Thursday, March 31, 2011

Group Buy via Internet

I first heard about Groupon when I attended a conference at Jerusalem last year (2010). Groupon, as in 'Group Coupon' was touted as an upcoming trend setter for the Internet commerce sector.

True enough, there was a flood of stories about Groupon and its clones in the subsequent months, and viola, Groupon is now in Singapore!

Groupon entered the Singapore market via a purchase of Beeconomic (the deal rumoured to be in the range of millions). is now very active and there have been a number of different deals on the site.

But other than Groupon, there are many other Singapore group buy sites. The one that caught my attention is For some reason (perhaps due to different target audience groups), I am more attracted to the deals on Maybe Groupon / Beeconomic has young female audience in mind, while travel and food are more attractive to me.

These sites have also utilised the social networks, e.g. is on Facebook, to create groups for the viral marketing effect. Afterall, group buy and viral marketing should easily go hand in hand together. Other than social networks, the sites would also send out email alerts of their latest deals, and as I understand, there are even mobile applications on iPhones and such to allow for 'instant buy' via the mobile apps. Innovative!

However, as with any Internet trends, there are also issues about sites dying off and the customers not getting what they bought. We heard about such stories in China, where the concept of 'group buy' a.k.a 'tuan gou' gave birth to hundreds of sites and some have since died. Of course, China is a big market with its own unique set of consumer norms and Internet culture.

Hopefully the Singapore sites can survive well, and continue to offer such attractive discounts for our local shoppers. I think we need alternatives that offer better deals throughout the year, instead of just during the Singapore Sale or year end holiday sales.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

iPad - Syndicate: Review & Guide

Ever since iPad was released, there has been numerous games. Some of the games are similar to what are available on Facebook (e.g. Mafia Wars) where players engaged in tasks to build up gold / experience points for leveling and construction of their little empires.

One of the more interesting games in iPad is the Syndicate, a game that focus on building up a commercial empire with workers and a nice commercial building. Here's a screen shot of the Syndicate game on iPad. The building in the centre is built only after much leveling has been done, level 17 to be exact.

There are a few activities for the player that are listed on the left side of the screen. The main focus of the Syndicate game is the doing of jobs, that yield experience points and various amount of gold. The jobs come with pre-requisites including number of workers (i.e. staff), the player level, and the facilities that the player has. Facilities can be built and each new addition with have impact on staff morale and productivity. Productivity also affects the monetary rewards for the jobs.

For example, if the job pays $1000 normally and the productivity is 150%, the monetary reward is actually $1,500. The amount is also affected by when the player 'claims' the job rewards. When the job is completed (after a set timing, from 15 minutes to hours), bonus of 25% or 50% will be given if the player can claim the jobs rewards in time. Over time, the bonus drops to zero.

To hire more workers, just click on the 'Hire' tab, and a list of up to 10 workers will be shown. The workers are given funny games with funnier descriptions, e.g. worker George Skipper - Supposes that he is a ship captain. Some of the descriptions are pretty lame actually. During the initial levels, it costs less to hire a worker, and the cost per worker increases with new levels of the player. At times, the new hire will also cause a decrease in staff morale and productivity. So it is important to improve the facility of the rooms that help to increase staff morale and productivity.

Buildings and Rooms
The player starts off with a single room when the Syndicate is first started; 'Boss's Office' and the player can have as many as 6 rooms - Canteen, Working Area, Warehouse, Guard Desk and Expedition. Each room has many facilities for the player to purchase. For example, there is water cooler, plants etc etc.

The facilities will take time to build. Each facility improvement also costs money, except for one of the item related to human - e.g. the secretary, employee that must be purchased with the gold coin. Gold coins are sometimes given when job levels are completed. Each facility has 3 levels with different types of rewards. Of course, facilities cost more with the higher levels, and in the more advanced rooms.

Other than rooms, the players can also improve their buildings. To me, this is the fun part of the game, where there is some sense of achievement to see the game character owning bigger and nicer buildings. There are two category of buildings, one purchased with money and the other using gold coins. The latter comes with additional benefits. Of course, to have ore gold coins mean the player needs to spend real life money to purchase them.

There are 3 pre-requisites to build new buildings, level of player, number of workers, and of course the amount of money / gold coins available. Buildings too will take some time to complete.

Rewards & Bonus
Rewards are given when jobs are completed, and the player can use these rewards to improve various game statistics. There are bonus that immediately completes all jobs, bonus that affect staff morale, productivity etc etc. Players can also purchase mroe of these bonus using money or the gold coins.

When the player levels up, bonus will also be given. To see what bonuses are given with each level, just tap on the portrait of the game character and the lists, as well as other statistics will be shown.

If you have friends playing the Syndicate game, do add them, and they can be relied upon for the Pyramid function, i.e. the player earns money when their added friends complete jobs. Of course, being a social game, the Syndicate also has the friends visiting function. Players can even visit other Syndicate players who are not 'friends' per se.

Overall the Syndicate game is pretty fun to play with. The jobs get repetitive after a while but since the game doesn't consume too much time, it is good to while away 10-15 minutes every couple of hours or so. Honestly, many games on iPad get repetitive after a while.

One small tip for the beginning player - do the jobs if you have enough staff, even after the jobs have reached maximum level and do not yield any more experience. This will help you gain more money faster.