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alexandersshen
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« on: October 06, 2008, 03:22:23 pm »

Hello everyone!

I was going to reply to the old "Donations" thread, but was flashed a recommendation about starting a new post.

I was wondering if anyone has recently tried a donation system and could provide numbers in regards to # of donations vs. number of plays.  Any numbers would be great.  It's just to get an idea of how many people would actually be willing to donate within the indie gaming community.

I already have my thoughts about how well it works, especially in the Flash gaming space, but I would love to hear your thoughts and stories on the subject.

Thanks in advance!

-alex
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jango0821
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2008, 03:49:49 pm »

Well, I've never really tried to recieve donations myself, but i'd imagine that the percentage of donations would be MUCH smaller than the percentage of plays. It would really matter on the audience actually.
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alexandersshen
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2008, 03:53:36 pm »

Agreed.  I immediately think of the Flash gaming space for games on Kongregate.  As many millions and millions of plays those games can get, I don't see many of the users donating any money.  There are reasons for that, some simply being that donating money requires one to have a source of money to begin with--namely a credit card.

Outside of that, I feel that if they can play a game, why spend their hard earned $1.00 to support the developer.  I mean people are reluctant enough to pay $1 for a track of music, why pay for something that's already free?

Anyhow, I'm all about donations and supporting the artists/developers I like.  But yes, ballpark figures would be nice too.

I'm assuming it'll be somewhere in the 0.5% conversion rate.
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2008, 04:13:58 pm »

Hello! I was (and still am I guess) accepting donations for War Twat. Roughly 11,000 downloads over its life span so far, £40 in cold hard cash. Which I'm pretty darn happy with to be truthful and about £39.99 more than I anticipated considering its a small and incredibly silly game.

A couple of things to note when considering the difference between plays and donations in this case:

i) It's called War Twat. It's really not going to go down well with large portions of casual browsers.
ii) I've pushed it primarily as freeware but with an optional donation for those who want to say a special thanks.
iii) The site its hosted on is pretty much 50% paid for by the regular forum goers and I wouldn't ask nor expect them to stump up for a game as well as covering the hosting fees as they do. They already go above and beyond the call of duty.
iv) I've never really gone out of my way to push the donations thing, it just sort of sits there with it's ickle wub heart and leaves it for folks to decide. Ok, big wub heart...
v) You get nothing extra other than a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you've just paid for some teabags for me and that I can now afford better teabags that day thanks to the donation.

I'm fine with the first four and for the next game I bung out, I'll probably keep the same system in place *however* despite knowing that a donation is not a binding contract or anything, I'd like to give those that do a little something back as a thank you.

So aye, people do donate (and I thank everyone who has again!) and I know I do myself when I've got a couple of quid spare and I enjoy whatever it is I've downloaded. Is it a viable way to make a comfortable living? With the right game and the right sell, probably. I won't be going there myself, mind.
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2008, 09:52:14 pm »

Bay 12 releases all their figures for donations, IIRC. There should be a thread on their forums somewhere.

Of course, they have the advantage of having made a highly popular game with an extremely hardcore fanbase, who know that if they don't donate the game won't be finished.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2008, 10:19:43 pm »

Alphasix: 50,000 downloads, 3 donations, totaling around $20.

Fedora Spade: I didn't count the downloads but it's probably in the tens of thousands, 5 donations, totaling around $30.

I think a 0.5% conversion rate is overoptimistic. It's more like 0.01% from my experience (one out of every ten thousand). Another thing to consider is that, more than half the people who donated, are friends of ours or at least know us from forums. Donations from strangers out of nowhere are really rare.

It's not really worth it.

By contrast, my sales figures for Immortal Defense are: about 60,000 downloads, and about 300 sales -- that's a 0.5% conversion rate. Of course, the disadvantage is that you can't give away your game for free that way, but you can always give away a good amount of it in the demo, so even the people who can't afford the full version will get a lot of value out of it (I do 1/3rd).
« Last Edit: October 06, 2008, 10:23:16 pm by rinkuhero » Logged

lordmetroid
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2008, 03:54:46 am »

While I have not done anything myself regarding donations or even earning a living on game development. An independent philosopher running a podcast show, forum and writing books which is all available gratis on his webpage claims he is getting enough donations to do it full time.

What he does is that he always asks for donations as his signature on the forum and in the alot of podcasts both at the end and in the middle as a part of the show he do point out that he is living on donations and please donate.

Donators gets a few perks as gratitude but not mainly people donate because they like his work and wants him to be able to continue doing what he is doing. He is also always looking for ways to expand his audience and reports that his audience population growing around 6% per month.

His product is so much more personal than game development however so it may not be applicable to this business.
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Cymon
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2008, 08:11:30 am »

Cymon's Games. 33 programs and rising. >3k view per week and rising. $20 in donations months ago and holding steady. (Which you'll be seeing half of when I decide to withdraw it, Bob.) Google Ads has been much better for the site, tho I still haven't broken $100 yet, so it's still theoretical cash.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2008, 08:34:09 am by guesst » Logged

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alexandersshen
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2008, 08:41:58 am »

Wow, these are really great responses everyone!  I guess it was more of a "seeing where the market" stands more than anything else.  That's a lot of good information.

Thanks!  Beer!
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Casey
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« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2008, 10:27:15 pm »

Two games with over 25,000 plays, 4 others with anywhere from 1000 to 7000, and $10 from donations (from someone I know), plus a whopping $1.32 from the ads on my website.  If I wanted to make money I'd charge for my games, and I almost never donate so I don't really expect others to.
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Alex May
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2008, 01:50:42 am »

The only instance of donations working that I know of is Dwarf Fortress, as mentioned in IRC recently.

http://www.bay12games.com/forum/index.php?topic=25621.0

Thank Movius for the link.
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« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2008, 07:36:47 am »

In ads I've actually been pretty successful, gonna receive my first check next month which they don't do unless you break a C-note. However I've got new content every week to keep folks coming back.
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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2008, 08:19:17 am »

I wouldn't count a few months for a C-note as "pretty successful"... D:
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2008, 09:44:14 am »

There is one big difference between Dwarf fortress or the podcast example and everything else mentioned in the thread. Dwarf Fortress gets far more donations because the people that donate know that the game will not get made otherwise. Similarly more donations = more podcasts (and bonus content).

However all the other examples are essentially asking for money after the game is made. "Heres my free game. How bout some money please?" versus "Heres my free game. If I have more money I can make it better or make more in the future."

In this sense Dwarf Fortress' model is more like patronage or sponsorship than donations in the strict sense of the word. Making a connection between the developer getting money and the donator getting something return (ie. more games being made/bonus content) also seems to be far more succesful than the "begging for cash" method.

I've also seen several variations on the theme: For a $US5 donation to Yahtzee you can get a special edition of any of the Trilby games with his commentary. $5 will get you access to Echelon but despite the access fee all content on there can be distributed freely.
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« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2008, 09:47:25 am »

I think those "donations, but you get something" are kind of exactly like shareware -- the main difference being that you get more content, almost the entire game, in the "demo" and only a little extra bit is in the "full version". The Graveyard did a similar thing, the demo version is exactly like the full version, except for $5 you get the chance of the old lady dying. I think that can be a good middle-ground between freeware and shareware, but I'm not sure how effectively it works, I haven't ever seen numbers on how successful that type of thing is.
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Movius
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« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2008, 10:11:08 am »

Other than Dwarf Fortress I'm not sure exactly what sort of figures are involved.

It all depends what you are trying to achieve too. If you were planning on releasing a free game anyway and just wanted some donations as a bonus, then these alternate methods could make a huge difference.I would be cautious about relying on them to live off of though.

It's also hard to make a direct comparison between "donations" and "sales" because it is common for someone selling a game to at least use some minimal marketting or promotion. But donation funded software is much less widely publicised.

Personally, I think patronage has a big future thanks to the advent of the internet because the easy distribution of files is a huge benefit. Unlike the impact of piracy on sales.
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« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2008, 10:16:15 am »

By figures I mean how many people donate for the extra content per download or something. I.e. that Dwarf Fortress gets a lot of donations is good, but it's less good if it's only a small percent of the people who play it (since it's a hugely popular game). I have heard they make enough to live on, but if the game has, like, 10 million downloads, only a tiny percent of those need to donate in order to make a living from it. So it'd be interesting, for example, to know how many of the people who downloaded Yahtzee's games donated for the special versions of them.

Donations can often be more publicized actually -- think of PBS's donation drives, or Wikipedia's. But yes, generally they're less publicized.
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Zaphos
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« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2008, 10:34:58 am »

Didn't Jason Rohrer live off donations for a while?  Although he makes more than games.
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« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2008, 10:35:49 am »

I think he did, but he also lives on a small farm, grows all his own food, etc., so his cost of living is very low, I think he said it was around $8000 a year total that he needed to live on.
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Cymon
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« Reply #19 on: October 23, 2008, 10:43:31 am »

I wouldn't count a few months for a C-note as "pretty successful"... D:
It is for a site that doesn't cost me anything and started out of love of the art, not desire for making money.

And I've just decided Jason Rohrer is the indiest of us all!
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