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BKBen7

Is 'Shareware' still a viable market?

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It seems to me that most 'shareware' market (ie. pay for full version, donation) games seem to fail miserably at: 1. Gaining money for the author. It seems setting up a method of payment and a reliable registration system would be more costly then its worth for a small shareware game, besides probably 90% of the people who try the game will uninstall it after the first play anyway on seeing that its shareware. (I may be biased here, cause I'm cheap, but I think speak for most gamers when I say that.) 2. Making a name for the game/author. And if it does give you a name, unless your software is exceptionally good it'll probably be 'money-whore' or something to the effect of that. 3. Stopping piracy of game. If the game isnt popular this won't be an issue, but if it is, it'll be hacked/cracked within a weeks time so there really isnt any point in using shareware to stop piracy of the game.. So anyway my point is, why go shareware? Why not stick to free? or online payment before getting the game. You'll probably never make a return on your expenses, unless the game is very popular, in which case going shareware limits how much you'll recieve. Now, I am probably missing many points of view here, so please someone give me an opposing one.

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Original post by BKBen7
Now, I am probably missing many points of view here, so please someone give me an opposing one.

Here's mine.
Quote:
Original post by BKBen7
It seems to me that most 'shareware' market (ie. pay for full version, donation) games seem to fail miserably at:

1. Gaining money for the author.
It seems setting up a method of payment and a reliable registration system would be more costly then its worth for a small shareware game, besides probably 90% of the people who try the game will uninstall it after the first play anyway on seeing that its shareware. (I may be biased here, cause I'm cheap, but I think speak for most gamers when I say that.)

Untrue.

I am very closely related to three businesses, all producing shareware apps. They are quite profitable. [grin] The most profitable one currently has seven full-time employees, each making a respectable income. The next most profitable is one of my good friends, currently pulling in just over $130,000 this year. We just played Settlers of Catan over at his house the other night and we were talking about the 'problem' of all the money. The third most profitable makes a few hundred bucks each month, enough to cover the ISP costs and provide some justification to my wi... er, THEIR wife.

I know of several other shareware businesses that are very profitable.
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Original post by BKBen7
2. Making a name for the game/author.

And if it does give you a name, unless your software is exceptionally good it'll probably be 'money-whore' or something to the effect of that.

That should not be the motivation.

You are talking about a business. Businesses (generally) aren't in it because a person wants to be well known. They are in business to make money. There is no other purpose to start a business other than to make money.

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Original post by BKBen7
3. Stopping piracy of game.

If the game isnt popular this won't be an issue, but if it is, it'll be hacked/cracked within a weeks time so there really isnt any point in using shareware to stop piracy of the game..

This is an issue with all software, nothing specific to shareware. There are many good posts all through gamedev (especially under "the Business of Game Development") that discuss this in depth.

In shareware, finding out that somebody has hacked or cracked your software is a mixed complement (and annoyance). It shows that people like it enough that they are willing to steal it. Remember the DivX movies that the retailors couldn't give away, and nobody would even bother to steal? Having a product that people actually want to steal is a good thing.

In summary, it boils down to two questions: Will the people who pirate it encourage others to obtain / buy it? Would the people who pirate have purchased a copy anyway? In other words, are the piraters leaching it, or giving you advertising? It's an open question.
Quote:
Original post by BKBen7
So anyway my point is, why go shareware? Why not stick to free? or online payment before getting the game. You'll probably never make a return on your expenses, unless the game is very popular, in which case going shareware limits how much you'll recieve.

It's a business choice.

In order of your comments:

Shareware gives the people an opportunity to try the game out and see if they like it.

Free is good, but not for a business. I know of several people who develop and give away their games simply for the joy of doing it.

Online payments before getting the game is generally stupid. Why should I pay for something that I have never seen, never tried, and may not be any good? Unless it comes from a MAJOR company, like Adobe or Microsoft, buying software sight-unseen is a bad idea.

As far as making a return on expenses, you need to act like a business. Tech businesses are not profitable out of the chute. If you expect it to, you are being unrealistic.

Absolutely required reading to answer your question is the article Shareware Amateurs vs. Shareware Professionals Pay special attention to the part where he talks about how many versions you need before you start to see profit.

That article is in the running a game business reference section of the site. The articles explain why it is a business solution, and often the most viable option.


Professionals **will** become profitable, even if they have to start (and fail) on several businesses before succeeding.

frob.
Owner of Family Friendly Games. Child's play for the Pocket PC.

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Original post by BKBen7
It seems to me that most 'shareware' market (ie. pay for full version, donation) games seem to fail miserably at:

1. Gaining money for the author.

It seems setting up a method of payment and a reliable registration system would be more costly then its worth for a small shareware game, besides probably 90% of the people who try the game will uninstall it after the first play anyway on seeing that its shareware. (I may be biased here, cause I'm cheap, but I think speak for most gamers when I say that.)


I don't know what experiences or references you have, but I'll just say that if getting a merchant account or paying a small fee for a payment processor is too expensive, then you aren't seriously thinking about sales. You don't use shareware to make a dollar here and there.

Also, 90% sounds optimistic if the "standard" 1% conversion rate is accurate. But some people make a decent living off of 1%, and others do well with 5%. 5% of 10,000 downloads a week is a lot, even if it doesn't sound like it.

Anyway, the point is that if you use shareware or any other marketing method and expect mediocre results, then you will probably get them. Some people say advertising doesn't work. I imagine that you wouldn't spend money on advertising in a lazy manner and then claim it doesn't work, right? Shareware has helped make people very rich, but some people never get beyond the "Why can't I sell games?!?" mentality. I concur that it is important that you read Steve Pavlina's article on shareware professionals vs shareware amateurs.

Quote:

2. Making a name for the game/author.

And if it does give you a name, unless your software is exceptionally good it'll probably be 'money-whore' or something to the effect of that.


I will disagree here and say that while businesses are about making money, I don't think they should ever be about money exclusively. In the end the business surives on cash flow and sales, but you don't have to sell your soul to do so. Also, if your goal is to use your business to become famous, then set it is as your goal. Don't be afraid.

And why does making shareware result in a label as "money-whore"? I've read a number of articles and books that make reference to the guilt people feel asking for money for their work. Why be afraid? You don't think it is good enough? Make it better! Nervous? Don't be. If you don't ask, you won't find out if they will pay for it. If they won't pay for it, you figure out what would change their minds.

Quote:

3. Stopping piracy of game.

If the game isnt popular this won't be an issue, but if it is, it'll be hacked/cracked within a weeks time so there really isnt any point in using shareware to stop piracy of the game..



You would be surprised at how many honest people are in the world. Not everyone is out to get a free lunch.

For those that are, the Association of Shareware Professionals is just one organization dealing with them. Other people are of the mind that pirates will always pirate, while others have evidence that if they are forced to pay, they will. Some think that you should concentrate on making a good game and ignore the pirates, while others seem to make it their life's mission to stop them from getting any free fun. Generally, the rule is to figure out how much you're willing to pay for preventing piracy and then not pay more than that.

Quote:

So anyway my point is, why go shareware? Why not stick to free? or online payment before getting the game. You'll probably never make a return on your expenses, unless the game is very popular, in which case going shareware limits how much you'll recieve.

Now, I am probably missing many points of view here, so please someone give me an opposing one.


Well, if you give it away free, you better have some other way to make sales. If you take payments before getting the game, it still doesn't stop a pirate from giving away the game afterwards. And some people make enough to cover expenses. Actually, more than just some people. And again, quite a few make a very good living off of shareware, specifically shareware games.

So why shareware? Because shareware is good for the customer. He/She gets to try your game first, see if it is worth it, and feel confident if he/she decides to buy it. Retail games are scary because that's generally $40-$60 for a game that you can't try and in most cases can't return. Does it work on my system? Will I enjoy it? With shareware, I can find out. With off-the-shelf games, I can't. It's called risk reversal. You won't spend money unless you think you are making a good decision. Money back guarantees, secure transactions, the knowledge that this game IS what you want as opposed to just guessing...these are all ways in which I can convince you that giving me your money for a game is better than for you to keep the money in your pocket. Read Jay Abraham's Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got for more details.

Also, shareware is just a marketing method. Try before you buy. That's it. If you don't think that letting a customer try the game before asking for payment is viable, the question should be, "What other way of marketing your game do you propose?"

I think that shareware requires a little bit of trust on the author's part. If you don't think you can trust your potential customers with a demo or your actual customers with the full copy, then what do you expect to do instead?

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the downloadable game market is litteraly exploding !

If you make a inexpensive but cool downloadable game you will make money. If there was no money to be made why would microsoft , electronic art , disney would open up there own game portals for people to download trial versions and buy later on ?

There is also a lot of space left for indie developers... just look at how the same game can be on literaly 100 portals...

Lots of people are making money doing knockoff of more popular indie games. Some are making totaly fresh games... there is some risks... but if you do it well you will succeed.

DO IT ! make games... destroy popcap and the like ;) take your share of the market !

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