02 February 2007

Alternatives to the Demo/Full Game Model

A common way to sell shareware games is to offer a demo version that is feature-limited and often time-limited as well. The most extreme cases let you play the game for 30 minutes before locking the demo and preventing further evaluation. As a consumer, these time limitations really bug me, and it often feels like I don't have enough time to make an informed decision about the longevity of the game. Now that I'm going to be selling games myself, I'll have to decide a strategy that is lenient enough that my consumer self would find it appealing, but at the same time aggressive enough to create sales. This leaves time-limitations right out. My personal distaste for them is too great to include those in my own games even if it'd guarantee more sales (and I'm not so certain that it would).

What I'd really like to do is to offer a compelling and functional game for free. Something that doesn't have any obvious or crippling limitations and that can be enjoyed as a complete (albeit simple) game. So instead of a trial version and full version, I'd like to think of my games having a basic version and a premium version. I.e. the basic version would be a complete game in its own right, but by paying for the premium version, you would get an extended game experience (for example, more maps, more game modes, maybe a basic game that is single player only and a premium version that has multi-player support).

I guess the risk from the business side of things would be that if the basic version is "too good", most people won't be willing to pay money for the premium, but I would like to believe that the opposite could be true. That if a gamer gets a really fun game for free, he would be more likely to spend a little cash to expand that experience.

This is certainly not a new and radical idea (for example, if I remember correctly, the original Doom used a model like this). It just seems to me that lately many small independent developers opt for the heavily restricted demo versions that, at least for me, lessen the interest for that particular game instead of making me more likely to pay.


Anonymous Viserys said...

Ever played the game Escape Velocity? http://www.ambrosiasw.com/games/evn/ is a link to the third game in the series (and the only one available on Windows, I believe). I'd highly suggest giving it a shot - their model seems to reflect something that might interest you. The game is shareware, but by no means crippled. Instead (if I recall) only the top echelons of the game in terms of equipment and missions are restricted, and an annoying pilot by the name of Cap'n Hector will fly by every now and then and remind you to register. This method worked well enough to support the development of all three games in the series (he used the same shareware model all three times), and it's an excellent game.

06 February, 2007 18:27  
Blogger shang said...

@viserys: I haven't played Escape Velocity before, but I'll give that version a try some day. Thanks for the suggestion!

14 February, 2007 12:33  

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