I want to encourage people to publish commercial IF.
Assuming for the sake of argument that encouraging commercial IF is a good idea, how would you do it?
In another thread, I suggested a competition for commercial IF (because all of the major IF competitions forbid commercial IF), but is a competition the best way to encourage commercial IF? Is there a better way?
Do you mean people who already make free IF? I’m presuming that if they wanted to monetise their work they wouldn’t need encouragement.
I don’t know if you blog about your own experience with selling games, I imagine one main barrier to someone who wanted to sell IF would be not knowing what to do or how to succeed, so some guidelines or tips could be helpful.
One might answer, the market should encourage it; it may be the case that those who have managed the alchemy of turning IF into gold aren’t in a hurry to distribute fragments of their philosopher’s stone to a new generation of competition. You can’t be accused of that; anyone who wants to make money through CoG is free to take a kick at the can. Turning an Inform 7 file into an iOS executable is known to be a solved problem, but as zarf said he’s not interested in becoming a publisher for other people’s games and really it’s not fair to expect him to take us by the hand into every green pasture he creates. Maybe another hypothetical committee with sufficient technological savvy could license his technology and hit the App Store masses with The Best Games Ever Written In Z-Code For The Past Two Decades at a dollar a pop, directing a stream of pizza money to the authors. The idea of hiding the games behind a pricetag is at some odds to the IF’s traditional focus on outreach, but it’s not like selling Curses for $1 on the app store will remove it for free everywhere else.
Long-term or short-term? Are you looking to incubate more entrepreneurs, or are you wanting to make it possible for people to sell games without being entrepreneurs? Are you looking to get existing hobbyist authors to switch to commercial, getting commercial authors to make IF, or creating an entirely new set of commercial-minded authors? Or do you want to generate more visibility for existing commercial IF? Those are all different things which are likely to involve different approaches.
The unhelpfully simple, view-from-orbit answer (because ‘encourage commercial IF’ is a very broad proposition) is ‘make it technically easier for people to produce professional-quality games, and demonstrate unambiguously that a profitable and accessible market exists in which to sell those games.’ For bonus points, ‘demonstrate that doing all this need not require changing your content to more closely resemble the worst aspects of the existing videogames industry.’
I guess what’s needed is for someone to go ahead and take the plunge: set up a website and allow authors to upload games there that could be sold commercially with a minimum amount of effort. Maybe the website guy could charge a commission – 10% of total profits? – for people using his website.
Whenever I’ve thought about trying to sell IF games in the past, the big stumbling block for me has always been the fact that I’ve no idea how to go about it. Putting up a website is easy enough, but the steps to set up some kind of payment plan is beyond me, and I’m guessing (though don’t have any actual facts to back it up) that it wouldn’t be commercially viable for one person to do this unless my games were guaranteed to sell like hot cakes, which they most likely won’t. Maybe the same kind of deal that Amazon have with their direct publishing in the Kindle might work.
IF there were a site that would allow microtransaction sales for IF games without a whole lot of fuss, that’d be a huge step. I also imagine it’d be a lot of bureaucratic work, but if it could go up? That would be really really cool.
Alternately, something that would just allow you to convert your games to Apple/Android store easily?
I was planing for this with Text Fiction. The idead was pretty much that you can grab the source, throw your game in the /assets folder (along with some fancy meta data) and then bundle it up as a ready to use game under your own brand.
It’s not quite there yet as I am focusing on improving the UI further at the moment. But if anyone is interested, just drop me an email. I will even charge you a (commercial) service fee if you don’t want to bundle it up yourself
What about a standard optional wrapper file for a blorb or similar. When the file is opened, the player first gets a screen saying “Thank you for playing this game. Creating IF is difficult and takes many hours and is a labor of love for most authors…” etc. Then it would suggest to tip the author any amount they feel the game is worth via a Paypal email account if they’d like to encourage the author to continue creating games. The screen would last for approximately 10 seconds before launching the file every time it was opened. The author could also provide a code that could be typed in at the nag screen to remove it from the file. The author perhaps could also specify that the nag happens every other play or every five plays as they feel is appropriate, and the information could also be linked to an “about” command to show the donation email.
How much do you enjoy those FBI warnings whenever you pop in a DVD? Same thing here. Nag screens are just plain annoying. Nobody wants to see them and being constantly reminded to pay up makes the consumer less, not more willing to spend money.
Technically, it can’t be done anyways. Blorb is just a data container and interpreters are free to ignore parts of it.
Usually FBI warnings don’t bother me because I’m getting settled in with my popcorn and if the movie/title screen started up right away I’m going to ignore the first few seconds anyway.
This is not copyright protection, though, it is solicitation for a donation. I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve done where the audience first or afterward sat through a curtain speech asking them to donate to Equity Fights AIDS or to the college theater scholarship program. I’d reckon that some people would love to tip an author of a story they liked a dollar or two if they knew exactly how to do it.
Selling the product outright is 10x more profitable than soliciting for donations. Nagging can work if you introduce a large artificial delay, e.g. 20 minutes, but still not as well as outright selling.
As well, there are legal/tax implications around calling it a “donation.” (To this day, Google Wallet won’t let you call it a “donation” unless you’re a 501c3 charity; PayPal will let you do it, but they warn that you need to verify that you’re following all local laws.)
No, Text Fiction is an interpreter. I mean a wrapper that lets you distribute your game as its own app, without buyers needing to know what an interpreter is. It’s the bare minimum requirement for a commercial IF.
Eh … maybe the conversation got out of sync here. I’m the author of Text Fiction and while the app currently is only an interpreter, I have no problems with adding the pieces that would allow for bundling games. In fact, that’s actually what I planned to do anyways
My current favoured method of encouraging commercial IF is to work my way through this list, buying everything that’s still currently available, and reviewing/rating highly all the ones I think deserve encouragement.