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DavidRM

Making Money in Shareware

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Shareware isn't the easiest way to make money, but it's not *that* difficult either. Recent posts about how it's impossible to make money in shareware have begun to annoy me, so I'm posting this in response. 1. Have a product that can reasonably be sold. Have a simple utility you've written that you think might be shareware-worthy? Test it by releasing it as Freeware and see what kind of response you get. If you get a decent enough response, then it's probably worth putting some extra effort into it and then releasing it as shareware (probably time-limited). As a corollary...if *you* wouldn't pay for what you're trying to sell, it's hard to count on other people paying for it either. 2. Don't give the product away. If you want people who use your software to pay you, you have to give them a reason why. The most commmon "reason" is that the software simply stops working after a set time period. Nagging people to death sometimes works, but usually just annoys the piss out of 'em. But I guarantee you that you'll see almost *no* *none* *zero* *zilch* *Not One* payment if don't insist on it. Sure, some people will pay even if they don't have to (Hell, I paid for WinAmp when it still had a fee...but after more than a year of use and mostly on principle). 3. Make it STUNNINGLY EASY to pay for the product. If it isn't easy to pay for you product, you're hampering yourself in a serious manner. Don't hide the "Register" button on a sub-menu...hell...don't even it call "Registering"...that's a word that has no real meaning outside of the shareware industry. Make it obvious, like "Buy The Journal!" or "Purchase Citizenship!" This also includes supporting as many payment options as you can. Credit cards, especially. If that means you give up as much 10%-15% of your cost to the payment processor, that's what it means. You wouldn't have the sale if not for them, in most cases. And don't forget your international customers...make it easy on them, too. 4. Provide prompt support via email. Answer all email inquiries within 24 hours AT MOST. Answer the same day if you can. People on the Internet have very little patience. They expect immediate information and that includes immediate answers. This includes processing payments. Don't make someone wait more than 24 hours for you to process their payment. Trust me, it pisses them off. Hell, some of them get annoyed at waiting 1-2 hours. 5. Get listed on as many large shareware pages as possible. CNet, ZDNet, TUCOWS (if applicable), and so on. They are your BEST FRIENDS. Get listed on them. Pay attention to their rating systems. Learn what you need to improve/fix to get a higher rating from them. 6. Be patient. This is probably the most important one. Don't expect to get stunning wealthy overnight. Don't even expect to get a payment in your first 1-2 months of release. And then expect to build slowly. Persistance pays off. 7. Don't try to get rich off of just one product. If you can, either figure out ways to get people to pay you multiple times (upgrades, add-on modules, or whatever) for the same product. Or get started on something else you can sell. Multiple streams of income are what you want. Each one by itself may not be enough to live on, but once you have 2-3 all contributing their small amounts, it adds up. For more information about selling shareware, check out the Association of Shareware Professionals: http://www.asp-shareware.org (oops, thanks for the correction Wavinator) DavidRM
Samu Games
Edited by - DavidRM on 10/4/00 5:09:21 PM

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Hey David,

That was a killer post.
I love stuff like this. It inspires me to work on my on projects.

You really want to hear a success story of shareware, then visit SpiderWeb Software.

-Coleco

http://www.spidweb.com



~ c o l ec o ~



Rock the cradle of love!
You stupid WANKER!

--HASBRO SUCKS--

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Question for DavidRM (or anyone else with the experience):
Assuming a game of reasonable quality with graphics that will still be comparable in a few years, what kind of life span does a shareware game have? For instance, I''m thinking if I release my game to 3DFiles and DemoNews and all of those sites that will generate thousands of downloads, I will get a lot of orders right away, but then as the months go by, it will slip off the front page, and it will just get lost in the thousands and thousands of Happy Puppy or ZDNet download files. I''ve heard someone say that you should put 10% of earnings back into advertising and publicity to get maximum sales. Does anyone have any experience with this??

P.S. I just noticed the banner for Samu Games while I was writing this...hehe!



Zeus Interactive

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Hi David,

Making a soft to be time-limited, is not trivial. Which software is reliable or often used to make a time-limited version?

James

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BigCarlito:

I don''t know what the "average lifespan" is for shareware games (or other software). Someone may have compiled this statistic, but I haven''t seen it.

However, from my own experience...

The Journal - Released as shareware in October, 1996, still selling today, still getting stronger. I expect the next release for it will be before the end of the year.

Paintball NET - Now offline, but originally launched in February, 1996, as shareware in August, 1996. We originally expected it would last about 6 months. It was online and growing for 4 years before we pulled the plug (primarily for support overhead issues).

Artifact - Released in Oct, 1999, it''s about to hit its first birthday. It''s been growing quite nicely, and we expect it to continue to growing for a long time (2-3 years, maybe?). We''re working on a major upgrade for Artifact that should be released in about a month. That will help kickstart the growth to a new level (we hope ;-) ).

A way to keep your software from "fading into oblivion" is to never stop releasing updates. Incorporate feedback from your users/players into the next release. Fix the bugs they report to you. And so on. Users/players *love* to see that their issues are being dealt with, and that their suggestions are taken seriously (even if you don''t do it *exactly* the way they suggested). Probably don''t want to relese a new version more often than once a month, and I like to work in a 3-month cycle. Your mileage may vary.

----------------

jamesH:

Time-limiting software is pretty easy. Just store the first time they used the software and track days. The tricky part is preventing the user from easily "reseting" the time limit.

There are a number of different components you can find that make this task easier for you. I used a couple of these, but eventually I chose to implement my own method. It''s not completely foolproof (nothing is, trust me), but it has proven to "raise the bar" sufficiently to at least make hacking it non-trivial.

That''s only for The Journal, though. For our games, we don''t have to worry about it because they are client-server style games. Tracking whether a player has paid or not is handled strictly on the server, so there''s nothing that can be "hacked" on the player/client side.

On time-limiting, though, you have 2 primary problems:
1. Tracking how many days the software has been used (and detecting the more common methods of "faking it", like setting the clock back).
2. Hiding your tracking information and/or making it "persistant enough" that it''s not easily hammered and they get to start over.

#1 is simple...and detecting the clock-setback is as easy as tracking the last time they used the software. If the current use of the software is *before* the last use, the time-limit has just expired.

#2 is the tricky part, as I said before. Some people try to bury the information in the Registry, some in the various Windows folders, some in both. Pick your poison, but try to be as low-impact as possible. It''s annoying to have too much "crap" left lying around on your PC by someone''s half-assed time-locking attempt.

Hope that''s helpful.


DavidRM
Samu Games

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Very good post, David. Most especially #6, be patient. Never giving up is the key to success. Everyone who has succeeded hasn''t given up, while no one who gives up succeeds.

As for the lifespan of a shareware game, no one knows yet, it hasn''t been long enough. It will probably depend on the lifespan of the platform. A lot of shareware DOS games lasted as long as DOS lasted. Most current successful shareware Windows games will last as long as Windows lasts.

Thomas Warfield
http://www.goodsol.com

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Just had to put my $.02 in on this one.

When it comes to matters like this I like to use my brother as a reference... He makes web apps and little tools. Mostly in Perl and java-script. He sells them online, and a few of his items have done very well for him. For the sake of privacy, I won''t disclose how much he has made, but to give you an idea, the idea of quiting his full time job and doing this full time has passed his mind. Don''t get me wrong, This is not normally what can be expected! However, it shows what can be done. He releases things a little different than has been suggested. Again, I don''t necessarily suggest copying this method, but it has worked for him. He releases the item and let''s you download it to use. He relys on the downloader to pay if they continue to use it. The large majority don''t actually pay for it, but with the massive amounts of downloads the percent that do add up. He believes in "Try before you buy." Now this may not work well for games, or even all apps, but it''s another idea to consider. Here are a few links to his sites for you to take a look at...
http://www.mattkruse.com/
http://www.calendarscript.com/

Always remember, you''''re unique. Just like everyone else.

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DavidRM - this was an excellent article and has got me thinking about how to market my eventual product. I am currently working on something, but didn''t know whether to make the first release freeware, shareware, or even retail. You''ve given me alot to think about. You should write a full blown article on the subject of sharewaring/marketing... Seriously.
Thanks again
BC

- Free Your Mind -

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How ironic. A practically-anonymous poster (the ELLE account was created only one hour before posting here) resurects this thread from the 10-month old ashes, presumably to spew a bunch of crap about it, and everyone responds about how helpful it is. Maybe we could just let ELLE dig through the archives and pull the rest of the good threads back up to the top every once in a while.

Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Taking Puzzle Games to A Whole New Dimension

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Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

10-month ashes? Look again, LordKronos...nearly 2 years have passed since this thread was active.

I posted this originally in October, 2000. I had clean forgotten about it. Though I did use parts of it in a presentation I made in early 2001 (to the computer club at the college where I graduated).

For those who are curious, ELLE''s...contributions?...were simply a copy-and-paste of a get-rich-quick email involving a chain-letter scam.

DavidRM
Samu Games

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quote:
Original post by DavidRM
10-month ashes? Look again, LordKronos...nearly 2 years have passed since this thread was active.


Hmmmm. Guess I better figure out which year I''m in...before its completely over

That''s funny though, because it seems like I''ve read it more recently than that. I guess I must have just been digging through the archives at some point.

Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Taking Puzzle Games to A Whole New Dimension

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DavidRM - I hadn''t realized the original date of the post and considering it WAS almost 2 years since the original post I have a couple questions for you:

1)Is everything in your orignal post still valid with the current economy?

2)just curious, How are your software sales doing? (journal, artifact, etc)

Thanks
BC

- Free Your Mind -

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brewknowc:

When the post re-surfaced like it did, I re-read it with the same questions in mind. Overall, I think it''s as valid now as it was then. If a bit general.

So, to answer your questions:

1) Sure. If you want to sell copies, you have to provide a compelling reason to buy them, and you have to make them easy to buy. That''s not going to change, regardless of the economic climate.

2) Sales of The Journal have never stopped growing, though we''re not talking meteoric growth or anything like that. Just each year continues to be stronger than the previous year. And it''s not like the product is standing still. I continue to make new releases, and made a major one last year.

Artifact sales stalled in 2001. We actually had "negative growth" in 2001. I''d blame the terrorist in September, but the damage actually began in the summer... In short, 2001 *sucked*. 2002 has been much more positive and things are looking much brighter.


My biggest shortcoming has always been in following the advice in #7: "Don''t try to get rich off of just one product." I''ve always found it easier to continue working on an existing project than starting a new one.


DavidRM
Samu Games

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That last point is especially valid. So often I sit at the PC thinking I can do another update/re-release of StarLines INC rather than start a new game with all the effort that entails. I guess you just have to bite the bullet now and then and start afresh, and once you are at the end of another product ( as I am now) you feel much better about it than doing another re-release.
Now if only I had a great idea for another game....

http://www.positech.co.uk

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I have an idea about that last one too...
One word people : Sequels! ;-) generally you could
use some of the same code, graphics and whatnot to
continue to update and improve an already existing
product. But as it changes over time people would
buy each game as a new game, and in fact it would
actually advertise itself, like a franchise.

Keith

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To address your question:

What do you think will convince them to play more, taking away features that they haven''t seen or taking away the game that they have seen.

One is based upon building a game that will hook them, the other is built off making a game that will intrigue them and make them wonder what else is available.

If you feel your game has high replayability, I''d go with time limiting it, if it''s a role-playing game, or a game that has a definite goal in mind, I''d suggest going with something that would simply not allow progress beyond a certain point. Basically give them as long as they want, with all the features, but limit the level and the areas they can access to the first 1/4th of the game.

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