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shareware vs demoware vs crippleware

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Suppose you are about to release your first game. Also suppose it is a high quality, very fun arcade style game, and you think it will sell. There are some obvious questions about how to go about it, such as : Should you let it go as shareware and hope people will pay for it? Or cripple it in some way, like limit how long it can run (say, 5 minutes) or make it pop up an annoying 'buy me' screen for 5 seconds when it starts? How and where would you as a solo indie developer promote it? (Obviously you would say *something* on gamedev.net :) ) Any thoughts on this? -Jason

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None of the above?

I would likely try and license it to someone like popcap [if web] or those little acrade game compilation publishers.

Should that fail, I would release it for free in the hope that it would help me sell my next game, or land me a job with a funded studio.

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Quote:
Should you let it go as shareware and hope people will pay for it?


You mean giving the whole game for free and asking for donations? That's not shareware, and nobody would pay.

Quote:
Or cripple it in some way, like limit how long it can run (say, 5 minutes) or make it pop up an annoying 'buy me' screen for 5 seconds when it starts?


That depends on the game. Play many downloadable games and see how they do it. I recommend Arcade Lines, and also play a few tens of popcap games. In the end your customers will pay for the difference between the fullversion and the demo version. The demo needs to give enough to show how valuable the fullversion is but little enough that there still are much more things in the fullversion than in the demo. It's a tricky balance.

Quote:
How and where would you as a solo indie developer promote it? (Obviously you would say *something* on gamedev.net :) )


Again, see how other games do it. Read the articles on dexterity.com Visit the forums on indiegamer.com Read the newsletter archive on dpdirectory.com


Quote:
Should that fail, I would release it for free in the hope that it would help me sell my next game, or land me a job with a funded studio.


It would fail. If you are willing to give it for free, it probably doesn't have the quality required for popcap to publish it.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
those time-trial things suck for both ends of the deal, because (a) they can be tricked fairly easily into running longer than the allotted time, and (b) it sucks if you install the game, and then go on vacation or something and only actually get to try it once or twice.

i'd say you should make a demo version available for download, with just one or two levels/ (or whatever fits the genre of the game best). and then make them buy the full version when they want more. just my 2 cents...

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Take a lesson from a small music label i like. When they come out with a new CD, they post 2 or 3 "track edits" of 2-4 minutes in length (when the songs are 5-15 minutes long) in MP3 format. You can download these for free and they make good listening. It gives you enough to appreciate and get a feel for the album itself, much more than those lame low-fi 30sec clips some services offer. But you'll realize that you aren't getting the whole song, so you wonder what the rest is like. I *really* appreciate them posting those mini-songs. They are good enough by themselves to put in my media track list and play over and over, but will surely be replaced with the full song when i purchase the CD! I buy the CD happily because i already know what i'm getting and i already know i'll like it.

So what i'm saying is, release your game and make it fully playable but lacking some better features. Like, release 3 levels instead of 9, or the whole game minus some cool weapons, or the whole game but with only Easy and Simple difficulties, or whatever. But make sure the player feels like they are playing, not testing or "evaluating". When they realise they like the game, they may want the "complete" version and would gladly pay for it. Let them play for as long as they want.

Please don't try the nagware approach, and time-limits are a nice solution from the dev's point of view, but they sux0rs and you know it ;-) (plus they can be hacked) I would release something that everyone can enjoy for as long as they want, but i would hold back some parts of it for those that want the whole experience.

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Both time limits and nag screens are effective if done properly for certain kind of games, and are bad ideas for other kinds of games. The easiest is to find a successful game that is similar to yours and just do what they do. The hard but proper way is to test: try different methods and see which does better - this won't work unless you get a decent amount of sales already, and it's pretty hard to get to that point.

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For an arcade style game, I would suggest releasing a free demo version that has all the features of the full version, but only contains the first few levels.

Apogee, id Software and Popcap have used this method successfully.

Making the full game easily obtainable for International users is one of the most important steps.

I've seriously considered purchasing several games based on their demos only to find out that the owner only accepts cheques or money orders in US dollars, which is a pain for those living outside of the States.

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