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Making economically profitable open source games


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#1 Jramir   Members   -  Reputation: 109

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 04:25 AM

Well, I basically had an idea and wanted to see if it is realistic from a legal point of view.

Imagine that a company develops a video game, but instead of publishing it, it gives the game
an "economical value" that they think is adecuate to cover the invested resources. Then
they make a public donation site with the goal of earning this quantity from people who freely donate money.
Once they they achieve the goal money, they release the game with an open source licence.

How about it?

Sponsor:

#2 kunos   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2207

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 04:34 AM

and if they don't reach the target? Keep the software on their HD wasting the entire investment?
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#3 rnlf   Members   -  Reputation: 1178

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 04:48 AM

I thought about doing it the other way around: Release it as paid software, until the target is reached, then open it up.

my blog (German)


#4 Ravyne   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 7815

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 05:02 AM

This is typically called a "bounty" -- You privately develop the game, preferably in an open-source-friendly way (dependencies with suitable licenses, using freely available tools, maybe the whole source control history), and release the binaries when its finished for free or for sale, and you release the source itself when the bounty is reached.

You might have the same or a separate bounty for game-specific code (vs. just the engine or core), and/or for the art and design assets that make up the game, its up to you. Typically code would be licened under some kind of open source/permissive license like GPL/BSD/MIT, and art / design assets would be licensed under something like Creative Commons.

The way you'd set this up depends on whether you want to put the whole game out there for people to build, tweak, and distribute, or if you just want people to benefit from the code and enhance the run-time or build their own game.

Also keep in mind that if you put all the art and design assets out there under creative commons, you may not technically lose the copyrights yourself, but you will lose control of the world you've created -- you might retreat to work on the sequel, and return only to find that there have already been several unofficial sequels released. You might find this awesome or disturbing, depending on your ambitions.

#5 rnlf   Members   -  Reputation: 1178

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 06:23 AM

Sound exactly like what I was looking for. Thanks for the keyword to search for. I wasn't quite familar with it yet.

my blog (German)


#6 Jramir   Members   -  Reputation: 109

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 06:27 AM

and if they don't reach the target? Keep the software on their HD wasting the entire investment?




Well, thinking from a cold-bloded point of view, i guess they could whathever they want since this is a voluntary
"donation" and they still abide by the conditions they put upon themselves. On the other hand, from a moral point of view
we start entering in a controversial territory. Considering that some indie games are able to take five-digit investment numbers
using this idea as a "scam" could earn you a place on the black spot of the video game industry for life. Assuming all of this is legal of course.


I thought about doing it the other way around: Release it as paid software, until the target is reached, then open it up.


The point of this idea actually is: see below.

The real point of this is that this method is imune to piracy.
If the game is not available to public until the developers earned their achieved money goal
there is no way to pirate it. And once released it is as equally available as any pirate leak, in fact
is better from a "tinkering/modding" point of view.
In fact this could not even be a game, it may be an engine with an example attached.
And considering the idea of "losing control" of your creation this actually would be the whole point
of the release.

Well, how about that?

#7 rnlf   Members   -  Reputation: 1178

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 07:54 AM

On the other hand, it will be hard to find customers (or donors) if you have nothing to give to them. I think the concept of projects like Kickstarter, where you try to raise the money before you create your game and you only charge the customers/donors/funders if you get all the money required, is of much more use: It will give security to the funders, who know they will not spend money without getting anything in return and it will give security to the creators, who know in advance that they have the money needed to produce the game. It's win-win. But you have to have a killer project to get the funding, that's why I am aiming for the "bounty" method. Not sure if my project is going to be a killer one ;-)

my blog (German)


#8 u   Members   -  Reputation: 211

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 10:05 AM

You are misunderstanding the term "open source". (As almost everybody does nowadays, eh...) It does not mean that you need to give away the whole thing at no charge. You can release the source code to your engine, but keep the assets proprietary. Let me say it again - It is possible to keep the art assets proprietary and still sell the game, even though the code is classified as 100% free/open source as defined by the most diehard advocates of it.

Free/open source software is often criticized that it's hard to monetize, as once you sell the software to someone that someone can give it away for free - well, the situation with games is different. If you have a gigabyte of proprietary art assets then even though people will be able to give away your game engine for free they won't be able to give away the whole game. (Hence you'll still get paid.)

#9 Jastiv   Members   -  Reputation: 146

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 07:22 PM

Well, if it is a persistent multi-player game, you could charge for the server, and for extra features/privileges on the server without having to worry about making a bounty.




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