Is it possible to make money?

Is it possible to make money?

Postby SteveSmith » 10 Dec 2009, 21:03

The way most profitable amateur projects seem to work is to stay closed-source and charge a small amount once out of beta testing. Is it possible to make money writing FOSS, or might we all as well keep our source hidden?
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Tranberry » 10 Dec 2009, 21:27

you can always try a ransom way of doing it, there are many many ways you could do that.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby qubodup » 10 Dec 2009, 21:35

Many projects ask for donations, Ardour for example (ok, not a game but still open source) makes the donation part very see-able by visitors http://ardour.org/node .
It also offers to implement features once enough contributors want to pay for it http://ardour.org/bugbounty .

About ransom: one project tried it (USD 1000) and nearly made it (USD 700), but then the 'donation host'(?) stopped its service, you can read more in this post: http://freegamer.blogspot.com/2008/10/p ... games.html
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Tranberry » 10 Dec 2009, 21:43

Imo what you describe first Q is a "ransom way".
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Sindwiller » 10 Dec 2009, 22:03

SteveSmith wrote:The way most profitable amateur projects seem to work is to stay closed-source and charge a small amount once out of beta testing. Is it possible to make money writing FOSS, or might we all as well keep our source hidden?


Well, per definition, once you "hide your source", it's no FOSS, no matter how open the development process might be. NS2 is not FOSS just because Unknown Worlds involve many community members in the development process and have a close relationship with the community in general when it comes to game design decisions or testing. We have to work with that definition here.

That said, FOSS game projects rarely have serious organisation or anything like that; and rarely long development cycles with people seriously commiting themselves. It's hard to achieve that. On the other hand, non-FOSS indie/non-professional projects thrive nonetheless. So the chance of successfully turning a FOSS game into a profitable undertaking is... slim. And there hasn't been a realistic demonstration of that sort of "ransom model".
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Julius » 10 Dec 2009, 22:14

Do it like EA:
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/vi ... arketplace

Well more or less. (FOSS game creators face the same problems as companies dealing with piracy do, at least it is a very similar condition, except that you are on the side of your users and not against them)

Establish a nice multiplayer game with individual user accounts (achievements etc) and then sell stuff to these users accounts. Using it without the official "sanction" would then fall into game modification, and the unmodified servers would reject it as cheating. Use some of the money to establish a set of official servers (and give certain community members the honor to run these official servers too) and make these servers really worth playing on (competitions, campains etc) and you can be more or less sure that people will buy your stuff.
You will have to be careful with the stuff though, as it should not be perceived as unfair advantages... one way to get quite a lot of money would be customized stuff... e.g. creating and selling clan skins/models and so on.

Of course this would mean a serious commitment to the game (basically this is something a company could do to earn money from a FOSS game), and not a way to make some money from a game you would have otherwise released for free.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Andrew » 13 Dec 2009, 10:51

I personally don't like any of the suggestions posted so far. They all rely on locking out the user which I think is against the spirit of open source. Even the suggestion to lock out users with modded versions is too far imo because then it means you can only use the game correctly if you pay.

What I plan to do for my game is only charge for console ports or releases on platforms such as steam. I think this strikes the right balance.

I think that the only circumstance in which the code should be "closed" is if it was not different from the open source version and it was some kind of requirement to not disclose an API on the publishers system.

I'm not sure how popular that view point is as I already had one artist quit over this issue however it's much more open then any suggestion I have read here and elsewhere.

The donation thing is a no go because it only works for big projects.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Julius » 13 Dec 2009, 17:12

Andrew wrote:Even the suggestion to lock out users with modded versions is too far imo because then it means you can only use the game correctly if you pay.


I get what you mean, but this is what I meant with being careful about it. I wasn't suggesting to lock out players, but that on official servers the game checks your player account.
As an example: In a game like Diablo you have a multiplayer account which your character and for sure it would be cheating if you allowed any modifications on that character.

The idea about selling it on consoles and appstores would probably work (see iPhone port of Wesnoth), but IMHO this is basically selling a closed source version and benefiting from the locked hardware. Selling it on Steam on the other hand would probably not result in a lot of money if the game can be acquired for the same platform for free easily.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby charlie » 14 Dec 2009, 13:38

I like the idea of charging for an online persistent version of your character(s). That way people can play for free, but if they want something that is automatically synchronised across machines and gives them the security that they'll always have access to it (as opposed to a free resource that is flakey), I think that'll fly.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Sindwiller » 14 Dec 2009, 16:10

freegamer wrote:I like the idea of charging for an online persistent version of your character(s). That way people can play for free, but if they want something that is automatically synchronised across machines and gives them the security that they'll always have access to it (as opposed to a free resource that is flakey), I think that'll fly.


That concept definitely is worth trying. Even just for the heck of it. It might even catch some attention, since that argument is very valid in an environment as such - that said, the example with the additional items and stuff is horrible. :P
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby qubodup » 14 Dec 2009, 16:23

Well, here's another thing: SMC recently opened a merchandising shop.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby kiba » 14 Dec 2009, 22:10

I get paid the old fashioned way, freelance programming.

50 bucks for my first gig involving ruby programming.

150 bucks for my current gig involving canvas, html5, and javascript.

I never have to compromise free software spirit for the sake of money. :D
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby charlie » 15 Dec 2009, 12:48

Kiba, whilst I respect your efforts and am happy you have been paid, you are being unrealistic in your outlook.

$200 might seem like a lot to you, but that's because you have low overheads - you live at home, still go to school, all your costs are covered. For somebody who lives in the real world, $200 is not enough for a week. It won't even cover rates (electricity, phone, internet, water, gas) for a month. My car costs me $200 a month. My food bill exceeds $200 a month. My child support is $500 a month. Then there's the mortgage, and so on.

There's making extra cash and there's making a living, and your tone indicates you have no idea of the difference between the two. Getting paid a $150 for a month's work is slave labour.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby SteveSmith » 15 Dec 2009, 13:04

I was going to say the same thing (though maybe not as bluntly :) ). $50 bucks, about £30 UKP? It depends on your age as to whether it qualifies as a lot of money, but that's just about enough to get you a "hello world" console program in the professional world.

Just out of curisoty kiba, how old are you?
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby MaximB » 15 Dec 2009, 15:52

I was thinking about this issue a lot, but my thoughts involve game companies and not hobbyists.
How can a game company make a leaving by releasing their games as FOSS and still make a living.

1. Release the source code as FOSS but keep the art part closed (like id software does with their GPLed engines).
2. Gather enough money from the community and then release the whole game as FOSS (like Blender was acquired).

I might have forgotten other few options....that what comes to my mind right now.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Sindwiller » 15 Dec 2009, 19:58

1. Release the source code as FOSS but keep the art part closed (like id software does with their GPLed engines).


ID releases only old engines nobody actually uses for retail games anymore - which e.g. isn't the case with IDTech4 (Doom3/Quake4 engine), hence why they haven't GPL'd the source yet. It's an old tradition of Carmack I guess.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby charlie » 16 Dec 2009, 15:22

MaximB wrote:1. Release the source code as FOSS but keep the art part closed (like id software does with their GPLed engines).

Then it is no longer a FOSS game. It's a FOSS engine and a proprietary game.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Sindwiller » 16 Dec 2009, 19:31

charlie wrote:
MaximB wrote:1. Release the source code as FOSS but keep the art part closed (like id software does with their GPLed engines).

Then it is no longer a FOSS game. It's a FOSS engine and a proprietary game.


Same with Planeshift btw, they release their engine code (without any usable data though) under the GPL, while all their game code and content is proprietary. Imho one of the reasons why it's still utter trash :P Peragro Tempus isn't really progressing either, though :S
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby charlie » 16 Dec 2009, 20:09

No, it isn't. I don't know why the Peragro Tempus guys don't throw their weight behind Worldforge and it's maturing codebase, but that's another discussion...
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby kiba » 18 Dec 2009, 01:25

charlie wrote:Kiba, whilst I respect your efforts and am happy you have been paid, you are being unrealistic in your outlook.

$200 might seem like a lot to you, but that's because you have low overheads - you live at home, still go to school, all your costs are covered. For somebody who lives in the real world, $200 is not enough for a week. It won't even cover rates (electricity, phone, internet, water, gas) for a month. My car costs me $200 a month. My food bill exceeds $200 a month. My child support is $500 a month. Then there's the mortgage, and so on.

There's making extra cash and there's making a living, and your tone indicates you have no idea of the difference between the two.

I am well aware of the fact. An 18 years old will have far different idea of what is plentiful pay, as compared to an 35ish adult who drink beer, have two children, a dog, and a house.

Nonetheless, the only way for an 18 years old to compete in the game development market is to work hard for very little pay. Young people have very little bargaining power when it come to the price of their labor.

As my portfolio increase in breath and depth, I should be able to demand higher price for my work.

Getting paid a $150 for a month's work is slave labour.

That's nonsense, charlie. It's a completely voluntary exchange between two consenting individual who completely understand what they're getting themsleves into even if the deal is worse than 3rd world sweatshop level wages(like China).

It's just your subjective opinion that it is "slave labor".
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby qubodup » 18 Dec 2009, 08:48

kiba wrote:That's nonsense, charlie. It's a completely voluntary exchange between two consenting individual who completely understand what they're getting themsleves into even if the deal is worse than 3rd world sweatshop level wages(like China).

It's just your subjective opinion that it is "slave labor".

You're missing the point, kiba. "$150/month is slave labor" is a rethoric form to say "$150/month is way below standards". I think it is general opinion in your country of residence and in charlie's that $150/month can be rightfully compared to slave labour (again, not because it *is* slave labour, but because it is, like slave labour, way below standards).

On the other hand, I don't think you mentioned how many hours you will have worked in total for these $150. Do you have an hour estimate?
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby kiba » 18 Dec 2009, 11:37

qubodup wrote:
kiba wrote:That's nonsense, charlie. It's a completely voluntary exchange between two consenting individual who completely understand what they're getting themsleves into even if the deal is worse than 3rd world sweatshop level wages(like China).

It's just your subjective opinion that it is "slave labor".

You're missing the point, kiba. "$150/month" is a rethoric form to say "$150/month is way below standards". I think it is general opinion in your country of residence and in charlie's that $150/month can be rightfully compared to slave labour (again, not because it *is* slave labour, but because it is, like slave labour, way below standards).

Oh, I put too much meaning into it, then. Even so, I still found the term to be a sort of doublespeak.
On the other hand, I don't think you mentioned how many hours you will have worked in total for these $150. Do you have an hour estimate?


It will probably take me 40 hours to complete the project at the very least.

Beside, I am in the money making process stage, rather than theorizing about business model stage. I found that to be a small, but improtant step.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby DarkBaboon » 18 Dec 2009, 12:04

I think there are several ways to make money with FOSS games :
  1. By donation, this is the way upon which Wikipedia rely, which is, IMHO, the most ethical economic model.
  2. As shareware with a lifetime-license fee which covers and allows to upgrade the game installed on proprietary operating system, and as FOSS game, free of charge, for the free open source operating system. (This is the economic model for Xchat)
  3. By sponsoring, if your game represents some common values with an organization or a company.
  4. By advertising, but I don't know if the game remains conform to the GPLv3 license... even if Ad Bard Network is used ?
  5. By subscription, this economic model fits perfectly for MMO but I don't think it will be transposable for other type of games.
  6. By targeting several platforms, you should consider to sell the game on WiiWare or AppStore or other software retailers, even if it involves to change the license of your game for this platforms.

Personally, I prefer the second choice as economic model, because I think if you provide your game on every platform, people aren't encourage to move to GNU/Linux for instance, while with a dual license related to your operating system, will give an advantage to the free open source operating system. Meanwhile this model doesn't prevent developpers from proprietary operating system to compile the game from the source. This economic model targets end-users as customer, like the way every indie games are sold. It provides incomes and remains open to contributions from external developers.

Have you other ideas or examples of economic models ?
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby Sindwiller » 18 Dec 2009, 17:22

By donation, this is the way upon which Wikipedia rely, which is, IMHO, the most ethical economic model.


We already ticked that out, because it only works with really big FOSS projects - let alone game projects. (read thread)

As shareware with a lifetime-license fee which covers and allows to upgrade the game installed on proprietary operating system, and as FOSS game, free of charge, for the free open source operating system. (This is the economic model for Xchat)


Won't really work (there's the silverex.org build, you see). (read thread)

By sponsoring, if your game represents some common values with an organization or a company.


Highly unlikely, however yet a concept that can be explored :) (FOSS WWF/Greenpeace/PETA games? heh)

By subscription, this economic model fits perfectly for MMO but I don't think it will be transposable for other type of games.


Again, read the thread for that.

By targeting several platforms, you should consider to sell the game on WiiWare or AppStore or other software retailers, even if it involves to change the license of your game for this platforms.


Read thread. :P

Related note: There is a survey that tries to gather some information on what people would most likely demand from a FOSS-driven/Linux-oriented game development company - obviously in a hypothetical case. Check this thread on ubuntuforums.org for that. Results ought to get posted after the holidays.
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Re: Is it possible to make money?

Postby kiba » 18 Dec 2009, 18:36

DarkBaboon wrote:I think there are several ways to make money with FOSS games :
  1. By donation, this is the way upon which Wikipedia rely, which is, IMHO, the most ethical economic model.
  2. By advertising, but I don't know if the game remains conform to the GPLv3 license... even if Ad Bard Network is used ?

Advertising does work, but it generate minicule amount of money compared to donation(or patronage as some of us like to call it).

Unless you are REALLY popular(I don't mean libregamewiki or freegamer popularity scale, probably wesnoth popular), you won't generate much money. It is probably more than enough to meet domain cost and if you're lucky, it will cover your hosting bill too. However, I wouldn't count much on it to meet mininum hobby cost.

Donation and patronage brings far more bang for the bucks for the small guys. However, the hardest part is finding customers and donors. If networking is not your biggest obstacle, it's probably the pricing. From what I see, developers don't like to accept pitiful pocket change like 50 bucks for their first project. They probably set for something like a thousand dollars so they don't get paid at all.
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