The shareware model revisited.

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by zoombapup, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    These days, everyone seems to be doing a demo version and a full version.

    I am thinking of doing something different for a small project. I'm thinking of basically going to a rather different model, almost akin to the old shareware model (get the game free, buy the next installments).

    My plan involves releasing the core product for free, then having additional content for sale, either as a large pack, or as a microtransaction (depending on a number of external factors).

    So, question is, what happened to the old shareware model where the player got to really sample the product. Was it giving away too much? Did the shift to demo/full change the spread of the products involved?

    Anyone ever try the old shareware model vs the new demo/full model?
     
  2. Andy

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    Like an additional levels? What really the discovery is about?

    OLD shareware model was really a little bit different - like get EVERYTHING for free and pay money if you can and appreciate the content.
    I believe it was born by very simple reason - this was kind of hobby (additional income wouldn't be bad but not necessary), so peoples were able to act by such way. As soon as you look at this as you main business you should think twice before giving away results of your efforts for free.

    Or did I get everything wrong as always? :)
     
  3. zoombapup

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    Ok, let me qualify it a bit then.

    When I talk about the shareware model, I'm talking about that used with games, such as the Apogee games, the ID software stuff, Epic etc.

    Basically, you used to get the first 10/12 "levels" for free, then you would buy the next 20 levels as add-on content for your registration fee.

    I think the biggest advantage of that, is that the initial cost is "free" and that value has a lot to be argued with. You then see the price of the additional content and you mentally factor in the "free" stuff you just consumed and you think "yeah, thats reasonble".

    I'm just wondering if that initial mental hint of value is strong enough to drive additional sales.

    The whole point comes down to wether people think that a time limited "demo" is enough percieved value to tip the point towards a sale, or wether it would be better to have X amount of content, with the promise of "X*3" if you buy.

    Perhaps people who arent seeing good sales on the demo/full route are simply not offering enough value in thier demo?
     
  4. Ratboy

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    I imagine it depends on how much high-quality content you have to spread through those thirty levels. The old id/Apogee stuff had piles of it.
     
  5. Applewood

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    I think one thing you really must present well is the ability for these users to actually buy more levels/stuff.

    If they get the "whole" game free, a lot of people won't buy more of it I'm sure. Possibly less than those who would've bought under the standard demo/full model but I'm speculating. I feel like you're offering more opportunity to let potential punters off the hook, but it is just a feeling - nothing backing it up.

    Of those that might buy, it needs to be really easy and obvious how they might do so. At the very least I'd recommend a "content management" screen in your front end with a big ass "Buy more kit" button predominant in it. After clicking that, the next thing they should have to do is type in credit card details - no more hoops.

    There's no guarantee they will have bookmarked your download site for one thing. Maybe they got it on a demo disk or something and never went there - the original game is free after all, it could come from anywhere if you're marketing it well. In fact, this is begging for viral marketing and if you're successful then probably *most* players won't have gotten it direct from your site.

    Just some thoughts. Again, nothing to back them up as I've never done this myself.
     
  6. Qitsune

    Qitsune New Member

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    If I remember well the shareware version of Doom was really just 1 or 2 levels and since we didn't have the internet, we had to buy it, it was something like 3$ for the floppy, which we thought was dirt cheap, until we realised what they meant by shareware. I'm not sure you could get away with stuff like that today, people are way more savvy as consumers.
     
  7. cliffski

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    you are basically trying to compete on price. I'm not sure that has ever really worked with entertainment. There are tens of thousands of albums I could have bought cheaper than the new Dream Theater album, but this was irrelevant, I knew what band I liked.

    There is a whole generation of kids growing up who think all music should be free, and many people coming to the insane belief all software should be free too. These are the people who will enjoy your free game, and then give you a hard time on the internet for trying to 'con' them by making them pay for extra stuff. You will be accused of 'selling out' as well.

    Plus your game will be labeled as freeware. To many people, not without some justification, freeware means cheap and low quality, especially with games. You may actually get less people who have money trying your game, and people who just want something free are useless to you, they will just cost you bandwidth fees.
     
  8. Adrian Cummings

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    Yes actually I've never really liked the term 'Shareware' or 'Freeware' - I prefer Commercial (i.e. the consumer has to pay for it after trying the FREE demo version) else I don't see how I personally can make any money from it all otherwise.

    Shareware always reminded me of PD (as in Public Domain) and that in turn reminds me of all those so-so Amiga/ST/PC magazine coverdisks of yesteryear with mostly rank products on them (ewe) :)
     
  9. KNau

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    It comes down to whether the game design is appropriate for that method. Strategy, platform and FPSs are content-based games and part of their appeal is "what's around the corner?", "what does the next map look like?". If you can hook a player that way, they'll buy your game even if there are clones available.
     
  10. Andy

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    I hardly believe one would be able to hook up anyone by sales model. Good game is needed at first. The model - well - it could add a couple sales being chosen and implemented properly. But not anything above a couple of percents.

    I don't like when one starts to dicuss idSoftware model. They forget ( or don't pay enough attention ) about the fact that idSoft got a revolutionary game and technology in the first turn. Yeah, I was living at that times so I do remember that shock for sure. :D
     
  11. KNau

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    Yeah, I suppose it helps when no one else has a game quite like yours :)

    In my comment I was trying to say how this might work for content-based games but I don't think it would for the typical shareware game, which is more experience-based (for lack of a better term). People play Mystery Case Files because they like the experience of "looking" and "noticing" things, not because they're dying to see what objects they have to find in the next room. So giving them 10 levels of free play is pointless because they get the entire game experience in the first 15 minutes. In fact the hour long demos are probably being too generous for these games.

    If you've got an original game where new levels actually mean something (not just a new paint job) then I think the plan could work.

    Certainly giving away the core game for free would give you far more downloads and consistent web traffic than the demo / sales model and that puts you in the driver's seat as far as monetization goes. If you can pull in $3,000 - $5,000 monthly from site traffic then maybe you'll decide not to sell level packs at all and just give them away to maintain that traffic level.

    You'll never know until you try but the more I look into it the less interested I am in the demo / conversion model, so my point of view is a little tainted.
     
  12. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I think microtransactions are the future for this stuff. XBLA has a beautiful system for this but nobody seems to be using it fully yet. Content packs are ok, but I want the option to buy just one decent sniper rifle please. Etc.

    I see an RTS game where you get all the basic tanks in the game but you can buy some second tier tanks for a bit extra and a mammoth ubertank for two bucks.

    You can release new widgets all the time and people will buy them.

    Game balancing needs to be taken into account, but that shouldn't be too hard. Especially if you up the ante slowly (over years) you can practically force people to buying the new bits without them noticing it. Like M:TG

    One day someone's going to implement some microtransaction system that indies can use to monetise stuff like this and they will reap the rewards I'm sure. Please!
     
  13. soniCron

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    I used to think the same, Phil, but I've since come to realize it's an unrealistic pipedream, for a very important reason:

    It only works in a domain in which there is little-available or hard-to-get content, but still a strong demand. The domain can be defined as any number of factors, some of which compound: price point, platform, genre, and lifestyle (mobile vs. sit-down-and-play, for example).

    In the days shareware reigned, access to shareware was limited, usually only available by mail-order. You had to pay $3 for a disk and wait a week or two for it to arrive. (You might have been one of the bleeding-edge users and got your shareware from a BBS, but it's just as likely you got the full version from that same BBS, and so why buy at all?)

    In this regard, even though there may have been millions of shareware games around the world, it was tightly filtered through an access point: Only a handful made it into the shareware catalogs. (And they were often the same games, month-to-month.) The intra-domain competition was, at least in the eyes of the user, very low.

    Then comes the Internet.

    All of a sudden, this entire world of shareware products explodes, and everything you could ever want is at your fingertips. Catalogs grow exponentially. Niches bloom into genres. The audience expands, the potential blossoms, and it becomes a very attractive proposition for developers, new and old.

    Then the space floods.

    Competition is fierce. It takes more and more to stand out. The model used previously is changing. Developers don't have to encourage their visitors to share their wares, anymore--anyone can get them in the blink of a baud over the net. And one thing is abundantly clear:

    Soft-selling isn't working anymore.

    With all the competition, no player goes without a game. There's an alternative to everything out there. You can play an episode a day and not run out of games to play.

    And developers eventually wised up, realized the landscape had changed. What was necessary before (encouraging people to share the software) was not only not necessary anymore, but actually hurt. Soft-sell gave way to hard-sell: 3 guns, 2 levels, 1 hour...

    And it worked!

    But now we are in another, different world with portals aggregating game releases. They still adhere to the old "proven" practices, ignoring the reality of the changing landscape. No longer is even an hour of gameplay enough. Because, even with only an hour of play, a user can move on to any number of the clones and get their fix, without spending a cent. (And this is, of course, ignoring the gaping hole introduced by the portals' failure to work together and disallow cross-site extension of trial limits.)

    So what we need more of, is less.

    Less trial time. Less content per trial. Less time spent thinking about what used to work in a different domain.

    So no, Phil, I don't think it would do anything but hurt you. Unless you've got some revolutionary design under your sleeve. Or a brand-new platform. Or a new way to play. Unless you're expanding a new domain, I think you're bound to hit a brick wall.

    Either change the game or change the way it's played. But don't revert to a market model that served an entirely different landscape, one which is inapplicable today.

    That said, I don't see any reason you can't hard-sell the first bit and sell add-ons, etc after the fact.

    If you do give away the first bit, you've really got to stand out!

    IMHO.
     
  14. bignobody

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    It sure isn't working for me! Shlongg is very soft sell - 8 levels, fully featured (minus the level editor) and no expiration. Sales have been very disappointing, and I think my generosity with the demo is a major factor.

    I don't feel right changing it now, but the lesson has been learned. My next one will definitely have a harder sell...
     
  15. cliffski

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    It could be said that if nobody complains about the length of the demo, it's too long. you want to get people just at the point where they are seriously disappointed that it runs out.

    the demo time limit thing is broken anyway, as sonicron said, people hop to another portal and get another hour. Feature liming is where the action is. I know portals hate anything that doesn't fit their nice juicy all-game-work-the-same system, but having separate demo and full version is easy to do (i think arcadetown do it) and would be MUCH better for conversion rates IMHO.
     
  16. Maupin

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    No offense meant, but I'd also expect the name of your game is a turn off to most people. Especially parents.
     
  17. bignobody

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    Yep, that's probably the other major factor ;) (edit:although, the name certainly doesn't stop people from downloading the demo). I'm not sure if it's related or not, but about half of the sales are from countries where English is not the official language...

    Regards,
     
  18. KG_Brad

    KG_Brad New Member

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    How many units have you... Oh, nevermind. This isn't Gibbage, let's not do that again ;)

    Anyway, in my upcoming game, I plan on releasing about five levels in the shareware version and certain weapons will be off limits. That's what old id Software/Apogee games did and it worked (even when it wasn't a revolutionary game.)
     
    #18 KG_Brad, Sep 22, 2007
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  19. KNau

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    For the Big Fish catalogue I think they'd do just as well with 1/2 hour demos. People would cry foul but I think they get the whole experience (with the possible exception of Aveyond) in that time anyways. By then they've either succeeded in the upsell or the player has moved on. It's not quite an impulse buy, but pretty darned close.

    At some point you have to get realistic about the game you have on your hands and whether you're in a position for feature limiting. Limiting features has to be done right to work. Clipping the save game feature off of Virtual Villagers wouldn't be enough to make me buy. It would have to be a real benefit, something that improves the game not just extends it.

    Why not vary your strategy depending on the game you are selling? If you've got a simple puzzle / arcade game then time lock it. If you've got something a little more involved then feature lock it. If you've got a derivative RPG that you don't think anyone will buy - give it away and sell micro-transaction upgrades. There's no law that says your methods have to be consistent across all products.
     
  20. dma

    dma New Member

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    I don't agree, they've already tried that with at least a couple of games a year or so ago. I didn't buy either, because they didn't interest me. An hour is good. If your game isn't interesting enough after that time, it probably won't be interesting after a shorter time period.

    Zuma was the first "casual" game I ever bought, and the reason was because even with an hour demo, I still felt I HAD to have it. Make something that is relatively "new" and interesting as Zuma was back then, and you'll have something that will sell. Make a Zuma clone today, and even 30 minutes or less won't get the same amount of people to buy it.
     

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