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I am currently making a game that I was originally planning to sell. It is a simple 2D arcade style game for the PC. I've seen many indie games become popular and generate revenue from advertisements, but the game itself remains free. I need some advice on whether or not I should sell my game, release it for free with advertisements, or ask for donations and keep the game free.

I feel that my game is fun, but of course the graphics aren't tip top because I am a programmer, not an artist. I just take screenshots of 3D models I get from Turbosquid and crop around it to make a sprite. Also, and I could be very wrong about this, it seems that there are more legal issues surrounding selling a game than making it free and generating revenue from advertisement, or asking for donations. If I am wrong, someone please correct me.

Also, I am very interested in generating some revenue for my work, but that isn't at the very top of my list. I am in my last year of high school, soon to be going to college, and I am going to major in computer science/software engineering. So I am trying to gain some preliminary experience at home by coding stuff every day. One way of getting this experience is by making this game.

So what do you think? What route should I take? What has worked well with other indie games?

Thanks in advance.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Byte56 Dec 28 '13 at 17:12

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Considering your method for collecting sprites, I'd lean towards free, just to avoid any significant legal concerns – dcousens Mar 16 '11 at 13:14
Well, according to Turbosquid's license agreement, it is legal for me to do so. The models are sold free, and using them as images are included. I already asked. – QAH Mar 16 '11 at 13:18
Good to hear :) – dcousens Mar 16 '11 at 13:32
I say show us your game, I have got no idea how good that game of yours actually is, but if you want to sell it you'll need feedback in order to do the polish. Apart from this enabling us to help you in that regard I don't see any other way of being able to provide a good answer for your question. – aaaaaaaaaaaa May 22 '11 at 15:56
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Due to your young age, i would give it for free and build a reputation for your self.

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Unless your game can compete with commercial games (like Magicka, $10) you probably won't make much money by selling the game. People bying games are more often comparing games to each other and visual appeal does a lot. Also, small price games aren't very great sellers on PC, because handling payment is trickier.

Nick Gravelyn shares some insight about low price mobile games in his blog and says that ads were more profitable for him. I wouldn't think selling games on PC would be easier.

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That is mobile, which is completely different than console or PC. – AttackingHobo Mar 16 '11 at 18:07
@AttackingHobo My mistake. Edited accordingly. – Cloudanger Mar 16 '11 at 22:43

Considerung how many such arcade games there are, I'd give it away for free. If the people like it, they'll probably buy add-ons, a second part or donate money (although you won't get rich with the latter …).

If you want to keep the Ad-route open, make sure you add an automatic update check or something like that - if you feel you have enough users to start, you can always enable/add this feature ;-)

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Make it "pay what you want", i.e. ask for payment to unlock full version, but allow the user to decide how much to pay. Bear in mind to set a minimum price to cover the transaction fees (if you use paypal it's ~.40¢).

Don't give full version asking for donations, because — as Jeff Vogel often points out — users are lazy and will just "delay" paying you if they can.

Of course the game should be worth buying in the first place (if it isn't, it doesn't really matter which system you chose).

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Giving it for free would like you said, keep you from most legal obligations but if you put a very prominent donate button next to the download link I would guess many people that like the game would come back and make a donation. If you really wanted to you could even put a non-obtrusive donate button somewhere in the game that would open up a web browser. The most important thing though is to not have the donate buttons become annoying.

Alternatively you could go for an Android market style approach where most of the game is free, but a purchased version has a couple more features that reward those that donate.

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Ask for payment but allow people to download it without paying.

That way people can try the full game easily, and they know you wish to be paid, and they know you respect them as you've allowed them to try and keep the entire game at no risk to themselves. If they have a happy experience they may be come back to give you money. (This is the model I'll be using for my game.)

Keep the purchase price above $5, there is a lot of fraud/hassle with credit card purchases $5 and under.

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