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997821 Posts in 39124 Topics- by 30528 Members - Latest Member: tutugah

April 16, 2014, 01:53:13 PM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessReleasing games fully open-source (and making a living doing it)
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TomHunt
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« on: October 12, 2012, 03:52:30 PM »

Let's say there's a shift in the personal computing market where people start to demand an open-source software ecosystem.

By this, I mean that not the software is free and the source code is also freely available.

The upshot of this is that it enables a broader hardware market and reduces the burden on the core developer, since anyone can look at the code and recompile it to whatever system or architecture they happen to be running, whether it be Intel, MIPS, PowerPC, 68k, ARM, Potato Chip, whatever. As long as the underlying system and compiler stack underneath it is working (both also presumably open source, but not necessarily), the game can be ported to that system.

What do you sell, then? How would you as the developer of said games make a living? How would you earn enough income to put a roof over your head, put food on the tablet, buy new computers, games, music, etc., while at the same working as a core contributor to an open source game?

Is it possible to do this as a primary occupation, and if so, how?
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Klaim
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« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2012, 12:48:28 AM »

The only thing you can sell is service, whatever the form.

However, by providing source code, you'd better make sure your service will still be the best for a long time.
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http://www.klaimsden.net | Game : NetRush | Digital Story-Telling Technologies : Art Of Sequence
Muz
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« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2012, 07:52:28 AM »

Yes. Donations. Ads. Merchandising. Sponsors.

E.g. jquery, Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Angry Birds. They're not rich, but they make enough to pay themselves industry level wages.

IMO, donations make about as much money as normal pay to play games. Sometimes more. Choosing not to pirate your game is in itself a donation. Except charging people for things will be much more lucrative when they don't know how to pirate things (i.e. Microsoft).

(heheh, put food on the tablet)
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BorisTheBrave
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« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2012, 08:04:05 AM »

I think you have have misunderstood open source. Most games, when open-sourced, retain copyright on all assets (i.e. art, music, level design and writing). You can continue charging for these pretty much as you could for a closed source game. Piracy is a bit easier when the source is free, but closed source isn't a great piracy barrier anyway.
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Klaim
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« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2012, 10:47:44 AM »

Yes. Donations. Ads. Merchandising. Sponsors.

E.g. jquery, Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Angry Birds. They're not rich, but they make enough to pay themselves industry level wages.

IMO, donations make about as much money as normal pay to play games. Sometimes more. Choosing not to pirate your game is in itself a donation. Except charging people for things will be much more lucrative when they don't know how to pirate things (i.e. Microsoft).

(heheh, put food on the tablet)


Very bad examples:
 - jquery is a javascript library, it's basically mandatory to be open source AND most of their funds exist because companies build other technologies on it, which is why video games can't do as good as most open source projects, unfortunately (but that can made wrong too).
 - Wikipedia is pure sharing and have the same benefits for everybody than jquery, even more.
 - Google and Facebook are not open source. Their core tech is not open source. They have some parts that are open source (only recently for Facebook but they had the mentality anyway)  and it's a win-win because it's all tools and support. Google sell information-based services and advertising, Facebook sell information and advertisement on graphs of people related in some ways, so it's specific job far from video game.
 - As far as I know, Angry Bird is not itself open source, only techs used in are. Also, it have been made open source only far after it's success.

Let's take Aquaria as a better example. It benefited from getting open source, but it was after it was already successful.

That's the problem of open source projects: you have to prove your project is interesting already without being open source, then people will get interested, and at some point some might be wanting to help make it evolve.

That don't explain how to get money from open source games, but it points that if at some point in the life of a game  with a community you make the code open source, then the community will care and make it a bit more successful.

If you make it successful from the start, prepare to sell service.


The best example I can think of would be an online game where the client is open source, but the server is not. You provide ways for other to build custom servers, just basic protocols for example, but say you provide a massive server that is central to every online play?
If you sell both the client and access to this special server, it might work.
You can invent other variants of that.

The point is to make an interesting service to your "users" to make them want you to continue. That's why there are open source foundations: for companies and people to pay other people to make a product continue to evolve.

Personally I don't see any other way than selling service, whatever that means, but I suppose that the technologies and mentalities might change in the coming years which makes the game change widely and create new selling models that don't rely on information retention. I don't know what obviously.

I often think and explore the problem because I'm working on a game that have to be closed source to be sold but I think it would be far more successful if it was open source (because part of it's fun is based on "variety" of some type of content). But I can't see how to do that and make a living, from my current starting point.

Also, BorisTheBrave is totally right.
If you make your game open source, it don't mean people have the right to do something public with it, in particular most licences don't allow to make commercial use of the code. However it helps a lot to clone, obviously, which can be a problem if you are successful but not rich early enough to just ignore the threat.
Or you have to be very niche, which makes your game very unlikely to be cloned by people just wanting MUUUNNEEEEYYYY, as they will more target short and "popular" games.
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http://www.klaimsden.net | Game : NetRush | Digital Story-Telling Technologies : Art Of Sequence
TomHunt
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2012, 02:35:01 PM »

Thanks for your responses, guys.

I think you have have misunderstood open source. Most games, when open-sourced, retain copyright on all assets (i.e. art, music, level design and writing). You can continue charging for these pretty much as you could for a closed source game. Piracy is a bit easier when the source is free, but closed source isn't a great piracy barrier anyway.
This of course necessarily means having a lot of high-quality static content to charge for.

Not sure I see this working for a more procedurally-oriented game like a small casual puzzle game. Anyone with access to the code can just fork their own copy and slap their own quick and dirty graphics and sound on top and distribute that for free if they want to. In this case I see the code being the actual content of the game, and so perhaps just soliciting donations may be more appropriate FWIW.

OTOH - yeah, if the game is, e.g. a big open world metroidvania with lots of nicely done art and sound effects and music, then sure, I can see selling the game as basically a content pack to use with the open source code as a way to go. It probably means having at least 1 artist/designer and 1 dedicated programmer to do the initial coding and act as the core maintainer once it is open-sourced, and then splitting the profits between them.


Running a beefy online server to facilitate MMO-type gameplay might be interesting. I wonder how that could work from a business standpoint while keeping at least the client open source.
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