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Solitaire business models

How do you monetize commonplace and casual games like solitaire? We explored a number of websites and apps to understand what ideal business models might look like.

My mother in law’s favorite solitaire game shut down, and my friend and I decided to build our own solitaire game called Solitaired as a replacement. It’s been getting good traction, so we wanted to explore monetization opportunities.

While ads are an obvious candidate, we wanted to explore a subscription opportunity. If we could succeed doing that, we could maintain a clean ad-free experience on our site.

Interestingly, web-based solitaire sites have no subscription package, but many mobile apps do. Every app had a unique approach to subscriptions. Premium features included:

  • Having access to future daily challenges
  • Exclusive and premium design for playing cards
  • For systems where you can earn titles based on point accumulation (i.e., master, grand master etc.), the ability to to earn these title faster
  • Removing ads

All apps had ads, but had different types of implementations. Some included standard mobile banner ads, while others triggered an interstitial video ad based on an action such as:

  • When starting a new game
  • When asking for a hint. Some gave you a free hint, but for more, you’d have to watch an ad
  • To reshuffle the deck to advance the game
  • Launching the daily challenge

We think ultimately we’ll end up with a combination of these strategies. So far we’ve tried gating premium card designs, but were not able to convert any subscribers. We also ran a painted door test of a button which would show you how to solve a game, but it got little traction.

Our early indication suggests a subscription model won’t be effective. This means that solitaire apps likely drive revenue mostly from ads, or subscription behavior is very different on mobile applications, where subscribing doesn’t necessarily require you take out a credit card. This could explain why mobile apps have subscription options, while web-apps don’t.

On the other hand, this might mean the primary value of subscriptions is to remove ads, and web based apps have yet to explore this. The more ads you have then, the more valuable the subscription. Of course, this runs the risk of overwhelming users with ads and sending them to other sites.

We’ll continue testing until we find something that our users find valuable enough to subscribe to.

If you have any suggestions or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

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