grading your SwapList – if your game is involved in a swap, the other member is entitled to give you negative feedback if they feel your grading is deliberately false.

  Mint++++   As good as new – no signs of use
  Good+++   Only very minor signs of use
  Fair++   Obviously used
  Used+   Well used/minor scratches
  Poor   Used and abused/major scratches

As well as the condition of the game, you can also indicate whether the original box and instructions are also present. By default, they will both be assumed to be included in the swap.

  Box + instructions
  Box – instructions
  Instructions – box
  No box or instructions

To access this extra information, just log in to your Swopster account and go to your Profile page:

swaplist.gif
This extra information will give everyone a much clearer idea of exactly what it is they’re swapping.

[Some of the recent improvements were simply down to Swopster members giving me feedback and suggestions. So, if you have any comments on how I could further improve the site, just drop me an e-mail or post it in the forums. I’d love to hear from you]

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Swapping Games: How To Improve Your Chances

July 29, 2007

An interesting question came up in the forum recently with a member wondering why no-one was swapping games with him. Although I’d previously tried to address this in one of the FAQ articles, it’s worth further discussion.

There’s actually a careful balancing act going on between members who make swap requests and the members who receive them. Swopster has been specifically designed from the outset not to hassle or nag members, so just a simple e-mail is sent out when you request to swap a game with someone. If they don’t accept the swap within a certain period of time, the swap request is automatically retracted.

However, as the member who issued the request, this can become a little frustrating if no-one responds to any of your swap requests for games.

Why is no-one replying?

Well, there are a big number of factors here, some within your control, some outside. We’ll focus here on the factors immediately within your control.

1. The Condition Of Your Games
The first thing to check is the condition of all the SwapList games listed in your profile. By default, games are added as ‘Used’. Your game might actually be in perfect condition – it’s worth making sure you have recorded the correct condition against your game as just something small like that can be enough to tip the balance as to whether or not someone decides to swap with you. Be careful not to bend the truth though as you can receive negative feedback if you’ve deliberately graded your games too optimistically!

2. Your Membership Rating
rating.gif The second thing to check is your membership rating. This is always shown at the top of the screen after you log in. This rating is mainly biased towards the swaps you’ve done. However, even if you haven’t completed any swaps, you can still improve your rating. Referring friends to the site, building a community, logging in regularly – all these types of activities help build up your rating.

3. Your Site Usage
The third thing to check is your usage history. By logging on and viewing your Account page, you’ll see a small graph showing how often you’ve visited the site over the last 5 weeks:

usage.gif

When making a decision on whether or not to swap with you, another member may use this as an indicator of whether you’re an active member or not.

However…

After studying the usage patterns and the feedback received so far, it’s clear that you folks would definitely like more interaction with your fellow members. For instance, being able to ask questions about a swap before committing to it, gently asking why someone is not responding to a swap request, suggesting other game swaps, etc.

In order to achieve all this, a new Private Messaging scheme will be rolled out shortly (with full controls to protect you all from spam, etc.).

As ever, your thoughts and suggestions on the subject would be most welcome.

Beware: The Developer Trap

July 27, 2007

I waste inordinate hours of my time reading through the lively discussions over on the Joel On Software forums. A lot of developers hang out there. It’s interesting to see quite regular postings cropping up about ideas to develop all manner of technical or developer-centric ideas.

And that’s precisely why many of the folks on there will struggle.

You can easily be blinded by your own problems and annoyances. As a developer, this is an all too common trap. Not happy with that limited functionality in your RSS reader? You’re a developer, just write your own! Annoyed with graphs in your web traffic analysis software? Hey, just write your own.

And that’s precisely what you do.

Having the capabilities, you can simply rush off and develop technical solutions to your own technical problems. Along the way, you’ll worry about whether you’re using the right programming language, whether your end-user will have .NET installed, and whether your UI looks Web 2.0 enough.

In the vast majority of cases this approach is, I’m afraid, simply broken right from the start.

By targeting the developer/technical sector, you’ve effectively just reduced your potential market to about 1% (I’m being generous) of the size it could have been. Well done. And of that 1%, many of those folks are also developers and will think they could develop a better solution themselves!

If you do somehow manage to pull off an amazing job of marketing your uber-widget, you might actually manage to interest some non-techy buyers. In fact, you should stop those high-fives because now you’re really, really screwed! Before, you could rely on techy-types knowing what they were doing. Now you’re dealing with *gasp* normal people.

Normal people simply haven’t got a clue about FTP, cookies, caching, DOS prompts, or security. They will break your software, they will tell you nothing (of any real use), they will send you on wild goose chases, and they will most certainly expect it to be fixed. Pronto!

So, before you start dusting off your favourite development IDE and writing your own flavour of RSS aggregator, just remember to watch out for that big nasty developer trap!

Can Video-Game Swapping Really Work?

July 25, 2007

Despite the misgivings of bloggers like Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, online swapping/trading services simply refuse to roll over and die. Mike argues that the barter system does not work.

Personally, I find this kind of interesting since I’ve been happily watching lots of new members sign up to Swopster every day. Successful game swaps are taking place all the time. In fact, all around, new swapping services seem to be springing up. Most recently, SwapTree went live and looks to be doing well.

So, can these swapping systems really work? What’s wrong with cash-based services for buying, selling and trading-in games?

Well, obviously, buying games at their retail price is just plain crazy when there are numerous online shops like Amazon offering substantial discounts on just about everything. But even Amazon prices look high if you’re willing to buy a pre-owned game from your local video-games shop or eBay. There, you’re likely to chop a half or even two-thirds off the original retail price. This is digital entertainment – it doesn’t need to be in pristine condition. It just needs to play.

All well and good. But that’s still a significant amount of money for something that doesn’t have a terribly long shelf-life. If I buy a music CD/MP3, I’ll keep it for decades and listen to it fairly regularly – a long, slow burn. Video-games, on the other hand, burn very brightly and fade quickly. I’ll play a game for weeks on end and then lose interest. They just gather dust on the shelf.

That’s where swapping services like Swopster can come in. You’ve bought the game, played the game…and got bored with the game. Instead of trading it in for peanuts (seriously, you will be amazed at how little you get back by trading games in at a video store), you can simply swap it for next to no cost.

If you want to play lots of different games, or you’re disappointed in a game you’ve bought, swapping is an idea way to get the maximum benefit from your games collection.

But, while there are lots of swapping services out there, Swopster is carving a nice little niche for itself in providing:

A Free Service
Some swapping services charge you each time you swap. Some charge subscriptions. But our aim is for you to try as many games as possible for the lowest possible cost. So our service is free.

Direct Swapping (no building up points)
A major problem with points-based swapping services is when members flood the system with their unwanted low-value games to accumulate points, hoping to use them to trade for a high-value game. If the majority of members do this, very few popular games end up making it into the system.

Swopster provides a more immediate way to swap, in which all games are equal. Of course, you’ll need to find someone who can fulfil your swap, but our matching process does this for you instantly.

Games Only
Video games are high-priced items that generally wouldn’t be swapped for other entertainment media like audio CDs, movie DVDs or books. So, rather than complicating everything, we’ve taken the simple approach – swap a game for another game.

By only swapping video-games, we’ve found we can concentrate fully on your likes and dislikes. Tell us the consoles you have and the types of games you like, and we can save you a lot of time by filtering out all the stuff you don’t want to look at.

Safe, Community-Based Swapping
Swapping with strangers can never be 100% safe – just look at some of the tales of woe on eBay. That’s why you can create your very own private swapping communities on Swopster. Invite your friends, colleagues, or forum buddies into your community and swap with complete confidence.


So, can swapping really work? I guess only time will tell, but Swopster is signing up new members every day. And with each new member the circle of swappers, and the choice in the game swapping pool, gets a little bigger.