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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.



~ c o l ec o ~

Rock the cradle of love!
You stupid WANKER!


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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?


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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.



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.

Samu Games

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