Maybe FUD: "All the other sites have viruses."
August 15, 2007 5:55 PM   Subscribe

I am creating and publishing-by-download an episodic, story-driven 3D computer game. I want to make the code GPL, and I'd prefer to release the art under Creative Commons. I also want to make mad cash. How can I swing this?

With software piracy a way of life, thwarted only occasionally by the most invasive of anti-piracy methods (calling home, hardward dongles), it seems silly of me to pretend every player of my game will have paid me the $5 for an episode. So, why not go the next step, and let people who love the game mod the game? Thus, the GPL and a CC license.

However, I'd also like to actually make some money from the venture. It's sucking up a lot of my time. I cannot imagine that a "please donate if you love AOE!" button would really net me much. I understand that these licenses apply only to people to whom I license it. However, if I sell somebody a license for $5 under the GPL/cc, and he makes a copy for Suzy, that's totally legit.

So, how do I convince people to pay me for what their neighbor can copy for them?
posted by Netzapper to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about you release the code GPL but limit the art for a few months, during which you sell it commercially. After that you release the art under the CC license and switch to a voluntary payment model.
posted by aubilenon at 6:00 PM on August 15, 2007

Also: No matter what you do you are unlikely to make mad cash. If you have a really good game and are pretty lucky you might make sort of peeved cash.
posted by aubilenon at 6:01 PM on August 15, 2007

Why not brand the snot out of your game and sell t-shirts, mugs, strategy guides, comic books, figures...

Ok, maybe I'm getting carried away, but you got the idea. I look forward to checking it out!
posted by JaySunSee at 6:11 PM on August 15, 2007

I'd go with @JaySunSee and look to get money out of the merchandise - better yet if you can get your fans to design it for you.

that assumes some fans in the first place of course.
posted by edwardvielmetti at 7:13 PM on August 15, 2007

Try to sell it to myspace or the like as a cool freebie for their members. Members can dowload it for free, after wading through several layers of banner adds of course, and you get paid x per download from myspace.
posted by BostonJake at 7:33 PM on August 15, 2007

The power behind the GPL is once you release something under the GPL, that fork of it can live forever under the terms of GPL.

As the copyright holder you can always create a commercially licensed version that you sell to someone that isn't under the terms of the GPL.

If you take contributions of code from the community you need to be careful to get copyright assignments, otherwise you lose the ability to relicense the codebase as easily.

Set up something with Paypal or Kagi, the easier it is for someone to pay you, they will. Almost no-one will send you a check, but credit cards can make things easier to buy on impulse.

I expect you will make more money from people you hook on your story, and not on from the people who love your engine. The folks who love your story will likely not be ones who can compile code from scratch.

Make it easier for them to get pre-build ready to run binaries from you than another else.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:41 PM on August 15, 2007

At least, in addition to everything else, use a publish-on-demand service like Lulu or Cafepress so that people have a convenience option - spend a few $$ online and the game arrives in the mail on CD (or DVD) ready to rock out of the box, no messing with downloads and torrents and compilers, with nice "collectable" cover art that is not CC, (maybe a non-CC cheatsheet insert?) etc. Convenience plus added value.

Whenever you link to the game or promote it, link first and foremost to the CD for sale, and have the only link to free versions go to uncompiled source code which you make clear is a link intended for advanced modders and thus more hassle than it's worth if you're not already a convert.

It won't make you heaps of money, but it'll help. Also if you don't promote the game, few others will, and no-one will know it exists. It won't happen by itself. So you're likely going to be the engine that leads people to the game, and that means even when free copies are available for download, most (non-warez type) people won't know about them if you're not pointing to them.

The flip side of this is that once you've finished the game, you're only half-way done. If you want to see a dime, you're going to have to work at promoting the game. Sometimes people get lucky and word of mouth carries it, but don't count on it - the world is super-saturated with free games, and super-saturated with games which have promotion budgets of many millions of dollars. It takes something pretty incredible to garner any word of mouth these days without some serious promotional clout sitting behind it.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:34 PM on August 15, 2007

Perhaps you could CC the code and graphics, but not all of the levels (or their equivalent, or whatever element it is that you think most modders are going to be making themselves). That way, the new mod levels (or whatever) work with the full (paid for) copy of the game, AND the free version, but having all the original game levels (instead of just the first three, say) is another source of added value to give an incentive to buy?
posted by -harlequin- at 8:38 PM on August 15, 2007

Sell copies for download and promise to release code and artwork three months after each episode goes on sale. You've created an incentive for people to buy who want instant gratification, and alleviated some of the incentives to pirate your software (it will still get pirated).

Or just give it away and solicit donations.

Or sell discussion forum memberships.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:39 PM on August 15, 2007

Please post your game to metafilter projects when you are done, I'm interested.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:40 PM on August 15, 2007

I don't know how this pertains to your copyright plans, but have you looked into a distribution deal with Manifesto Games? Their whole reason for existence is getting cash into the pockets of small-scale, indie game developers.
posted by Andrhia at 11:12 AM on August 16, 2007

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