Collective Detective is set to be an subscription-based community website that will host areas dedicated to different alternate reality games/mmoes. Developed by players of Microsoft’s AI game, it will be released in early July and it has an impressive featureset geared towards making discussion and playing of games as easy as possible.
It should be a wonderful website for those who join in, and it will be far superior to YahooGroups if it fulfils its expectations. However, I am not certain of its eventual success. I can’t make any definite judgements until I’ve seen the website once its launched and have full details of the subscription costs, but rumours abound of a $10/month subscription cost. I believe that this is just too high.
There have been several posts on YahooGroups detailing why $10/month (or more) is an entirely reasonable amount to pay for the use of Collective Detective, and indeed, to some the cost will be reasonable. To others, its $10/month more than they are paying right now, and its a lot more than other similar websites are charging. Collective Detective is essentially an enhanced messageboard – yes, I know it has a lot of nifty features, but so does Kuro5hin, which is essentially the same thing, and is almost free (K5 recently ran a fundraising drive which produced $35,000 in a few days).
A subscription fee raises a great deal of barriers towards entry of a community. Not only is there the financial aspect – $10/month equals $120/year – but some people, notably minors, simply don’t have the credit cards that are required for payments like these. If there isn’t some kind of trial membership option or limited free membership, then Collective Detective will find it very difficult to get people other than hardcore players to sign up. Furthermore, the limited free membership (the most preferable option) would have to have sufficient features to not completely drive away ‘poor’ users to other free sites (and you can bet that they’ll appear if the genre becomes really popular).
Now, providing that the subscription fee is suitably low – I would be happy to pay something like Salon.com’s $30/year, for example – and there is some kind of limited free membership, then Collective Detective stands to go a long way. If subscription costs are too high and it’s too difficult for visitors to get a feel of what they’d be paying, then the website could very well go the way of countless other commercial internet ventures.