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However, I've had others urge me to reconsider and charge money for my game instead. I've always been resistant to the idea, but lately I've been wondering if perhaps I should? Ultimately it's up to me, but I thought I'd do a survey and see what others thought about it.
Basically what I'm asking is: how do you view free vs paid games? Do free games immediately turn you off or does the price tag not matter at all to you?
Thank you in advance!
- Elsa Kisiel
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However, I will need to be convinced that it's worth my time. The same way that a paid game too will have to convince me it's worth my time and money.
Also, I want to insist that it's not because it's your first game that it must be free.
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My biggest concern in making you your VN commercial is if previously commissioned parties worked under the agreement that the VN would be free.
You can put out a demo first to see how many people will be interested in it. If people are sharing it organically enough that you feel encouraged to make the game commercial, contact the people you commissioned, ask if you can use their work for commercial purposes, and offer compensation. If they refuse, you can chose if you want to spend money to hire someone for commercial work or settle on making your game free.
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Free games *doesn't* turn people off - quite the contrary.
As of the choice...it depends on your goal - what do you want to achieve with your game? Promote yourself as an author? Make profits? Both? Or something else? Answer that to yourself and you will have your decision.
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This is in large part because, with most games, I open them, play for maybe 15 minutes, think "nah", then close them and never play them again. In general, if I haven't heard of the dev and haven't read a review that makes me think this is the Game For Me, my assumption is that this game will provide a few minutes of entertainment before I think, "Not my game" and delete it from my hard drive. If we assume that I want my entertainment to cost no more than $10/hr, this means your average indie game is worth approximately $2.50 to me. (So *almost* nothing.) Cruel, I know. But it's hard to want to shell out any real amount of money when, odds are, I'm only going to play for a few minutes (before deciding said game is Not For Me).
If I read a trusted review and think, "WOAH, I NEED TO PLAY THAT GAME" (or it's from a developer that has put out quality work before, etc.) the equation changes. (I mean, I've paid well over $100 for a game and felt it well worth it. In fact, for some games - where I've invested hundreds of hours - I might even consider $100 a steal considering the entertainment value I've gotten for the cost!)
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1) Offer a Demo! Just enough of your story to get readers hooked, but satisfied. Anyone who likes your VN enough to keep reading will probably be willing to pay a reasonable amount to finish it.
IF YOU DO THAT: Make sure the beginning of your game is TIGHT. You need to leave the story off at a moment where a small self-contained plot is resolved, (so the reader feels like they got a full story), but leave at a moment where stakes are raised, or further, greater stories are promised.
2) Only Make One Route Free! If your game has multiple routes, maybe offer a SINGLE route version of the game for free, with a full version available for purchase.
IF YOU DO THAT: The central route of your story has to double up as a long advertisement for other story possibilities. If this is a dating sim, that's other romantic interests. If it's a survival game, it's better possibilities and options that are locked due to dead/unavailable characters. Kinetic novels are obviously not an option here.
3) Offer DLC! Give the game for free, but offer small improvements/cosmetic changes to the game for money. This is mostly for players who LOVE your game, and either want to play it over and over again, or just show their appreciation. If you have a custom soundtrack, offer this as DLC. This can be combined with the other two options if needed.
IF YOU DO THAT: You need to HUSTLE to build your community. If you have a bunch of people who love your game and want to support you, the free version of your game is a chance to let your army of fans spread it as far as they can, and buying DLC is how they'll show your appreciation.
4) Put Ads in your Game. Maybe automatic pop-ups, maybe let certain options be picked if you watch an ad, whatever. A free user becomes a user worth 1/10th of a cent per ad, which is nice.
IF YOU DO THAT: Haha wow good luck.
5) Kickstart your Free Game! Yes, this is an option, and I've seen it work before!
IF YOU DO THAT: You need to identify and establish a MINIMAL VIABLE PRODUCT. What is the SMALLEST amount of resources you would be happy and able to finish your game for? Single route? Photo BGs instead of painted? Fewer featured characters? If you already paid money for stuff, consider it money gone; how much more money do you need to finish it? Set stretch goals, but make sure the price point on them exceeds the cost to actually produce those goals. Offer rewards that don't add significantly to your development cost, with higher tiers letting backers determine the look of your game (let them collaboratively design a character, or name things).
If you can hustle, and get enough backers to release your minimal viable product or better, CONGRATS! If not, you're in the same position you're in before, but with a good idea of how well your game will do, which is good information.
Now, this isn't every option available to you, but are the easiest ones to work into something you might be working on already (Video Game Grants exist, and are totally worth pursuing!!!) Best of luck!
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