Marketability & Profitability

There is no doubt that interest in Mars continues to grow, especially amongst students. The NASA website received an enormous number of hits during the Pathfinder mission and even more since the rovers landed. Mars websites and special interest groups are prolific on the internet, and the Mars Society now has over 5000 members worldwide. Due to its specific focus on Mars, the Mars Society receives more sponsorship and support than any other space advocacy group, and been able to achieve some impressive things (for example, two Mars analogue bases already operational in North America, and two more under construction, in Europe and Australia).

Mars provides a specific goal for the human race. With a diurnal cycle of just under 24 hours, water, an atmosphere, seasons and weather, and being our closest neighbour, it is an obvious target for colonization. Many have shown that we already have the technology to do this - what is lacking is the political will, largely due to problems on Earth which must take priority. Nonetheless, Mars captures the imagination and most would agree that, just as Europeans once crossed the oceans to explore and colonize (or perhaps, infect) the rest of the world, humans will also spread to Mars, and probably this century.

There are good reasons to believe that there is a large market for a game like this. Apart from the obvious interest in Mars, a game based on a possible real future has much more appeal than a fantasy-based game set in a fictional environment.

Mars has some of the most interesting geography in the Solar System, for example, the largest volcano (Olympus Mons, 26km high and 600km wide), the longest canyon system (Valles Marineris), and the largest impact crater (Hellas Basin). The scale of Mars's geography is enormous and many people will be interested in exploring the game environment just to see these features in realistic first-person 3D.

There is also a market for a game which easily meets parental approval, being both non-violent and educational. I do not propose to make the game overtly educational, as this would probably deter players, however, a natural side-effect of interacting with Mars will be learning about its gravity, atmosphere, geography, temperature, and so on.

Aside from the appeal of Mars, there is clearly a growing attraction to online multi-player games, which provide social and interactive elements not available in single-player games. The market for online multi-player games in general is growing, in line with increasing access to broadband internet, and cheaper, better computers.

As well as these reasons, I have devised a payment system and other game elements which are designed to encourage players to keep spending money on the game. Also, as the game evolves during its life, features will be added which will boost interest and encourage new participants. (Although I did not design this game purely for profit, a reasonable amount of cash will be required to realise its full potential so a business-like approach is essential.)

The existence of games such as Republic of Mars and its spin-offs, and various other Mars games, indicates a desire in the marketplace for a game set on Mars. To the best of my knowledge, no game exists which provides these following compelling features:

  1. explore an accurate, realistic model of Mars with a first-person view
  2. buy land and build bases on Mars
  3. experience the real challenges of living on another planet, such as different atmosphere, gravity and temperature
  4. an opportunity to role-play entrepreneurs and adventurers with millions of dollars to invest and resources to create impressive things

A key factor is the scale of the game environment. With the right server and software architecture, a whole planet can be provided as a shared virtual environment (Mars's surface area matches the land area of Earth). An online world of this scope has never before been constructed. Not only will the sheer scale of the environment be attractive to players, with so much space for expansion and exploration, but this means (again, with the right architecture) that potentially tens of thousands of players can be supported.

Some figures: Let's say in the first year the average number of players is 1000, each spending about A$20 per month on the game - this comes to $240,000 in revenue. If the population reaches an average of 2000 in the second year, then almost $500,000 can be expected. With the population reaching 4000 in the third year, a million dollars can be reasonably expected. This may be ambitious, however consider this:

  1. an extremely large game space available for colonization and exploration by players
  2. a virtual world that mirrors a real planet, part of the real future of humanity, which is significantly more interesting and fun than any imaginary world
  3. a highly enjoyable and addictive game where players can play with millions of dollars (see Money) and create on a massive scale (see Base-building)
  4. a game which teaches useful, interesting things (e.g. basic Martian chemistry) rather than useless things (e.g. contrived magic spell rules)

Now, to put things in perspective - a team of 3 developers working full-time on game development will cost between A$150,000 and A$300,000 per year. The cost of marketing, servers, bandwidth, rent, electricity, etc., must also be considered. Therefore the game really must be approached with the goal of recruiting thousands of players for it to be commercially viable.

This game has MASSIVE potential. Considering exactly what can be achieved in terms of realism, playability, graphics, and pure FUN, it is clear how immensely popular and important this game can be. I say "important" because a game like this enables people to create the future. This is not about an imaginary world - this is about Mars, the next home for humanity. A game like this enables a large group of minds to create a shared vision of a future potential reality.

SolSys Developers' Site