Archive for the ‘Swopster’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

XBox 360 Games – Available for Swapping (UK)

September 14, 2007

Its quite interesting to see what games are available for swapping within Swopster. The Xbox 360 is the most popular console with the members at the moment – here’s a quick list of the XBox 360 games members are offering for swapping (these are for the UK):

Xbox360 – Amped 3 (1)
Xbox360 – Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (4)
Xbox360 – Battlestation: Midway (1)
Xbox360 – Bioshock (1)
Xbox360 – Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII (1)
Xbox360 – Brian Lara Cricket 2007 (1)
Xbox360 – Burnout: Revenge (1)
Xbox360 – Call of Duty 2 (5)
Xbox360 – Call of Duty 3 (5)
Xbox360 – Call Of Juarez (1)
Xbox360 – Colin McRae: DIRT (1)
Xbox360 – Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (2)
Xbox360 – Condemned: Criminal Origins (6)
Xbox360 – Crackdown (14)
Xbox360 – Dead or Alive 4 (4)
Xbox360 – Dead Rising (5)
Xbox360 – Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires (1)
Xbox360 – Enchanted Arms (2)
Xbox360 – F.E.A.R (3)
Xbox360 – Far Cry: Instincts – Predator (4)
Xbox360 – FIFA 07 (2)
Xbox360 – FIFA Soccer 06 (1)
Xbox360 – FIFA World Cup: Germany 2006 (4)
Xbox360 – Fight Night Round 3 (6)
Xbox360 – Football Manager 2007 (1)
Xbox360 – Forza Motorsport 2 (4)
Xbox360 – Full Auto (2)
Xbox360 – Gears of War (16)
Xbox360 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (1)
Xbox360 – Hitman: Blood Money (9)
Xbox360 – Import Tuner Challenge (1)
Xbox360 – Just Cause (2)
Xbox360 – Kameo: Elements of Power (5)
Xbox360 – Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend (2)
Xbox360 – LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (2)
Xbox360 – LMA Manager 2007 (1)
Xbox360 – Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II (3)
Xbox360 – Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (2)
Xbox360 – Madden NFL 07 (1)
Xbox360 – Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2)
Xbox360 – Medal of Honor: Airborne (1)
Xbox360 – MotoGP ’06 (1)
Xbox360 – N3: Ninety-Nine Nights (1)
Xbox360 – Need for Speed: Carbon (3)
Xbox360 – NHL 2K6 (1)
Xbox360 – Over G Fighters (2)
Xbox360 – Perfect Dark Zero (8)
Xbox360 – Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game (1)
Xbox360 – Prey (3)
Xbox360 – Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (14)
Xbox360 – Project Gotham Racing 3 (18)
Xbox360 – Saints Row (7)
Xbox360 – Shadowrun (1)
Xbox360 – Sonic the Hedgehog (2)
Xbox360 – Spider-Man The Movie 3 (1)
Xbox360 – Table Tennis (10)
Xbox360 – Test Drive Unlimited (6)
Xbox360 – The Darkness (2)
Xbox360 – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (9)
Xbox360 – The Godfather: The Game (2)
Xbox360 – The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth (2)
Xbox360 – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007 (1)
Xbox360 – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (3)
Xbox360 – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (14)
Xbox360 – Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas (6)
Xbox360 – Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent (9)
Xbox360 – Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (2)
Xbox360 – Top Spin 2 (3)
Xbox360 – Transformers: The Game (1)
Xbox360 – Two Worlds (1)
Xbox360 – Viva Pinata (5)
Xbox360 – WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007 (6)
Xbox360 – Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1 (2)

This is the kind of information I’m hoping to plug into the site pretty soon, allowing you to see at a glance what great games are available.

More Ideas to Improve Free Game-Swapping

September 13, 2007

With the inclusion of the whizzy new feature to let you see how many swappers are offering a specific game in a swap and how many want a specific game title, I’ve been thinking about extending this whole thing a little bit further.

Basically, I could either provide a new filter when you browse through the game lists and get it to only display the Available or Wanted games (rather than having to page through lots of pages), or have a brand new ‘Available’ page to show which games are currently on offer.

Or do both, I guess.

Naturally, it all gets horribly complicated by what country you’re in and whether you’re logged in or not (you can only swap within your country of residence).

So…I’m not sure which of these would be best, tbh. And that normally means I’ll implement both of them…damn…there goes the rest of my spare time.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Don’t Stand Still

September 10, 2007

No matter how good an idea you have, it can always be improved upon.

I was mulling over this thought the other day. With Swopster, the raw basics of a decent swapping network is there: it works, lots of people sign up and folks are swapping games for free.

Job done? Time to put my feet up? Errr…nope…because there are still so many ways to improve it.

For instance, the site usage suggested there were a nucleus of swappers out there who were very keen to hunt out and initiate swaps. The previous – quite rigid – swapping framework simply didn’t allow them do this.

It’d become pretty apparent that my initial design was…a little too strict and rigid. With the best of intentions, I’d originally tried to make swapping games for free as simple as possible: you list your games, the games you’d like – abracadebra – you get a list of all the possible game swaps you can make. Instant and simple.

This concept works really well for those people fully tooled up with armfuls of popular games…but not for quite a lot of others – especially if there are no exact swap matches for their games. You had to wait until there was an exact match between yourself and another swapper before you could swap a game.

So, as I mentioned in Joining The Dots… the service has now been upgraded with 2 exciting new features:

• Available/
  Wanted
Next to game listings, you’re able to see how many folks are offering that game in a swap and/or how many want that game. From there, you’re also able to see who they are and…critically…what games they have on their lists.
• Messaging You’re now able to send and receive messages between each other.

There are a couple of important reasons for bringing in these new features now.

I realised it’d be much better to allow you to see who had the specific game you were interested in or who wanted to swap it. This would really help to open up the Swopster game swapping network.

There was still a problem, however. The way everything worked, even though you could see other members games lists, you still couldn’t actually communicate with them (unless you rigged up a game swap to match with them and then sent them swapping messages after agreeing your game swap – this was unbelievably clunky).

That’s when I realised it would be much better to simply allow everyone to communicate directly with each other. This should make the swapping system much, much more flexible. You can negotiate swaps before committing to them, rather than waiting for the swap-matching system to pair them together. Of course, there are numerous anti-spam safeguards built in to prevent any sort of abuse of the messaging functions.

The critical thing here is, when they’re used together, these 2 facilities really do open up the whole Swopster game swapping service. They give you a whole lot more freedom than you ever had before. You can now actively find and chat with other members, negotiate swaps, ask questions about their games and a whole lot more!

The intention is to stimulate swapping, to get more folks seeking out and negotiating swaps, to connect people together.

The service is expanding and being enhanced all the time – if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvements, please leave a comment or drop a message in the Swopster forums.