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The Cost of Running TSM

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So, a few weeks ago I wrote up a monthly budget for TSM for the first time ever (now that our costs are stable with the new website). I thought it'd be a good idea to share an overview of our budget here, so people can see what it takes to run a project like TSM.

Here are our current expenses (per-month) in descending order:
  • $85 - Servers (We currently run 6 individual VPS's of various power from Ramnode)
  • $30 - Email Service (based on our current rate of ~5k notification emails per day - will likely grow)
  • $20 - Suggestions Site
  • $4 - Domain Name and SSL Certificates

That all adds up to roughly $140 per month.

These costs are almost completely funded through direct donations and referrals (as described here). Now, we do get some money from Curse's Author Rewards Program, but that's mostly split between myself and the other TSM developers to cover WoW subscriptions and used to fund occasional contests / giveaways (although recently these have been less frequent in order to fund the new website). With that being said, we're currently running just about even. As of a week ago when I ran the numbers, we had received $135 from donations / referrals in the previous month. We have enough money saved up from the past to keep us running for a while at these levels, but obviously I'd be much happier if we were turning a profit every month rather than eating into our savings. There are things we want to add to the website that will increase our monthly costs, and the cost of our email service will go up as more users take advantage of our deal notification emails.

What about other ways to raise money like ads or a premium service? I'm really not a fan of ads (I use AdBlock personally) so that would be a last resort. We have thought of ideas for a premium service and may introduce one at some point, However, I'm adamant that things like deal notifications (up to some reasonable limit at least) and other core services remain free. A premium service would include things like dedicated TSM help, similar to the direction Sterling has taken with The Consortium's premium service.

So, what's the point of sharing all this? Here's my pitch. For every 100k gold TSM has helped you make, consider donating $2+. If you haven't made much gold with TSM, consider donating $5. Donations really do matter. $15 pays for us to run our email notifications for 2 weeks. $20 pays for us to run our suggestions website for a month. $30 pays for our domain name and SSL certifications for an entire year. As you can see, every donation has a big impact on the services we currently offer, and will not only keep us running, but allow us to expand in the future.

So go ahead, keep TSM going by donating! I thank you for reading this, even if you're not in a position to donate.

Updated August 24th, 2014 at 04:08 AM by Sapu94

World of Warcraft , Development


  1. gamedisciple's Avatar
    @Sapu94, thank you for putting things in perspective! Although I've yet to cross the 100k boundary, thanks to you and all the other goblins I'm well on my way and will donate ASAP. Thanks again for all your hard work and vision!
  2. Lithuex's Avatar
    I've barely made 3k profit using TSM for a about 3-4 days but I love the addon, desktop app and all that. It's just great. Anyway, have some money *throws monopoly money*
  3. Saliira's Avatar
    Thanks for the breakdown, it's really interesting to see what an app and site like this costs. I've been a (monetary) supporter of TSM for a couple years down and will definitely continue to donate periodically (and have made close to a desultory million since using it). Thanks for all your hard work!
  4. Sapu94's Avatar
    Thanks to everybody who has donated so far (and in the past)! I woke up to a very nice surprise in my inbox this morning .
  5. Sterling's Avatar
    Interesting blog post, I hadn't noticed it up until now. Allow me to offer some perspective, since I've been there and done that.

    Most visitors don't really mind ads (especially if there's an option to turn the ads off). Problem is, ads on gaming sites don't convert well at all. IIRC, they convert at 20% (!) the rate of the average advertising program.

    Donations, on the other hand, are great for up-front cash, but like Erorus said, you need to "nag" users and remind them the donate option exists.

    The best option is to offer something in return for the "donation". You've now gone full circle and turned a donation into a payment for a service - so you might as well offer a paid service of some sort. This has been done successfully by several parties in the goldosphere (including stormspire). So long as you avoid JMTC-esque flavors you will be perfectly fine, and users will gladly help out.
  6. Coanunn's Avatar
    I wish I could afford to donate and hopefully here soon that will change. With that said I want to say that I am just coming back to the gold making community after some years away and I dislike the idea of a paywall simply because as soon as I see a cost associated with suggestions on how to make gold in game it sets off the scam alert due to the high number of those I've seen come and go over the years. So with that said the difference I see with something like Consortium is that it is made clear it is a subscription to a service. Not a one time payment to be told to always loot and sell grey items or where to farm an item that there are 1000 videos about. TSM is a known quantity to a lot of people so putting some of the services such as email notification or the TSM App behind a paywall means those who know about it aren't forced to subscribe but instead have the option to do so based on paying for what are some of the expensive things you currently offer (servers to host the information and email service for notifications). It also means a new user can still try it out and get successful results with it by putting in the effort to do the scans. I would also suggest taking a look at that point at doing built in tutorials though. You want to keep those new users rather than giving them another hurdle which can drive away a possible customer.

    Just my 2c.
  7. tournicutty's Avatar
    TSM took me from struggling to keep 5-10k gold to having several hundred thousand at any given time. Most of all, working the AH has become a game in itself and the quest to find that next major deal is exhilarating.

    Thank you to Sapu94 and everyone who make TSM possible and to Sterling for this "pirate's cove" where goblins can share their secrets. Just donated!