Hi guys. So in past few weeks I've been researching an alternative business models on Steam (but not only).
As we all know - the golden age of steam is long gone. But after recent Summer Sale fiasco... things went even worse. So now, we got waves of shitty games, game profile features perma-limited (trading cards, achievements and such), visibility rounds nerfed and now - storefront-wide sale stopped being that time of the year when we earn a fair extra.
So I've started looking for another way and came upon Doki Doki Literature Club. The game is freeware but has a $9.99 'Thank you' DLC. That DLC doesn't add a lot to the game - its most showcased and used as a way for the players who enjoyed the game to actually support the developer for giving them the game for free. And to my utmost surprise - there was a lot of people who actually bought that optional DLC and wanted to express their support and gratitude with their wallets.
Now, as Doki Doki is a typical viral example - I started looking for other games who followed Doki Doki's lead and it appears it does work - but of course not always, not with just any games and it doesn't bank as high as Doki Doki's viral case.
===PROs and CONs===
+ HUGE natural reach thx to non-existent entry curve (we are talking millions of players)
+ no refunds (you can't refund DLCs and the base game is free)
+ Higher % of positive reviews (its kind a harder for people to bash something they had been given for FREE)
+ Massive Good PR
+ Bigger media/streamers/letsplayers coverage
+ No WL grinding before the release
+ Could be used as groundwork for your next - paid project.
- No chance for Trading Cards
- No chance for landing on frontpage
- 'Leap of Faith' in terms of monetary viability (as the players are not charged for playing and the game must be truly captivating to push them into willingly purchasing a 100% optional DLC, which is borderline donation at this point)
- Due to no guarantied revenue - the game design and genre is limited (no online/MMO)
- Impossible to spread the awareness of your game by selling Steam Keys on other storefronts as the game is... umm, well - freeware? o.o
=== My take ===
In perfect world - this would be THE model. As you know - we are artists. And the dream of any artist is for his/her creation to reach as many players as possible. And when some money actually rolls in - you know you earned it. Less steam-natural toxicity, butthurtness and hairs going bald or white due to refunds or some freaks review bombing your game.
PS: Keep in mind this model makes any sense only on Steam - where it will have a massive organic reach. Doing the same on some 'flashportal' defeats the purpose as there - you are just another one, out of many. Where on steam - you'll be one of few.
=== The Question ===
Seriously - this route is 'as indie as you can get'. But we all need to eat, pay bills and perhaps not be homeless lol. Any of you went this route? Could you share your take on this? maybe some data? Anyone-anything?