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HomeUncategorizedLaunch HN: MagnaPlay (YC W23) – Indie gaming subscription service for PC

Launch HN: MagnaPlay (YC W23) – Indie gaming subscription service for PC

Hey everyone, I’m Pedro, and together with my friend Paulo I co-founded MagnaPlay (https://magnaplay.tech). Basically, we’re a “Spotify”, but for games made by independent creators on PC.

Paulo and I have been indie gamers for the past decade. Both of us have insanely long back catalogs of games we’ve always wanted to try, but couldn’t. When we were stuck at home during covid, we were frustrated and decided to set out to solve this problem. Naturally, this decision was made during a game of Call of Duty: Warzone.

For consumers, MagnaPlay eliminates the paywall when it comes to buying a new game. Today, the indie market is incredibly saturated and prices are increasing. A subscription service, like Spotify, can make indie gaming more affordable and allow players to try out more content.

For developers, we solve the problem of lower consumer lifetime values for indie games. Most indie games sell for around $10 and lose 50% of that to tax and store commissions, so the average player only nets them around $5 LTV. By introducing a revenue model which focuses on the distribution of player subscriptions, we’re able to pay developers a recurring revenue stream, as long as people are playing their game. This way, indie games can achieve profitability with a smaller player base, which is crucial as these developers tend to have incredibly small marketing budgets.

MagnaPlay subscriptions cost $8/month. We divide that up and distribute it to developers based on a series of data such as time played, play sessions and number of downloads. We designed this with the idea of helping indies achieve profitability with a smaller player base, crucial when competition is ever-increasing.

This isn’t a new idea, but we offer a few twists. Namely: a) we only work with indie games, which makes the unit economics work; b) we don’t do streaming—the business model doesn’t really work and it’s not as cool as it sounds; and c) we’re trying out all our funky gamer ideas: letting players vote for titles, let players review games on a review feed and even letting players choose who gets part of their subscription!

By far our biggest difficulty is overcoming the chicken-and-egg problem of platform businesses: we need games to get users, and we need users to get games. We have a few high quality games already, but not enough yet to draw major interest. Things have been especially hard on the supply side, because most of the time we’re competing with massive companies such as Microsoft, which really bankroll their service “Game Pass”. We’re going to have to be clever and determined to overcome this problem and it may need some real hacking…accepting any suggestions!

In the meantime, if you think MagnaPlay is a good idea and would like it to exist in your world, like we do, we’d love you to consider taking a leap of faith with us and getting in early. We promise to listen closely to your opinions about what games to add and how to build this out going forward!

The other perennial question, of course, is piracy. Since we don’t do streaming, all games are installed on your computer, but since we’re a subscription service, we have to validate your subscription—and however we do that, it has to be effortless for the indie developers to integrate with.

For this, we ended up building our own DRM program. It consists of a C++ wrapper that encrypts and compresses games’ raw binary, as well as a program which injects assembly code into the game’s .EXE files which validates the parent process of the program upon running. The beauty of it is: developers don’t need to change any of their source code! (An interesting tradeoff is that although this reduces game file size by around 26%, it unfortunately increases memory usage by around 9%.) Most players understandably dislike DRMs, and of course there’s no perfect solution against piracy, but we’re hopeful that this approach will be non-intrusive enough for both players and devs to solve this core business problem.

We are super happy to see customers trying out games they normally wouldn’t! One example was Jared, who runs an indie podcast (Indie Game International on Spotify!): he got word of MagnaPlay and later told us how he gave this little indie game called Existensis a try and he absolutely loved it, played it to completion, and then ended up interviewing the developer on his podcast! So far, this was definitely the coolest thing we’ve seen happen on/due to MagnaPlay.

We’re happy to launch MagnaPlay on Hacker News and are eager to hear your feedback on our value prop, suggestions on dealing with chicken and egg, and on our product, which is available now for a free trial and then $8/month on https://magnaplay.tech. We look forward to your comments!

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