As someone who watches the trends of the internet, I did not see this one coming. With so many stuck at home with people dependent on the internet for both entertainment and work, it was bound to happen:
Bandwidth is a commodity.
I did not think it would affect me as I only have maybe 20 GB of files worth downloading, but because I have made my game free to download, I was eating up a lot of valuable bandwidth. Now that there are dozens or even hundreds doing what I am doing, this is likely going to affect many of us.
My games are famous and popular, so I am the canary in the coal mine. As other indie devs grow in popularity, they will face similar issues.
Bottom line: The age of free file hosting seems to be over. Many of the most popular, from Google Drive to Mega.NZ, have been decreasing the size and bandwidth available for “free” and pushing people into pay model. I’ll explain more below. But here is the main headline:
I’m opening a store and selling my games
I know some of you are going to be disappointed. The truth is that I love giving my game away for free, but the economics no longer work. Ultimately, opening up my own store front is seems to be the best way to go. I’ll explain FAQ style:
How do you plan to sell lots of copies of games that have been available for free?
Actually, I don’t. I just need enough to cover my expenses, and the donation approach isn’t covering it by a long shot. I hope scarcity and an appeal to help with expenses will be enough to garner enough sales to keep this hobby in the black.
Does this mean the games will never be free again?
No, it just means that most of the time I will not be giving them away. I am working on creating an online store that allows me to set any price, including free. I will control supply and demand, so there will be free giveaways and special deals from time to time. More if I sell enough to meet expenses.
Why not use Patreon, like everybody else?
I tried Patreon, and was impressed with their service, but member downloads is limited to 200 MB. Most of my files are as high as 500 MB, which is what led to me to a cheap file server in the first place. The hundreds of other indie game devs all face these same issues. Many of them now have Patreons.
A store allows me to offer many of the same services as Patreon, but without the obligation of new monthly content.
UPDATE: I have reconsidered my position and decided a Patreon might work anyways. Different customers have different conveniences, and some people prefer the Patreon route over single purchases. More details soon.
Why not move to service X?
Services willing to accommodate free file downloads are getting scarcer and scarcer. The free ones offer less services, less security, and/or less control. When I find one that can accommodate me, it is only a matter of time and I’ll have to move again. I’m looking for stability, and the file servers that offer cheap and or free service with unlimited bandwidth are guaranteed to be slow and unreliable.
When will this store be open?
Sometime in the next month. I am “tweaking” the four current games, making them worth a new download if you are a big enough fan.
Date Ariane hasn’t been updated in two years and will be first. I’m consolidating the 6 or so versions of the game into one version. The new version will have a couple of new surprises, translated into 4 languages (Google Translate, unfortunately. I’m trying to accommodate the international version translations as best as I can, but anyone who has played those notice dozens of untranslated passages.) There are also a half dozen known bugs, mostly associated with missing files, I am addressing.
The other three games will also be translated into 4 languages, and add Discord support, and will have updated help and about files. I am doing thorough testing before store release, so they will not all be immediately available. Hopefully by the end of January, my store will be fully stocked.
What kind of pricing are you looking at?
My current plan is to offer Date Ariane, Something’s In The Air, and Ariane in Paradise for PC/Linux and Mac for 5 dollars US each. Rachel and Ariane will be a free bonus with Something’s In The Air, as those two are kind of integrated plot wise. I will also sell android versions. I haven’t decided if they will be separate purchases or one purchase for all four deal. Except that Android will be cheaper, I do not know what price I will set yet.
Why do you see this as necessary or inevitable?
Covid-19 has had the affect of dramatically increased bandwidth demand. People are working from home, people are streaming theater quality movies, people are chatting via Zoom and Webex. The internet is being forced to adjust to these changes. File space providers can buy more hard drives to increase storage capacity, but bandwidth comes from the internet service providers, and they are raising prices because they can.
That affects those of us that use that file space. I may only need 20 GB of webspace, but I need at least a terabyte a month of bandwidth. My low annual fee for the file server space does not come close to justifying the bandwidth use, so it is in no ones interest to provide what I need without charging me for that bandwidth.
Opening a store does two things: lowers demand to lower bandwidth, and because the storefront company makes money off of me, they can afford to serve the downloads how I want them served.
Is this how it will be from now on?
I don’t know. This is an experiment that may blow up in my face. I am not looking to get rich here, I am looking to make my games available to the public. If sales are way too low that it doesn’t cover costs, I may just quit this hobby all together.