IBETCHA Want Network Effects

Hobby games are booming and they're making the jump online in search of network effects.

Despite an onslaught of digital gaming, we are beginning to see a renaissance in “hobby games.” These games allow greater face-to-face interactions than their digital counterparts and now account for $880m in the US and Canada annually. Check out the Economist jumping onboard.

Despite being unplugged from the internet, these games understand the benefits of creating an online community and leveraging their growing user base.

One example of this is a card game startup out of Harvard called IBETCHA. IBETCHA combines Cards Against Humanity (CAH) and Never Have I Ever (NHIE) and is played as follows:

1.) To start the game, each player draws eight BETCHA Cards.

2.) Each round starts with a new victim and everyone puts down a card that they think The Victim has done.

3.) The Victim shuffles all the cards and shares each card with the group.

4.) The Victim then picks one card she has done, tells the story, and whoever submitted it gets the number of points on the card.

The question for gaming startups like IBETCHA is how to make the leap onto the web in order to capture some coveted network effects. IBETCHA has a several step strategy that is being revealed here for the first time. The plan has been dubbed “operation neTwerk” and will be implemented as follows:

1.) Create an app. The app will serve as a platform for players of IBETCHA to post their best stories, pictures, and videos playing the game. The app will also have a google chat plugin for friends to play against each other remotely.

2.) Grow the platform. As more users download the app to hear stories from their peer-group, IBETCHA plans to incentivize users to purchase the game and contribute their own stories. The app will be free to download, but users will only be able to view content proportional to their contribution to the community. For example, if a user uploads a 3-minute video telling a story about himself, he will then have access to a few 3-minute videos of others in his social network telling stories.

3.) Quality Control. In the early stages, the founders plan to vet every incoming video for quality and propriety in order to reward relevant submissions with additional access to other content. At the end of each video submission users will vote whether or not the video was cool.

4.) $$$. The founders were not comfortable revealing how this operation makes money. “IBETCHA encourages people to tell their best stories which are often times a perfect opportunity for self-promotion. It’s easier to brag about yourself when your friends are forcing you to do so. We believe there is considerable value in becoming the platform that allows you to shamelessly tell your coolest stories. If we run out of money, maybe we’ll start selling headbands.” said IBETCHA co-founder Erik Westland.

The primary challenge for IBETCHA is attracting a large enough user-base in order to create the content that keeps people coming back. Once that happens, advertisers are sure to follow. In the meantime, IBETCHA seems staunchly opposed to the idea of advertising. “We’re not creating this game so corporate America can weasel in and sell you Dodge Neons. We’re doing this so people can have fun and tell kewl (sic) stories. But we’ll also be selling headbands.” said Erik.

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Student comments on IBETCHA Want Network Effects

  1. This is an interesting model, as it leverages network effects online, to drive sales to a tangible game that can be enjoyed without ever going back online. However, having the tangible game and making it a go to game in a friendship group encourages more people within the network to buy it as if you don’t have it people might be less inclined to go to your house instead of someone else’s that does have the game.

  2. Thanks for the post and the intel on IBETCHA’s next steps! IBETCHA is an incredibly fun game and the valuations that we are seeing on these new “hobby games” is a clear indicator that people do still value face-to-face interaction especially in the digital world where everything has become less-personal via texting, Facebook posting, etc. The power of network effects could be ideal for a game like IBETCHA but will you lose this personal, face-to-face interaction that you are trying to bring back plus I wonder if going online will decrease the amount that people are willing to share or the substance. What is the proportion of videos to pictures posted on Facebook? When it comes to self-promoting, it seems that people are willing to share a picture but do not go as far as sharing videos.

    I played the pre-demo day game and found it quite fun since the questions on the cards pushed me to share things that I don’t normally share and thus got to learn things about my friends that I never knew before! If this is still the case, I wonder how many people will jump online to share video content with their friends without the trust building that the personal interaction allows for. Have you thought about somehow securing these videos in ‘Snapchat-like’ format so that they are somewhat secure with members of the group. Would this be possible with the length of the videos?

    I like the idea of mitigating the free-riding element by limiting the amount of content viewable to the amount of content that you share!

    Have you thought about the potential for indirect network effects or how you may be able to collect the data that people share through the platform. The data could prove incredibly valuable and useful for monetizing the product!

    Look forward to hearing more.

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