Should I Release My Game Freeware or Try to Sell It?

Quite many beginning game producers and developers ponder whether they should try to sell their game, or to release is as a freeware. These people might think that their game is not ‘offering high enough value’ or have some other reason for trying to make the game sell.

Question:

Should I release my game freeware, or should I try to sell it?

This question is something that only you can answer. It depends purely on what your goals are. If you want to get money with your games, then you need to sell them. If you just want to release games without any other expectations, then feel free to release it as a freeware.

But, if a person asks this question, then it could be assumpted that the idea of making money with games is in his mind. That’s why I always suggest selling the game. Start learning the basics, set up an ecommerce place, website and get in the indie scene. There’s nothing to lose, but everything to win. Even very ‘simple’ games can be tremendously addictive – as you can see by checking any major casual game portal in the net.

My suggestion for those who ponder whether to sell their game or not is: go for it, sell the game.
- Check little bit of what you want, set a goal for yourself
- Learn marketing and selling (and/or go with the publishers & portals)
- Refine the product and sell it

You’ve got nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

10 thoughts on “Should I Release My Game Freeware or Try to Sell It?

  1. jolanta

    hi
    i invented a game aimed to children aged 9-13. The objectif of the game is to improve grammar skills in funny way. It is a board game not computer but can be easilly converted. where i should start showing the game?please give me some tips

    Reply
  2. Ville

    We certainly get a lot of traffic, still about 70 000 per month even though the last game we’ve released has been almost two years ago. But I believe most of that is people who would never buy games. If you’re going to sell games, you want the kind of people who are used to the idea of buying games.

    Our strategy right now is to use that traffic to create a community around the new game. Hopefully that will create the kind of commitment that will make people buy the game.

    Reply
  3. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Sami & Karl: Yes, freeware can be used as a promotion tool and I believe it can help you to get publicity for your game. Ville for example has produced (or co-produced) several freeware games and has got lots of attention & traffic to his site. Their next game is supposed to be shareware, and hopefully the freeware helps him to get some sales.

    The problem with freeware is that the people who play freeware, might stick only with freeware – and have no intention to purchase anything. The audience might not be the ones you need to target. I must point out the word might.

    The other problem is time: developing & getting downloads for your freeware requires time. The same time that could be used to promote games and make them sell.

    @Karl: One note: have you tried to sell games directly as shareware – do you have statistics to compare? Or have you always used that freeware-to-shareware model?

    I must also point out that these are just my opinions, I haven’t done freeware (at least not anything publicly freeware) so I cannot comment much. At Indiepath we did test one game that was put out as freeware and it did generate traffic, but I cannot recall how it affected the sales of other games.

    I still clinge in suggesting to sell your game – it teaches you a lot when money is involved.

    Reply
  4. Karl Becker

    I am a big advocate of keeping a game available for free until it really is at the polish level that is acceptable for a for-sale game. I’ve experienced much greater sales on my games that I began as freeware throughout their testing periods, then changed over to for-sale shareware games once they turned 1.0.
    I would say give away games first until you’ve very sure you have something that people love. Only once you have a game that people will actually pay for is it smart to start charging money for it.

    Reply
  5. Sami

    Hmm, I think there’s also the matter of giving a game away for free to gain some visibility for selling another game later on.

    Reply
  6. Juuso - Game Producer Post author

    @Joshua: Thanks for the insight.

    Everybody has to start from somewhere. My first game must have been done using C64 Basic where you could “fly” on a “plane” (read: symbol “|” was used as the edges of a level, and your “plane” was symbol “x”) – if I was to sell that game, I don’t necessarily think that peers in the industry would see me as somebody “who hasn’t done his homework” because in the past I’ve programmed some game with poor visuals. They might, but there might be people who would think that “whoa, how could he sell THAT”.

    If my post encourages “sell everything you can without quality” then I must state that I really want to encourage getting into selling and refining product. Even if you make no or little money, the experience can be tremendously helpful and grow you both as a game producer and as a person. If the marketing part sounds scary, you can always try to make deals with publisher. Indiepath for example is always looking for innovative ideas – even in 3-match genre (in fact, the question for this post came from a guy who made a prototype of a 3-match game, which was actually quite different from the usual candidates in the genre).

    I agree that we need higher quality games in the indie scene, and I believe we also need more indies to courageously join the scene. Getting the game out, refining it and spreading the world does world good for all of us indies.

    In the end I want to point out that you bring a very good point to this discussion: there’s lots to learn and nothing is easy – but getting free hosting (through publishers & portals) is possible, so in that sense there’s nothing (okay… maybe besides your time) to lose.

    Reply
  7. Joshua Dallman

    > You’ve got nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

    I don’t agree with this at all. If you put to market a game that has little to no commercical value, you look like an ass to your peers in the industry for “not doing your homework.” If you put a game out there with poor visuals, sound, and/or gameplay, and it’s in a saturated genre (say match3), AND you’re trying to sell it, well that looks to me like someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Not a good impression for a portfolio piece. But free? Heck, release all the free crappy games you want without judgement. Also, I think trying to sell sub-par games lowers consumer perception of downloadable game quality for everyone and that’s not good either. We need higher quality releases out there, not lower quality as this post seems to encourage. And selling games is not “free” – it takes time setting up the pay system, security wrapper, marketing strategy, customer service and technical support for paying customers… lots of little things that add up. I say, if you’re proud of your game and it’s high enough quality and has some market potential then sell it, if you just want to move on then release it as freeware and move on.

    Reply

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