Should You Release Your Game for Free?
So released my game, Familia, about two and a half years ago. I’ve made roughly 1.5k off the game thus far in sales and about 10k when considering various donations. I’m writing this post to discuss why I recently decided to make my game free.
Every game is unique. What type of revenue model is appropriate for your game? Well, I always intended my game, Familia, to be playable on mobile and desktop. I wanted to release the first part of the story free and later add content for an additional price. Thus, it is important to state that I always intended to make the first Act of my game free.Furthermore, I am not saying that this price model is the best for all games, which would be silly. Every game has an ideal revenue model based on the marketing, genre, etc. It’s still worth discussing my game because I may bring up something the reader 3 (you) didn’t consider.
A. PRO – Why make the game free of cost?
More people will try a free game.
Before releasing the game for free, my average active player base was about 1-2. Now with the game free, I have been averaging ten active players for the first few weeks. More people are playing the game. With my current revenue model, most of my revenue was already through contributions, which won’t change. I did make a little bit of money through sales so I may lose this, but it’s also possible that I may receive more contributions. Thus, I could ultimately produce more revenue than I did with the paid game.
It’s easier to promote a free game.
I stream regularly, and I quickly tell people to give it a try. I did a convention about a week ago, and it was nice to tell people that they could download the game for free at home. This is similar to the effect of having a demo. The disadvantage
‘Free games’ could easily produce more revenue.
Most would likely assume that if a game is free, that means you make less money from it. This is not necessarily true. It’s generally not true in my case. The majority of my revenue originates from some form of donation.
If you’d like to see some donations, check out my Ko-fi.
Free games can be distributed ‘freely.’
For a paid game, it’s advantageous to direct all of your customers to a single point of sale. With Steam, for example, you will acquire more reviews if the game is distributed exclusively on Steam. With a paid game, the developer’s goal is to create as many sales on a single platform because the ultimate goal is to get Steam’s help with the game’s marketing. This is less of a concern if you distribute your game for free, as the goal is to distribute the game as much as possible. It’s less likely the Steam platform will put effort into promoting a game that produces no revenue for Steam.
B. CON – Why keep the game paid?
People become more emotionally invested when they pay for something.
This phenomenon is difficult to explain in a blog format. Forgive me while I get a bit philosophical.
Where the checkbook goes, the heart is not far behind.
If someone pays for a game, they are more likely to advocate for it. Paying customers are more likely to review a product than non-paying customers. Since switching my free game, I have received no additional reviews despite seeing active players increase tenfold. This is likely because the new players are not as emotionally invested in my game as the customers who spent their precious money on it.
Steam has the incentive to promote paid games more than free ones.
I have never seen an entirely free game on the front page of Steam. Apex Legends is often on the front page, but it’s not free. Apex includes in-game transactions. One could argue that Steam, and possibly other platforms, will not promote a product that doesn’t make them money. If a game developer relies on the marketing of a platform like Steam, a free game may cause their game to get very little traffic outside of what the developer produces.
Switching from paid to free may be seen as a ‘slight’ against customers who already paid for your game.
When I first bought RPG Maker MV, it went on sale a week later. I tried to get a refund and buy at the sale price. I had no luck. I would have saved 70 bucks. This upset me.
When I switched my game to free, I told people within my community to let me know if they were upset at having paid for a game that is now free. As of now, I have heard no complaints. This speaks to the type of community I have. While this has not been a problem for me, it could be a problem elsewhere.
Thanks for Reading
I hope this helped you decide how to structure your game. If you found this post interesting, let me know on Discord or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to do more content like this, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Until next time! 😀