Giving games for free

Faceless (previously known as Slender: Source) was lurking in Steam Greenlight since 2012. This is another game based on a famous Slanderman mythos. It has a great story, cool gameplay and menacing graphics. While developers were gathering votes on Greenlight the game was pitched as a free product. However in the beginning of 2014 designers suddenly changed the monetization model and started asking $10 for a copy. Xsolla found out the best time to sell games and to give them for free.

While talking to Indie Statik representative of Blacklight Studios Adam Sklar explained the sudden change of heart. He says that Valve persuaded developers to sell the game. The money would help to make the survival horror better. It would also help to pay the salaries of various developers, who were previously working for free. Sklar mentions such games as Stanley Parable and Black Mesa, which are available commercially through Steam and for free through various websites.

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He says that the single of Faceless will be free. But there will also be a Steam-version for $9,9. It will include access to the game’s multiplayer and other additional content.

This is really not the first time when games are given out for free. A couple of years ago this was a global trend. Developers weren’t sure that they could sell their games and chose to give them for free. The full potential of games as commercial products was undervalued.

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In 2008 indie-developers Derek Yu (Aquaria) uploaded a brand new platformer Spelunky onto his website. The free game attracted a lot of users and the buzz was huge. It became a major freeware hit. Years later Yu produced a new upgraded version of the game for Xbox 360. Later it was adapted for PC and released on Steam. The free version was being distributed besides the paid version. Spelunky was a moderate success on Xbox Live — 33107 downloads for the first month.

«My audience before Digital exploded was about a dozen people who I all personally knew. The idea of selling it is absurd; it wouldn’t have made a penny, and nobody would have played it!», — says the author of the interactive love story Digital — Christine Love. This project was distributed all over the Internet without a price tag.

Students’ games are also free. Later they could become commercial hits, but at the beginning of their lives they are usually given out for everybody. A good example of a student’s game which later became a total success is Portal from Valve. This project was developed by graduates of DigiPen Institute of Technology.

The website of DigiPen is a great place to get access to various students’ projects. Nitronic Rush, Pesrpective, Solace, Douse — these fantastic games could become great parts of entertainment for everyone. And you don’t have to pay a penny. DigiPen holds the rights to all these games. Students sell these games or make any profit from them. Later they become part of their portfolio or become bigger and better commercial products.

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Mobile games are no different. Trying to engage more players and sell more commercial games developers sometimes give games for free. Broadening their user base companies get more possibilities to sell their in-app goods and virtual currency. Word of mouth helps to spread the word about the game and stimulate sales even after the period of free downloads ended.

«The choice of monetization can make a huge impact on the future of the project. Games have to fight for the user. P2P-model is no longer popular.

Holding a user inside the game for a long time can become more and more complicated. There’s a bunch of games coming out every day. Give your user one reason to feel bored and he will go away and start looking for something else. In this market P2P-projects have no right for mistake. Only a well-made high quality product will make gamers stay in one game and continue to pay subscription fees.

Star Wars: The Old Republic was once a P2P-project. Later however players just refused to pay and started playing other games. Remember we’re talking about Star Wars — one of the greatest brands in entertainment history. Later however developers needed to save the project. And they started using a new F2P-system. It doesn’t matter how successful the game is at launch. Subscription always puts gamers off.

Most of our partners use F2P-model. Our statistics just proves the general trend which leads to the increase of F2P-projects during the last years.», — Xsolla analytic Maksim Fedurin talks about modern fight between paid and F2P-project in the online segment.

Indie-games are very different from online projects. In this segment a free product can lure in thousands of clients. Giving your game for free can be a smart marketing move, which may help make your product well known and help the commercial version. But sometimes indie-developers just give their games for free to make other people feel better.

Isn’t this the whole thing that makes developers create games.

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