Don’t give your game for free

There were two games which I almost bought. I made an offer to the first game’s author: “Let me translate your game to Finnish and give me a free copy”. I could not get a reply and was about to email: “how about a discount?” but I didn’t. I waited. The next day the author accepted the offer and gave me the registration key. Notice: he could have said “no” or suggest a discount – and I would have accepted. He lost money.

The other gamer was even more interesting: I told them a couple of hints on how to improve their game and they said “thanks”. Few minutes later I got another post from them stating: “oh, and here’s the reg key”. Why did they give me the registration key for free? I would have bought the game (it was only $9.95).

Don’t give your game for free. Save discounts for very rare exceptions. But a rule of thumb: don’t give your game for free. Hints, tips, news, mini-games are okay to give for free… but don’t give your game for free.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. True, I’ll give you that. If another dev wants to see your game, they should pony up the cash to buy it like everyone else. The only freebie I could justify is in trade to help create a contact. Who knows, you might end up working with them on a bigger project later on. It’s vague, and there’s no guarantee of results, but you can’t catch fish if you never cast a few lines.

    If it’s in return for something tangible, by all means… give it away, because you’re not really “giving” it away, it’s payment. Elsewise, well, that’s really a judgement call on how much you think you can gain in the future. I know, not the best argument… but there are always exceptions to any rule.

    This, of course, from a guy who only has a few ideas for games bouncing around in his head and never had the opportunity (or unfortunately, skill) to produce yet. I’ve really been keeping tabs on the industry though. I agree with you on the whole, but I still think there should be room for flexibility.

  2. @Nephus: True, getting game translated for a reg key is okay (but still you can try for discount ;)).

    But that still doesn’t explain why give game for free for fellow game developers (if they ask nor say nothing about translating or any other benefit). Thomas for example said: “I think there‚Äôs more to be gained by giving away copies to colleagues than not”. I wanna know that those benefits are.

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, I simply want solid proofs instead of opinions or “facts” based on opinions.

  3. Well, an immediate advantage I see is that one developer managed to get someone someone to translate their game to another language for a mere registration key.

    That would cost some serious bucks to round up a translator. Now, you made that offer, and they could’ve just said “Sure, buy the game, and then send us your free translation so we can make more money” but they didn’t. It’s the electronic equivalent of a pat on the head. It took them no time, and only lost them one sale in return for hours of work that could open up an entire new market for them.

    I’d jump at the chance to get that much work done for just a single license.

    Food for thought. Look at your resources and realize that what may have value to you in a traditional sense, can be used alternatively to create a much greater gain. The trick is matching that realization with the fleeting opportunity.

  4. I have to agree with JV; I think there’s more to be gained by giving away copies to colleagues than not. So, IMO, I would certainly add a (3) that includes them.

  5. Hi there and thanks for your comment. Professional courtesy is fine – but in this case I would not been offended if they wouldn’t have give the game for free. Discount and email discussions were nice in itself. The smaller the industy, the harder you need to make sure those pennys end up in your pocket. ;)

    I think you shouldn’t give your game for free – the only exceptions (in my humble opinion) are (1) Publishers and (2) Press.

    (1) Publishers need to see the game. I presume demos can be okay, but I think most publishers prefer to see the full game version.

    (2) Press needs to see the full game so that they can make a proper review. That would be very, very Pound Foolish to keep your game away from press.

  6. Sounds like being penny wise and pound foolish. It’s called professional courtesy and this is a very small industry.

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