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Patreon? - Need input

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Hello Everyone!


First and foremost, I do not want the site locked behind a paywall... Content should remain free for anyone accessing the site.

I've been asked many times from members to implement Patreon into VPUniverse to help keep the site and servers running.  Looking at the current charges for the Amazon S3 file hosting, just transfers alone as of April 13, are at almost $200 and we are not even half way through the billing period.  Estimated a little over $425-450 for the month in transfers only.  This doesn't include anything else.  The donations received so far will help with the first couple months; but its an ongoing fight.  These charges are monthly... It always seems that when things are a bit bumpy in the hobby; donations seem to come in on a regular basis.  When everything is running smoothly; donations come to a stall.  It's obvious that the site needs serious hosting which I think I have in place now, but it's not really cheap and I don't know if the donation model is going to hold up. 

Right now the site only has Members, Supporting MembersContent Creators and VIP member groups setup.

Currently the only restrictions that are in place are for the regular Member group.  The "Members" group is currently limited to 35 downloads per day, download speed regulated at 1000kb/s, 2 simultaneous downloads, and a wait time of 30 seconds between downloads (this may be increased to 45-60 sec).  These were put into place to help protect the site from scrapers.  There is many more things that I can add/remove as far as perks are concerned.

The other user groups are pretty much unlimited...  


I have personally never used Patreon.com, so I've been researching it what it is and what it does.  Thinking of how we can use it on VPUniverse. It looks like its a tiered membership system that allows people to pay/donate on a monthly basis.  In return the site offers different perks to those that are a Patreon.  

Patreon charges fees for each transaction. 
$3 or less = 5% + $0.10 goes to Patreon.com the rest goes to the site

over $3 = 2.9% + $0.30 goes to Patreon.com the rest goes to the site

The site already has features built into it that would allow a membership system to be setup, charged monthly, yearly, etc.  So I could actually bypass using Patreon and their fees.

Secondly, I'm seriously having problems with this...
I don't know what a fair monthly cost would be for various perks on VPUniverse. 
What tiers should be setup? 
What perks would be on each tier? 


There are tons of different settings built into the site.  If I fine-tune all of the usergroups with different permissions and access to different parts of the system.  I don't really want to put limitations on things just to get Patreons.

I'd love to see if I can work with various teams/creators to have some exclusive perks.
Work with Table Authors/Creation Teams to offer Beta testing to private groups for a limited time period.
Table authors willing to release to private groups first before full release to public.

I need input... 

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I signed up for patreon quite some time ago but I never use it.


I have no problem giving money to a site that supports the community such as this one. Many of us pay monthly fees to various services for content we enjoy.


I like the idea of having different tiers with different permissions.  Maybe give the authors the ability to allow which groups can access their content if possible. Giving back to the authors a certain percentage if they wish.


I also see no problem with putting more limits on members that don't want to pay to support the site. 35 downloads a day is pretty generous. 


I'm sure many will have differnt views and be opposed as this is a free community but they need to understand what its takes to keep it free. Sites like this that provide content are not free to maintain.


As far as cost I have no idea. I'm not well off but I can afford a few bucks every month to give back to something I enjoy.


The only problem I see as far as getting people interested is that the content needs to be there for them to want to pay.


Just my thoughts.

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Since you asked, here are my thoughts:


I'm glad to see you're committed to always providing access to the site for free. I think it's always good to remember that this is a hobby many people find appealing because of the huge library of free games.


That said, it's important for the community to help maintain the site. That could mean thanking authors for their work, helping users in the forums, sharing tables of your own, or obviously donating to help keep the site afloat.


Personally, I'd be happy to pay less than $10 dollars to eliminate the download timer (or at least cut it down to less than 10 seconds). But then again, a lot of scalpers maybe would as well. And honestly, I would be happy to pay just for that. Well, that plus maybe a badge with a low ranking title or something. I can live with a limit of ~35 downloads a day. I could probably even live with 10-20. Perhaps keeping a cap on the number of downloads at the lowest level would also help put off resellers? (Or at the very least force them to pay up more in the process).


Also, in terms of payments, I prefer one time payment options. I'm in a situation where I don't know if I'll have as much disposable income in 6 months or a year, so I don't want to have to worry about canceling an autopayment. Maybe it would be better for the site if people forgot once in awhile and more money came in. But, as I said, I'd rather pay up front and then pay again if/when I decide and know I can afford to


I'm not sure what other perks would be appealing to people. Badges and titles for the tiers are kind of fun. But other than lowering download timers and upping limits on the daily number, I'm not sure what sort of tangible perks you could give without lowering the quality of the site for other users. There's bound to be something, but I can't think of it now.


Anyway, hopefully this is at least the sort of input you're looking for. My opinions may or may not turn out to be in the majority.

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1 minute ago, bord said:

@Dazz, anything I've got going I'd be happy to put into a "donors level" tier for a couple weeks before general release. Not that anyone is clamoring for new EMs to play, but if it helps at all...

Thanks man.  That's a start.  Greatly appreciated.

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This isn't strictly related to a payment system like Patreon (of which I would definitely support to help with server costs, I know first hand it ain't cheap), but that model could tie into what I'm suggesting next. Is there any way to implement site restrictions based on reputation points doled out by others in a manner similar to Stack Overflow? For those unfamiliar, you have to answer other community questions and gain a certain level of stature before you are allowed to answer a question yourself.


That way someone who wants community driven assets needs to introduce themselves and become a name and face in discussions before having access to the whole kit-and-kaboodle. Or simply put, the more reputation you have, the less throttled you are when downloading assets. A potential deterrent so lurkers/scrapers can't squat on the site, take community content and never contribute to the hobby at large.

P.S. The irony of this being my 2nd post is not lost on me. I've been away for a long time 😅

Edited by jmreedy
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Not about money, but Pincab Passion, the French site, has a minimum post quota to gain access to downloads. The downloads are primarily MEGA links to site exclusive content, the PP team releases, etc. On the one hand, this does force people to actually participate in the community. On the other hand, for people that are just there to leech they will just post crap to get their count up. Not a perfect solution.

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Having a tough time coming up with good solutions to this. 


One idea I had was to allow file downloads for all, but if you want the author's notes, recommendations, and installation tips, it's an upper tier level. Another idea was to have upper tier members get alerts for updated files. So when someone updates their table, the member gets a message that a new version is available with a link to get it. 


I think you'd get more takers if the monthly access "donation"  was like  $2. Or $36 a year. But that would take about 500 people to sign up, using my rough math. I don't use Paetron. Maybe something like Venmo could be used? Not sure. Sounds like you would avoid fees. 


I've been using the Brave browser (no tracking!) since January and I earn "rewards" by using it and seeing ads, and I can donate the rewards to sites I visit if they accept them. Something to consider, too. Not sure the particulars from a web site standpoint.









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Thanks for all the suggestions.  Please keep them coming.


Just an FYI - This may help get more people to participate.
The core software that the site uses is going to be releasing an Achievement system shortly.  This will definitely be incorporated into the site. Below is just a couple ideas that the core software has built into it.  Each thing listed is given a point value; then when a certain number of points are reached the achievement is awarded.  


Here are what members can earn Points for:

When a...

Member joins a club
Reaction is given
New poll is created
User follows a content item
Review is posted
Member logs in for the first time that day
New club is created
Content item/comment is promoted or featured
Comment/reply is posted
User follows a forum, blog, gallery, category etc
User votes on a poll
User is followed
New content item is posted
Post is marked as best answer.... and more


This is just a small part of the possibilities...  Awards are issued as badges/images that will appear for the user.

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I think $5 is a good price. $3 is a bit iffy when you look at the patreon cut. Don't forget to include higher tiers. There will surely be supporters of different economic means including some who would like to donate more.  I subscribe to a few podcast patreons and there is usually a $30-$100 per month tier that is really only rewarded with a title such as executive producer.

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You could also send out one email a month to members gently reminding them of that months progress of donations. You could attempt to solicit one member a month to write it up in a newletter style. Perhaps showing progress of a build or something of that nature.

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I was just thinking "this hobby needs a site that is linked to Patreon or something" to ensure the community has the tools it needs.   Your post shows your heat is in the right place and your key objectives to is pay the technology fees to keep things going.   The other day I say you were just shy of your fund raising goal and kicked in the money to hit your target, but this is todays target, you will need to pay next months bills too.   I do think a tiered membership platform is a good foundation.   Your "Members, Supporting Members, Content Creators and VIP member groups" make sense to me.    I am new to this hobby, and luckily I did a lot of downloading in fall, then I spent the next several months (and I am still working on it) tweaking and adjusting table settings.    I  just went looking for PupPacks on VPinball.com and was disappointed and sad that it was shut down.   I want this site to live, grow and thrive.   So paid membership  is the way to go.  Yes do it, but please let's try to make it reasonable.  

So what is a reasonable membership level?  Supporting Members and VIP members should cover 150%-200% of costs.  Why not just 100%?  Service costs go up.  People leave.   You need a cushion.   So assuming that costs are $600/month,  target fees need to raise $7,920.    Member Statistics state a base of 39,434.   Let say you offer an annual supporting membership @ $12/year auto-renewal.   Then if only 2% of the existing members go for it, you make the target.  If you think  you can convert 20% or more with a $6/year membership, then 7,800 folks @ $6 = 46800 = bills covered and extra services ( regular backups, virus scanning & malware prevention, security audits, DDOS prevention support, penetration testing, or what ever else needs to get done) is covered.   I would happily sign up for a $6 membership this second and think a majority of the membership would do so as well to ensure we have a  stable, reliable, friendly site that growing better and better. 


Assuming you leave the FREE membership level in place, I would drastically reduce the download limit and speed.  5 downloads a day,  low speed setting.  Pain is a motivator, use it.    One idea to consider is to offering  a  member (and charging for) a short BOOST to a download limit so they can get a bunch of tables.  So I am new to the hobby, find this site,  sign up, but not sure I want to pay $6 until I see if this hobby is for me.   I download 2-3 tables that are highly recommended.   I fire them up, love it and want more.  But I don't want to just be a support member and download just a bit more, I want to download A LOT.  so I buy the BOOST and download 30 or so table over the next couple of days before the boost expires.   Win-Win for everyone.   Still make folks PICK each table, NO mass downloads.     If a boost is $10 for 7 days, I bet this would be a WIN WIN for everyone.   


You can also consider using  ADs  that only show for "free" accounts  as a technique to motivate folks to upgrade to a supporter membership level. Most people hate ADs.  


 I know some folks will hate me for saying this, but your restrictions for downloads for member level are very low.  I ran a BBS back in the day and and giving non-paying members 1-2 downloads a day was considered generous.  If they liked the site, they should become SUPPORTING MEMBERS.   If they just need advice and want to be in the forums, regular membership will be just fine.   One could argue that  free members don't get ANY downloads.   Pay $6/year, get 2-3 downloads a day.   Become a content provider, get more,  become a VIP, get the most.   


One other thing to consider.   Content providers should definitely get a free (nearly) unlimited membership as long as stick to the rules of the site and treat other members respectfully.  I think that is your plan but was not sure.   I am sort of working on a PUP Pack, but at the rate I am going it will be done sometime in the 3-5 years.   Acknowledging members contributions and given them "ranks" and "badges" is a fun and interesting for most people.    


That's my 2 cents.  Feel free to contact me directly if you want more input.   I am happy to help any way I can. 


To my fellow members, please don't get upset with me for being practical and brutally honest.   This hobby is great and we need to put some skin in game to keep the light on. 



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I'll preface this by saying I'm not trying to start an argument or claim I'm some all knowing genius. But I do just want to mention some things I thought of while reading the post above by heyhogan.


-As I said in my own post, I agree that the free level is pretty generous. But it's also important to remember that this isn't the only site out there. As a newbie, why come here and download 5 things a day at painfully slow speeds, when you could go to VPForums and get ~50 a day, pretty quickly, for free? You could argue that this site doesn't need to be the "most popular." But you still need new people coming in to keep things going long term.


-People who hate ads get ad blockers. I'm not in the loop on how much revenue web ads generate, but my gut says it's not a whole lot anyway. Could be totally wrong though.


-I like the idea of a temporary "boost" to speed up downloads and/or increase the base download item limit.


-I'm intrigued by the idea of content creators getting perks for free. But what if everyone just uploads stuff, then? Sounds nice, but that wouldn't really help pay the bills. So, would someone have to police who's really a content creator? If Member A uploads one amazingly popular table and nothing else, do they get perks forever? If member B constantly pumps out wheels that 10 people download at max, do they get any perks for their efforts? I'm not asking to get specific answers, I'm just thinking out loud.


Just going to end by reiterating that I'm not trying to start an argument. Just wanted to share my thoughts because that's what we were asked to do in this thread.

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