GOG.com‘s Fall Insomnia Sale, which started Wednesday, was quite clearly a marketing success, but it also generated a fair amount of frustration for plenty of people and I dare say that it also lasted too long, and that’s even without taking the fact that this third “round” is going slowly and may even continue for days into account. Something like this probably shouldn’t have lasted much more than 24 hours and, while the concept isn’t, in itself, wrong, in fact actually being quite interesting, many things could have been handled better, so I’ll now take the liberty of offering some suggestions.
1. This should be a given, but I guess it must be said that the site should be able to handle such a sale, without being overloaded or crashing.
2. Customers shouldn’t, under normal circumstances, risk losing an offer after managing to click the “buy now” button while any copies are shown as being left.
– An option should be offered for users to test for lag, so each will know whether or not they receive the “stock” updates with a delay that may affect their chances of making a purchase in time.
– The counter displaying how many copies are left should always update very quickly, more than once per second if possible, at least for the main title.
– After a user clicks the “buy now” button, their copy of the game should be reserved for 30 seconds, allowing them to enter the payment information. If the order isn’t completed during that time, the copy should be made available once again, the user being notified of this fact if they still have the checkout page open.
– To avoid abuse, on top of only allowing each user to reserve a copy once, a script should probably make a reserved copy available again if the user doesn’t click to select a payment option or, if using the default one, doesn’t start typing the required information within five seconds of the moment when that portion of the page successfully loaded. And, of course, the way to handle free games during such sales should be changed, but the suggestions for that are below.
– A game should remain listed until orders for all available copies are successfully sent, in case any reserved copies will end up being made available once again, at least in the final “round”. If deemed necessary, in other “rounds” it may be possible to remove a title as soon as all copies are at least reserved, as long as any that won’t actually be purchased will be added to the amount made available during the following “round”.
3. While limited quantities of popular titles should continue to show up separately and at different times, offering people multiple chances to grab one before the offer expires, titles that sell slowly shouldn’t be allowed to hold up the sale.
– A 30-minute timer, visible at least for the final minute, should be implemented, the game in question being replaced with the next if there are copies of it left in the current “round” when the timer reaches zero. Some users suggested limiting this to around 15 minutes, so this may still be too much for some, but I’ll go with it for now.
– At most, that fixed timer may be replaced with a one-minute “stall timer” if only a few copies, definitely no more than ten, are left when the 30 minutes are up, the title not being replaced as long as no more than one minute passes without any copy being sold. This timer will reset to one minute as soon as a copy is sold and should obviously always be visible while active.
– When a game is replaced, it shouldn’t stop being on offer, but instead it should be moved to another category and displayed under the new main title on sale. These moved titles could simply be listed under an “also currently on sale” header, the title, sale price, full price, discount and number of copies left being displayed in plain text, the font size being relatively small and the “buy now” button following each list item also matching that size.
– Games that, based on the rate at which copies sold in the previous “round(s)”, are estimated to require over one hour to sell the number available in the next should perhaps be displayed as stated above directly, without showing up as the main title again. These titles should show up under “also currently on sale” either as soon as a new “round” starts or, if too many are identified, gradually, a certain number showing up immediately and the rest waiting to take their place as those first ones sell out.
– When no new titles are left to display in one “round”, those with only a few copies left to sell may make a second appearance as main titles, being moved back out of the other category one by one. Those that have more than a few copies left, however, should simply have the number allocated for the next “round” added and remain under the “also currently on sale” header. This obviously can’t be the case in the last “round”, so at the very end of the sale these remaining titles may be featured once again, one by one, until all copies run out.
4. If free games will continue being offered during such sales, a fairer system that’ll also allow users to decide whether they’re even interested in the game in question in the first place should be implemented, since currently the only way to have the slightest chance is to click the button the instant a new title is displayed.
– Free games should show up for at least ten seconds, giving users time to actually read the title and decide whether they want to try winning a copy or not. Users who already own the game in question should not be able to enter.
– A draw, made almost immediately, should decide which ones, out of all the users who clicked the button during that time, will receive the free copies.
5. There should be an official list of the games on sale instead of making people rely on external sources.
– If the games will show up more than once and the idea is to keep people glued to the screen, this list may be updated throughout the first “round”, games being added to it as soon as they first appear. In this case, the list may show the order in which the games appeared, it may be sorted alphabetically or, better yet, it may allow users to choose between the two sorting options.
– As the titles appear again, their color should change, so people will know which ones are left in the current “round”.
– If free games will continue to be offered, those that have already been free should probably be marked as such in the list.