I've interviewed many people on this topic and a lot of them agree that the game took a significant drop in player activity after it was released on steam, and that is a big issue for a game that relies on multiplayer for replayability. Normally sustaining a player base within a highly multiplayer-centered game would be a very difficult challenge for indie developers, but SFD has the advantage of coming from a popular and successful flash game. That is why SFD was actually fairly active in the beta and alpha stages of the game. It only dropped once that audience was cut off. It would be a waste to neglect the people coming from Superfighters with a paywall. It's a shame to lose all of that potential.
There was this one person I talked to who pirated the game. Normally I would have kicked him for being a pirate, but I was curious enough to ask him why he chose to commit a crime. He tells me his story from his home country in the middle-east/North Africa. I honestly don't remember exactly where, it was a while ago when I spoke to him, However, what he told me opened my eyes to issues I wasn't completely aware of. Where he is from, the government is very corrupt. They make it incredibly difficult to receive a credit card. As a result, online shopping is almost never an option for citizens living there. Superfighters was one of the main games he played before it had a price since the majority of the market of games either required payment or wasn't fun to play. As you can imagine, flash games were one of the only sources of gaming for him, which is how he found SFD. After the game was released his only option was to become a pirate. I honestly couldn't blame him for making that decision. Since then I stopped kicking and banning pirates out of sympathy, and I honestly don't believe that SFD should have a price tag.
An argument could be made that making any change is unnecessary as putting a price on a game is completely normal practice, but let me remind you that SFD's community does not come from a normal background. There are very few video games that started out as flash games. This game is a complete rarity and should be treated somewhat differently when addressing how to market it to its community.
It's not that I don't want the developers to be paid for their effort, but it's unfortunate to the community what the release did to it. I suggest designing a premium membership system. The players who do not pay for membership are excluded from features that are desirable enough to pay money for, but not limiting so that the game is not worth playing to f2p members. people who have already paid for the game do not have to purchase membership, but people who download the game after the release of this system will not have premium membership. Another feature to consider is the addition of in-app purchases for cosmetics or maybe even DLC. Selling cosmetics is a simple and efficient way to have people who are willing to pay for SFD pay extra to show their support. If all that isn't enough, then accepting donations would be another viable option. This community has its fair share of extremely passionate members who would throw their money at this game if it means having the community survive.
The premium account system would appease the people who already bought the game by not making their money go to waste. There are other approaches. I don't want to pretend that I have the right answer, but I do see a problem with the current situation and I hope you do too.
Some ideas for what non-premium access could look like:
- only one customization profile
- Limited cosmetics
- No ability to host games
- no ability to vote for maps
- can't play the official campaign
- Workshop contribution limit
- colored names (maybe? could be in chat and scoreboard only.)
- exclusive cosmetics