Our next project and the future for Virtual Manager

Bubbles, FC Sunnyvale Developer 27 June 2017, 15:04

Today I'd like to tell you about the next project we're starting. Back in January, I wrote that the next thing we were planning to implement after the Rebalance, was the possibility of having multiple clubs per account.

After a lot of discussion, we've decided to implement something a bit different: B Teams.

With the B Team feature you will get an extra squad that plays its own matches in the leagues. You'll be able to move players between the two squads, with certain limitations.

The rationale for making B teams instead of multiple clubs per account is as follows:

  • Multiple clubs per account will not add anything new to the game - just more of the same.
  • B teams give us a whole new gameplay element, and new ways to play is just what Virtual Manager needs.

So far, we have thought that B teams will work as follows:

  • The B team must play in the same country as the A team
  • The B team must always play in a lower division than the A team
  • The B team must have its own stadium but will train on the same facilities as the A team.
  • Players from the B team can be moved to the A team immediately
  • Moving players down from A to B can only be done in during with the season update, and the player might get angry over being moved.
  • Players from the B team should possible be able to play single matches for the A team as reserves without being permanently moved.
  • The B team will have its own VIFA points, VIFA rank and own supporter numbers.
  • We still need to discuss whether sponsorships should be possible for the B team.

Many will probably choose to use the B team as a youth team focusing on talent development, but there will be no age limit. You could just as well use it as an Old Boys team.

The number of players must be adjusted and balanced

As I've mentioned before, the Rebalance has really increased trade volumes, and we would like to keep it that way. Preferably, clubs should not be able to be completely self-sufficient in supplying their A teams with players without having to shop around.

When we suddenly get a whole extra squad, we have to look at the number of players you can have in the club. The current limit of 30 players is really just a patch solution to allow managers to make their own sort of B team. But when we implement an actual B team feature, this number must be reviewed.

There are several ways we could handle it:

  • The A and B teams could have separate number of player slot: e.g. 15 to the A team and 15 to the B team.
  • The A and B teams could have a common total number of seats: e.g. 30 in total.
  • We may need to increase the necessity of having more players on the bench by increasing the risk of injury and increasing the energy loss during matches.

None of this has been decided yet, and that is something I still need to discuss with our crew. Of course, I will return with more details as we move further into the development.

Price increase

The other day we increased the prices on VM Premium. Actually, though, the increase is just a return to the old prices we had a few years ago before we decreased them.

  • The price reduction back then was - in hindsight - a definite mistake.
  • The revenue from the advertisements we show on the site has suddenly fallen drastically. Advertising revenue simply cannot be relied on.
  • We have had a slow decline in the number of users over a number of years.

Today I am the only full time employee at Virtual Manager. We have a freelance programmer attached, who was also a full time employee a couple of years ago, but unfortunately it was decided to terminate him, and then use him on a freelance basis, at less than half the hours. Since then, the number of hours we contract from him has been further reduced.

Our marketing has also been brought up on the forums a few times, with people saying we just need to throw more money after ads to get more users. But, the realities are such that we simply cannot afford to advertise very much because a new average user doesn't pay us very much at all.

Online marketing works in such a way that you are in a bidding war against all other companies who are trying to reach the same group of people. You decide yourself how much you want to pay to have your ads displayed, and if multiple companies try to reach the same people, it is the highest bidder who gets their ads displayed.

The low price of VM Premium has placed a huge limitation on how much we can afford to bid - especially since we are up against the types of gaming companies who fleece their users for huge sums on micro transactions and such. That means that our marketing budget balances on a knife egg, because we can not bid very much without running a deficit.

We continually perform something called cohort analysis, where we calculate total accumulated revenue from from different groups or users.

For example, if we look at all Danes who started Virtual Manager in December 2016, they have on average used the equivalent of 1.37 British pounds incl. VAT each, in the 6 months since. And that's NOT per month, it's a total over 6 months. When Danish VAT of 25% is deducted, it corresponds to an average of GBP 0.18 per month left over for us.

For UK users the numbers look even worse. UK users who joined in December 2016 have thus far only spent a total of GBP 0.25 each in 6 months - or GBP 0.033 per month after VAT.

This is also why our bid on advertisements towards UK users has been extremely low for several years.

Such low revenue per user just doesn't stretch very far when we are in a bidding war against the game giants. We can not afford to bid as much as they can and therefore their ads will be shown instead of ours, putting us into a downward spiral.

So, we had the choice of either cutting development and marketing even more or raising prices.

We chose to raise prices, as it is clear that more cuts are not the way forward.

We raised prices of the 30 and 360 day subscriptions, removed the old 70 and 180 day subscriptions and added a new 90 day subscription.

For you UK folks out there, the price increase was a bit heavier than for users of other currencies. The reason for that is of course the significant devaluation of the British pound after the decision to exit the EU. When the exchange rate fell, we never actually raised our GBP prices, but just absorbed the loss ourselves. But along with the general price increases, we also had to bring the prices in British pounds in line with the prices of other currencies.

And what will the money be spent on?

First, we need to wait and see how many people cancel their subscriptions because of the increases. So far, luckily, it does not seem that there has been a massive amount of cancellations. I'm really happy about that, since it means at least that we do not have to reduce development spending any further.

When we finally know how much we will be left with, we can begin to look at what the money will be spent on. Earlier this year, our parent company, Freeway, instated a new CEO who agrees that a higher pace of development is the way forward - but we must of course be able pay the wages. If we don't get too many cancellations, we plan to increase the number hours we contract from our freelance developer and increase our advertising budget. It will also be possible to get designs and graphics made for new features.

So for the next month, I'll be holding my breath and hoping that this bet will pay off. Thank you so much to all of you who continue to support the game's development!

Dennis aka. FC Sunnyvale