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Monetizing Free Games

PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:38 pm
by kylesgames
I spit out some conjecture:

tl;dr: To make a truly free game, you need everyone to have the same potential play experience except you probably can't have a free print version (though you can try to make a very cheap one; one of the things I'm doing with Segira is making it have a strict 32 page limit—a booklet print of Segira should be achievable fairly cheaply at a POD vendor.

Crowdfunding seems most likely to result in finished products with a good budget, but the downside is finding a way to secure those funds without ostracizing your audience or failing to offer anything of value.

Also, I'm self-funding at least part of PROJECT HAMMER and all of Segira. Pity me.

Re: Monetizing Free Games

PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:33 am
by Onix
The main way you monetize a free game is to have a free game and then move on to new games. Maybe using the same system, maybe not. The reason the free game is important is because you get several things out of it.

If it's good, you may have a following.
You can say "I've designed games before, I have this many titles to my name."
Potential buyers can use the free games as reference to see if they like your style.
Probably most important, you get practice in designing games.

My first game was tuned over 8 years of play, it worked and it was fun but nowhere near professional. I never published it. My first published game, The Artifact has been getting tweaked for 20 years. It's a huge project that was meant as a quick little thing I'd whip off. Steampunkfitters really never got finished, it's quirky and takes a lot of practice, but it's cool when you get the hang of it I worked on it for a year or two. I can point to it as a point of design diversity though. I've been working on some for sale projects more recently and trying to get my production cycle to be much shorter. Most small publishers do better when they have a larger cluster of titles each bringing in a small bit of revenue.

Re: Monetizing Free Games

PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 4:36 am
by Rob Lang
The lumbering beard rises from slumber and jacks the zombie thread...

Interesting perspective there. I don't design free games as a marketing ploy to upsell, I do it only for a hobby. That's not intended as a jibe or a slant but as a choice for me.

I've long mulled this for Icar. Icar is The Free Science Fiction RPG and I have never intended on selling it. I want people to download it without any sense that they are beholden to pay or play it! Download, look at the pictures and leave it on the hard-drive is fine by me. This isn't a religious thing. I don't think that others should do this; it just fits how I view Icar.

It's been free to download since it went online in 1996. I would receive emails from gamers who wanted to throw a buck or two my way to say thank you but I would have to reply in a very British apologetic manner to say that there wasn't any need (or indeed any way). I would thank them for the huge compliment.

When PayPal came along, I put a button on the website, it was there to "buy me lunch" so that people could drop me a dollar. I think I got 5 dollars in as many years.

I uploaded Icar to DriveThruRPG because that had become the de facto standard place to put it. They then added the feature of Pay What You Want and suddenly I was left with a quandary: is PWYW the same as the PayPal button?

In its basic form, no it's not. PWYW suggests (to me) that:

I'm expecting something from you. Pay what ever you want but I'm expecting something.

That's not what the PayPal button meant.

I'm not expecting anything at all. If you really want to say thank you with cash, then here's a button

The sentiment is quite different.

Then DriveThruRPG added "Suggested price". This made me very happy. Now I could say:

Pay What You Want but I suggest you give me nothing.

Much better. As a designer, I could set myself apart from those (like Kyle) who would like to make some cash. I don't really want to make money but I appreciate that some like to donate.

However, there is a catch. Later in the process, DriveThru shows what the average payment is. That pressures the downloader into paying some amount. I'd rather they didn't do that but I understand it. I'm definitely in a niche.

The donations have trickled in since August 2014 and I do get a warm glow of delight to see a few dollars here and there. Since August 2014, there's been $243.20 (USD after DriveThru fees) but I'm more interested in the 4187 downloads over that period! Usually about 70-80 a month, which is amazing. That fills me with huge joy.

Here's a little chart of the donations:


Re: Monetizing Free Games

PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 1:45 pm
by Onix
I am thinking of going to the model Rob mentions (PWYW) for The Artifact if I ever do a fourth edition. I'm playing another setting with the engine to see if my changes work.

Re: Monetizing Free Games

PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:51 pm
by kylesgames
So I've found another solution to monetizing free games, but it requires a little bit of extra elbow-grease.

Since late March I've been writing on steemit, which is a cryptocurrency powered social media site. Since I've started, I estimate I've made around $200, which is mostly fluke, and it's a PITA to get steem into actual cash money. There's also the whole fluctuating value thing (I've been lucky and it's been going up).

Now, that's something of a generous estimate and does basically come to about $7/hour for my time investment, but it's a lot more than I've been making on DriveThruRPG.

Most of the money I've gotten has come from writing about game design and storytelling rather than games themselves, but there's definitely some to be made by publishing games through the steemit platform. There's something of a lacking gaming community over there, but it may be useful.

I generally consider it a long-form Twitter; it's great for stuff you want to publish to everyone, and I've gotten better engagement there than on any other platform I'm on.