Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Uncle Squirrely, Blender, and Business Strategy

I run two web sites through Google Analytics. One is Uncle Squirrely. The other is Blender Python Tutorials, a site focused on 3D animation scripting. The differences fascinate me. Uncle Squirrely pulls 2 to 5 visitors per day on average. The Blender site pulls between 35 to 55 on any given day.

Here's why this is surprising. First, the Blender site hasn't been maintained in months. The interface is relatively low tech. The target market is very niche. Uncle Squirrely has been under heavy development and has a more modern infrastructure from back end to front end. Also, it caters to gamers.

On the other hand, competition matters. Gamestop, Walmart, and BestBuy have a huge presence in gaming retail both online and off. A Google search on “cheap video games” pulls up a lot of competing game sites many of which are very good. Uncle Squirrely is new and comparatively underdeveloped in comparison. In light of that, not pulling high in search engines isn't unusual.

Blender Python Tutorials doesn't have that problem. Few sites specialize in Python for Blender. Only one recent book dedicated to the topic exists to my knowledge. Consequentially, my tutorial site shows up near the top of Google search results for “blender python” and "blender scripting". Smaller niche means less competition.

As audience reach goes, priority on the Blender site makes sense. However, the business model has to be different. Uncle Squirrely is a game store. Blender Python Tutorials is a resource for writing 3D animation tools. It's not practical to try selling tutorials the way Nintendo sells Wii games.

Even with it's relatively tiny audience, abandoning Uncle Squirrely would be premature. The site's only been up a month and it does get a lot of Amazon clicks if not actual sales. The sensible thing to do is to keep working on it through the Christmas season. Even if it fails, it's still a good tech demo for prospective employers.

That means there are two sites to maintain from now to the end of the year. The Blender site needs new tutorials and a site redesign. Uncle Squirrely also needs maintenance. There's no shortage of things to do.

Monday, November 1, 2010

About Uncle Squirrely

Uncle Squirrely is live now and it's high time for an official explanation for the site.

Uncle Squirrely fills a need I have.  I like my video games cheap.  I also like them to be fairly recent.  I built Uncle Squirrely for that reason.  It makes it easy to find games that have come down in price but are still recent.  In effect, it's a second run movie theater for games.

One of the defining features of the site is what it sells.  The rules for inclusion are simple.  The game has to be under fifty dollars if it's an X Box 360 or Playstation 3 title.  It has to be under forty if it's for the Wii. If it doesn't meet those criteria, you won't find it here.

Simplicity is another key feature.  Things like “Show Latest Price Drops” and “Show Cheapest” order the games exactly as advertised.  Browsing titles is as simple as browsing your local Gamestop.

Another defining feature of Uncle Squirrely is Chaos TV.  This link shows up with every title and pulls and plays a random game video from Youtube.  It might be informative or it might be irrelevant.  Heck, it might even Rick Roll you in some cases.  All in all, Chaos TV adds an element of fun and surprise to the game shopping experience.

But the most important feature is the fact that it really does work.  With the help of this site, I bought Bioshock 2 and Assassin's Creed 2 for just over sixty dollars.  The latter title I got new after finding out the price recently dropped to $29.99.  Even on days I'm not in the market for a new game, Chaos TV is always a fun distraction.

Now that the site is live, the main goal is to maintain it and make it even better.  It might lead to a profitable business or it might just be a showcase to a prospective employer to what I can do.  But, come what may, the journey has been absolutely worth it.