You might not hear the name of Scott Miller dropped casually as one of PC gaming's forefathers -- yet. But his innovative ideas in software publishing helped evolve the shareware model from a dead-end prospect to a lucrative profession, and sparked multiple revolutions in the PC game industry along the way.
Seeing the fundamental flaw in the shareware model -- that is, few players paying -- Miller created the "Apogee Model," named after his shareware company, by which a game's first episode was distributed for free, with further episodes available for purchase if the player liked it.
The model proved wildly successful, sowing the seeds for publishers like Epic to follow in those footsteps. In today's Gamasutra feature
, we catch up with Miller to discuss his history and inspirations, his de facto invention of episodic gaming and his hands-on involvement with the early nurturing of Id Software.
He discusses how it all began:
When the rights for my games started coming back to me, I was like, "How else can I make money on these things?"
There was this emerging thing called "shareware" on bulletin boards and CompuServe, so I started looking into that. There were a few games out there that no one was making any money on. And I was wondering why nobody was making any money on shareware games. You know, they were asking 10 or 20 dollars to be sent to them. I was contacting these authors directly, and every one told me, "Don't expect to be making any money off of this."
I was doing a lot of research on marketing back in those days. I thought, maybe these guys are doing it wrong. Let me try a different trick here. Let me release just a portion of a game, and sort of break a game into episodes, and release a portion of it. That portion will hopefully hook a player, and they'll have to order the rest from me.
That's really the first huge key to my success back in the '80s. When I released Kingdom of Kroz, I had two more Kroz games being advertised in that first game. In the first year, I probably made $80,000 to $100,000 from people sending me checks. I was getting several orders a day -- it would often be $100 to $200 a day. There were some days -- Monday was always the big day -- sometimes I'd be getting $500 every Monday.
The full, extensive Gamasutra feature provides a fascinating up-close look
at the growth and development of a pivotal industry figure (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).