Voluntary Payments: The Success of Erfworld

Erfworld is a fantasy webcomic with a gaming focus that has been running since 2007. It's a great comic and I urge anyone who may be interested to give it a try, however I do not intend to give a plug to the content in this article. Instead I want to talk about the brilliance of its monetization system.

Erfworld utilizes a voluntary payment system known as the Toolbox. They had considered using Patreon, but it was easier to make their own system then integrate Those who opt into this program, referred to as 'Tools' can choose one of six levels of support, each with their own rewards the details of which are listed below.

Erfworld pledge table. Reference: https://login.erfworld.com//toolshed

According to the websites own statistics, from 1320 readers they earn $1646.07 per on-time update. With the current two per week update schedule, that's $3292.14 per week. However, this money is only earned by the website if its updates are on-time. This provides incentive to ensure that updates are released promptly, improving the experience for all users.

The average amount per person is approximately $1.20, implying that the majority support at the level 1 and 2 levels. Level 1 provides a significant improvement in viewer experience and access to otherwise inaccessible content. This provides a highly positive experience and makes the viewer feel like his money was well spent. If this were not the case, it would be quite difficult to maintain the income.

All levels provide 'Scmuckers". This is a currency that is tied to Erfworld's store at an exchange rate of 1 dime per Scmucker. This currency is also earned by submitting pieces such as fan art, stories, reviews and other content. Some is awarded by the site creator, but users can also choose to tip pieces, incentivizing further contributions to the Erfworld community.

Some are wary of this model as it would seem to that more aggressive advertising would increase the willingness of the community to support Erfworld. While it makes sense in theory, aggressive advertising would decrease the ability of the website to retain new viewers due to the unfriendliness of the site. Additionally, a large portion of the Erfworld community are gamers and are not likely to take kindly to strategies used by the poorly designed Free to Play games, derogatorily referred to as Pay to Win.

The downside that I see occurring if this form of funding takes off is the limited finances of any one viewer. Webcomics that previously weren't in competition with each other are pitted against each other for funding. While I this would have an impact upon webcomics, I feel that the effect upon high quality services like Erfworld will be minimal. I love this system and hope it's successful for them.

This was originally posted on my LinkedIn page.