Virtual Manager in 2020 and 2021
With Christmas and New Years behind us, I think it's time to look back on the past year and what we have planned for 2021.
The year that went
2020 was the year when I unveiled the news that after lots of work I had succeeded in acquiring Playonic.
Virtual Manager was in a bit of a state, because savings over the years had led to a huge "technical debt". And, because we had been under a large company, we also had large expenses for things that did not contribute to the development.
Therefore, the first 6-7 months after the acquisition were spent moving the site to new servers, upgrading tons of old software, cleaning up our old code, overhauling the budget. I implemented savings on the fixed expenses such as rent, server operation, administration, etc., so that we wouldn't have to save on development.
In the spring of 2020, the beta test of youth squads started, and in the following months, the feature was refined and additional functionality was continuously added, such as:
- Youth squads got their own cups
- Mood page with comprehensive data and estimation of future mood changes
- The assistant manager was refreshed with lots of info about mood and playing time
- The navigation was overhauled
- Youth squads got separate training programs
- Youth squads got their own league system
In August, the beta test ended and everyone got access to youth squads.
Rest of 2020
After the end of the beta test, we spent a lot of time refining it and optimizing lots of behind-the-scenes technical stuff. In September we finally had the time to take a short summer vacation.
After that, most of the autumn was spent managing even more technical challenges in the engine room, and dealing with a number of administrative tasks. These are the kind of things always pop up and that can't be avoided. When the blog is quiet, you can assume that these are the type of things we are busy with.
We also have a number of these kinds of tasks to do here in January.
Before December, however, we did manage to set aside some time to make the advent calendar, and thus return to the old tradition of having new Christmas activities (almost) every year. I hope we can continue to do so in the future.
Our plans for 2021
In February 2020 I wrote about the plans to introduce an ad-free subscription.
The reason was that the introduction of the GDPR in 2018 had led to a sudden and sharp decline in the advertising revenues on which Virtual Manager's budget is unfortunately dependent on.
Shortly after that post, the problem only got worse. When corona shutdowns started around the world, the advertisement market dropped even further because many companies panicked and stopped advertising.
It's a real shame that we have to dependen on a source of income that is so unstable, so it has long been a wish of mine that we could introduce an ad-free subscription. I would much rather make money implementing cool things in the game that you think are worth the money, instead of making it by annoying you with ads. So, I really hope that the ad-free subscription will be a success.
Originally, youth squads were only meant to be available to those with VM PRO, but before we implemented it, I opened it for discussion in the forum.
We had a really good discussion where many different views came to light. Some thought it'd be for youth squads to become part of VM PRO, while others would rather it only require regular premium. In the end I decided that youth squads would be available to anyone with a regular premium.
However, this meant that we were suddenly missing something for the VM PRO package, because one of the conclusions from the forum discussion was that a good number of people wouldn't buy the ad-free subscription unless it something extra.
That's why we're currently working on implementing VM PRO with a handful of extra features. Among other things you will be able to rename your youth squad and automatic contract extensions will not cost VM tickets. The rest of the features will be a surprise. They are cosmetic but still very cool.
More software upgrades
I don't want to end up in the situation we were in after I acquired the company, where we were years behind on software updates, and had to take on the huge and risky task to update all of the software.
So, we will set aside 3-4 weeks at the beginning of the year to upgrade the framework that the game is implemented upon to the latest version.
Several of the new features in the framework will also do the next task a little easier.
Mobile friendly website
Almost 70% of our page views now come from mobile, so it is high time that Virtual Manager is made mobile friendly.
The front page is the only mobile-friendly page we have. We can see from our statistics that we waste a lot of advertising money attracting new users, who only after creating an account, discover that the rest of the game is not made for mobile - and then never come back.
There are lots of people who play Virtual Manager for years, once they get started, and who tolerate that it does not work so well on mobile. However, if the first impression is bad, then new users never have a chance to discover the qualities of the game.
It's only natural that people take a break after playing for a long time, but if we can't attract new users, then the game will just slowly fade away. It is therefore critically important that we get this work started.
There is also no feature that will benefit as many users as a mobile-friendly design. It'll be really nice to implement something that will benefit everyone - whether they play in the 1st division or 7th, whether they have played for 5 years or 5 days, whether they are a trading club or talent developer, and whether they log in several times a day or once a week.
This will be the most important task for us in 2021. It will take a long time to redesign every single page in the game for mobile, but we will try to find a way to roll it out to the most visited pages first, and then update the rest bit by bit.
The work to redesign each and every page for mobile is likely to last throughout 2021, and possibly longer.
But, it'll probably be a bit boring if that's the only thing coming this year. Therefore, we'll also try to set aside time to wok some minor improvements into the schedule.
For example, there will be minor "quality of life" improvements here and there. Additionally, there are lots of things I hope we get the time to look at, such as an overhaul of the sponsorship system, better playback controls in the match viewer, and improvements to tactics and match simulation.
So we'll definitely not be lacking for work in 2021.