Summer Update #2 – The basics on our new subscriptions

Since the end of last year, Serkan and I have been trying to chart a path towards a self-sustaining GMPuzzles, where our products are able to fully cover our payments to authors, editors, and testers to continue producing great content even when I’m unable to contribute as much. As part of this, we’ve gotten feedback from all of our grandmasters, many of our authors, and some of our solvers about what they like most about the site and want us to keep doing, and where they want us to improve. Thanks to those who shared their thoughts as we have built a path forward for 2023+.

A key focus has been to make a main product line that delights our current audience while growing the audience too, which partially means more accessible puzzles. We started by considering how to make our books better, which have our highest quality puzzles but lack the discussion/community aspects of our blog. Adding digital solving options and solution animations (and/or hints) are some of the steps we wanted to do to improve the books, which we implemented for our Starter Pack series in 2022 but nowhere else. But another missing thing was having the sense of connection to the authors and to the community when going through the puzzles in a book. While we tried adding discussion page links into our e-books in 2022, they did not get used much. This made us decide to combine the best of our books and blog, and turn them into one subscription product with daily puzzle release, as a possible new path for GMPuzzles.

Since that decision, we’ve been thinking about “what” should be in a subscription and “how” we should deliver the puzzles. Here we will introduce the “what”, with a future post to talk about the current “how” and the future for a puzzle platform.

Our subscription starts by expanding our daily puzzle releases to two puzzles each day from Monday to Saturday. One simple way to think of this is to consider our “regular” GMPuzzles blog weeks and add on a second track of 1 or 1.5 star difficulty puzzles in the same genres. This new track of puzzles is perfect for beginner solvers and also a “warm-up” for people with more experience before they do the harder puzzle on the same day because we all can forget the rules to some of these styles sometimes. The main part of a subscription will be these 12 puzzles from Monday to Saturday, the first releasing around 9 AM PT and the second releasing around 9:05 AM PT similar to our blog historically. All posts will include digital solving options and solution animations to step through the answer path.

Sundays will be a special day where we are now also adding in a rotation of different kinds of special puzzles. In alternating weeks we are planning to release:

  • Giant puzzles or Sunday stumpers
  • Puzzlemasters’ Workshop / new puzzle type set: typically a set of 3 puzzles in a style we have not featured before with one easy, one medium, and one hard in the set.
  • Puzzle Hunt style puzzles: See some of our prior examples here:
  • Paired/combination/other hybrid puzzles tied into given weeks, like four-way loop grids or a set with crypto constraints across grids or other unusual puzzle constructions that don’t fit in a normal weekday.

The Sunday puzzles should be something really special for our current audience, while the “warm-up” puzzle track should be something that helps grow our audience and adds some enjoyment for the current audience too. We may make a few of the Monday-Saturday puzzles (no more than 2 or 3) free to the public after a vote from our subscribers each week, with a bias towards making the easier puzzles the ones that get freely released. We may similarly give out some “gift subscriptions” for the easier track puzzles if we learn how to hit this mark — maybe each subscriber has a free gift sub to share with someone who has never bought a book from GMP.

A basic subscription will be for a three month “season” of puzzles, over 175 total puzzles, for $10 (US) total. Season 1: A Fresh Start, will run from July to the end of September, and we’ll be revisiting the details of what is in a “season” including contests, votes on new puzzles, themes, and so forth as we go. But it starts by looking like a collection of 13 web weeks with some extra on top, as described here.

Those are some of the basics, and we’re now through test solving for the first two weeks of puzzles. We’re resolving the final details for the “how” of subscriptions, and will open up the purchasing options sometime over this next weekend if we don’t run into any technical challenges. We’re excited to get publishing again, and hope you are excited for the start of subscriptions!

  • a Nonoumous says:

    So to clarify. For those of us who would rather not subscribe what do we get access to? If we subscribe mid season do we get the entire season or just the remainder of it?

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      Non-subscribers can continue to enjoy our archive of over 2600 free puzzles posted from 2013-2022, as well as a very limited number of new puzzles we might release to all visitors of this blog in the future (no more than 2-3 a week, and possibly 0).

      When a person subscribes, they will get access to all puzzles and posts that have been released to that date, as well as be able to see new posts when they get released. So on one extreme, a subscriber buying access to Season 1 on or after October 2023 when the first set is complete would be purchasing something closer to a “book” with 13 weekly PDFs immediately available to download and access to the 90+ days worth of posts/comments that had gone alongside that content. But a person buying something this weekend will get the 1st week right away and experience the rest like a blog user, with two new puzzles a day from Monday to Saturday and a special challenge each Sunday.

  • SJS says:

    I have never been more excited to pay for something that used to be free. You all are consistently providing amazing puzzles, and your labor and time and expertise have real value that should be well compensated. $3 a month (just 10 cents a day!) is a steal – but I hope you get enough subscribers so it adds up to make all of this work worth your time.

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      Thanks for your kind words! We’ve gotten some other messages from former donors saying similar things, but we know there will also be some resistance from those who have not had to pay in the past. Pricing is a tricky consideration because we have a wide international audience; while we are using just one price to get started, we might also be able to work off different pay what you want/can or tiered systems in the future if that helps remove some of the barriers for subscription across the audience.

  • emin erz says:

    i love this idea..I’m looking forward

  • Loren Looger says:

    This sounds like a great idea! You’re right – sometimes I do need the easy puzzles to remind myself which of the 17 shading-type forms this is. I’d love there to be more hard puzzles as well, but I’m sure all the creators are stretched thin as it is. I’ll just keep buying the e-books for those. Good luck!

  • shnikola says:

    I’m not a regular solver, but I would still more than gladly give $10 for the great work you do.

  • David Olmsted says:

    If you are interested in interaction with subscribers, let me suggest this. The aspect of Nikoli I have most often heard of, that involved interaction, is the “omopa” section of the magazine. Having no Japanese, I have only a vague idea how it works, but I believe it involves subscriber submitted experimental puzzle types. Presumably only promising types are published. All of your subscribers will be interested in puzzles, but not all will be interested in contests. On the other hand, this would be a significant undertaking, so it may not work for GM puzzles. But I offer it as a thought.

  • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

    Thanks for the comment David. In the 2000s and 2010s when I last spent a lot of time with Nikoli books, I was similarly as limited in understanding most of the parts of the Nikoli Quarterly communication from the lack of understanding Japanese. It has been a fun experience in 2023 to try using live image translation through my phone to read more of what I was missing. There is probably still something special in what their main audience wants that is not just the omopa section, but I’m inspired to learn again what our audience wants as we also try new things to grow a richer GMPuzzles experience.

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