Or: How My Weird, Artsy Flash Game Made No Money and Had No Fan Base Until I Gave It Away for Free
I believe Jonathan Blow is largely right when he says a good game will find its audience. Braid certainly did. But he was very involved in the indie game scene for years while he was developing it, and I’m sure those years of networking and PR at least helped get Braid off the ground in terms of the public consciousness. I, on the other hand, am rather reclusive. I like to let my art speak for itself. I prefer to work in relative isolation. I test with people I know, but I just don’t like showing a lot of the rough stuff while I’m working on it, therefore I’m not very active in the TIGSource forums. [Once I’m done and no longer afraid of failure, however, I’m rather excited to talk about the process.]
So, naturally, when I released my new game simian.interface and tried to charge $2.99 for it, I mostly sold it to people I know...and not even many of them. Maybe my heart wasn’t in it, as I tend to feel a little sleazy pawning my work and I was selling it more as an experiment than anything. Or maybe it’s just too weird to have convinced anyone to buy before trying it, even though I did release a demo consisting of the first third of the game.
As a few newly discovered bugs and desired tweaks became a short list, and the sales came to a standstill, I figured the first stage of the experiment was over. I prepped for a second release, but this time I gave it away for free. It’s now playable in browser on my website, newgrounds, kongregate, jayisgames and a number of pirate sites. There’s also a ‘pay what you want’ downloadable version [with no minimum] that includes a bonus soundtrack containing the full length versions of the looped game tracks by the excellent chiptune artist note! [the exclamation point is part of the name, but also appropriate.]
The fascinating part is, I’ve made a lot more money in the last week than I had in the previous three months combined. More importantly, over 100,000 people have played the game, and the reception has been quite wonderful. This is in no way money I could live on, but I did it in my spare cycles and primarily as a form of expression. I’m just happy to make anything from it and even happier to have people enjoy it. Anyway, I thought my experience was food for thought, so I decided to share it with the Gamasutra community [and take another experimental stab at PR in the process].