In less than one year, the browser-based parody RPG Forumwarz has attracted more than 100,000 users. Supported primarily by user donations, it is one of the first browser-based games to successfully use a “shareware model” to sustain itself.
Toronto – Forumwarz, a parody role-playing game that takes place on the internet, recently confirmed that it has surpassed the 100,000 sign-up mark since its public launch in February, 2008.
The game, which has been described by Wired News as “an offensive but deadly funny approach to lampooning the poor grammar, childish humor and bad manners of the web’s underbelly,” managed to attract a surprisingly large niche mostly through reputation, word-of-blog and favorable reviews from such sites as Gawker, The Onion A.V. Club, Digital Journal and Gamasutra.
Forumwarz skewers both internet culture and traditional MMORPG tropes by combining the two in an off-color and sometimes deliberately offensive mash-up. Players can choose classes such as Troll, Hacker, Emo Kid, Camgirl or Noob, while using a World of Warcraft-like attack bar to derail or “pwn” various internet forums.
The action is set against a bizarre and humorous backdrop of high-tech conspiracy and cyber warfare, as users interact with characters via in-game instant messaging and chat applications.
Although Toronto-based Forumwarz is free to sign up and play, the site uses a variation on the shareware model to support itself, along with ads from Google AdSense. Using its in-game credit system, called Brownie Points, players donate real money in order to gain access to exclusive content. They can also purchase character enhancements, cheats and pranks against rival players.
Forumwarz Episode 2, the game’s paid content portion, went live in mid-October. Although the Brownie Points system had been in place since the site’s public launch, the decision to charge money for content was controversial. Forumwarz Episode 1 is free to play.
While the model to offer a free demo followed by paid content has been seen in older shareware games, or in newer schemes such as Xbox Live, it is rarely seen with independent online gaming. Many internet users have become accustomed to free online content supported only by ads or voluntary donations. This model has become notably less viable in recent years.
However, after two months of experimenting with its paid content system, Forumwarz reports modest financial success, with minimal blowback from users.