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Making economically profitable open source games

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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?

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



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.


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

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?

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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 ;-)

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You are misunderstanding the term "open source". (As almost everybody does nowadays, eh...) It does [b]not[/b] 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 [url="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html"]the most diehard advocates of it[/url].

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.)

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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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