Why do people make a good game for free?

Iron_Brew

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Nov 19, 2021
Messages
408
Reaction score
1,190
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
So, have your parents charged you yet for all the labour involved in bringing you up? Not a snippy reply on my part, but one used to point out that in fact there is nothing in the world which says that all labour should be remunerated. It is a purely optional choice to take that stance, not a law of the universe. At times love can be hard work, so can friendship. Do you really want those monetized? Voluntary charitable work is, by definition, unpaid but is often hard work. People do a a huge range of things for an equally huge range of reasons. I, for one, would be sad to see a world in which everyone expected to be paid for everything.

And I think the same thing applies to game making. Not everyone wants to be paid for doing what they enjoy doing. In fact, being paid for it can change the whole way you relate to an activity to the extent that you'd rather not do it anymore.

There's more than one way to be paid.

With regards to your pithy point about familial responsibility, in short: Yes. I think I've more than paid my parents back for the labour they put in raising me. More than. If anything they owe me at this point.

People who do altruistic things (charity work, looking after friends) should absolutely be praised and feel good, but the feeling of accomplishment is the payment there. Remuneration might traditionally refer only to financial compensation, but there is something to be said for the "payment" in being moral and ethical, and a good friend/person. A good deed is, after all, famously its own reward.

My issue with the idea that art is in some way fueled by passion/altruism is precisely what @ATT_Turan said. A lot of people look at art, or music, or making games and think "oh, that's not real work, so why should I pay for it", and while I absolutely respect people who put games out for free I also see a lot of people taking advantage of that to underpay them:

"all labor is worthy of being remunerated."

This is a much better way of putting it.

I work in gamedev and the number of people I see (not at my company, thankfully) labouring day in day out for little to no money is a real tragedy and a blight on the industry. This abuse of workers runs on the idea that "people want to be doing this", and that passion means that people are willing to put up with worse conditions, less money, and frankly more abuse. It's built on the idea that this labour is in some way inherently altruistic, and because people do care about what they're doing, they go along with it.

It's why getting credible, industry-wide gamedev unions is still in its infancy, relative to the longevity of the industry, and why for a lot of devs the average work week is 70 hours, while they are only paid for 40.

I just want to see a world where labour of any kind is recognised and paid, even if it's "fun" or something people are "passionate about". And where the second a person says "this is worth money" people are there to pay for it, rather than debating whether or not it's a good idea to pay for things.

Edit:

I do realise my initial post was a bit off-topic and about the value of labour rather than why people do fun things without being paid. I wouldn't want to speculate necessarily on peoples' motives for doing stuff for free, but when I've put stuff out for free it's because I want to make people happy and catalogue my own improvement :D
 
Last edited:

Ellenor

Artist: Digital/Pixelart/3D
Veteran
Joined
Dec 2, 2012
Messages
93
Reaction score
444
First Language
Swedish
Primarily Uses
Other
Well, for me my first games were free because I was a noob who had no experience in making games or asset at the time.
Other reasons people make free games can be anything from exposure to just see game making as a hobby.
 

NeptuneTron

The Salticid Scholar of the North
Veteran
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
82
Reaction score
49
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
The main reason to release a game for free is to establish trust.

If it's the first game anyone's ever seen from you, they have no idea if it's a good game or not, and most people aren't going to be very willing to fork over very much money for something that they have no idea if it's good or not.

By releasing a game for free, you can make sure that people are going to actually play the game, and hopefully they'll enjoy it and tell their friends, which means that when you release a new game, there will be some people who do have that level of trust to pay you for that new game.

(On a side note, by charging even $1, you scare away a lot of potential players, so if you're going to charge money, you really want to make sure that it's worth it considering how much you're reducing your potential playerbase by)

It's basically a marketing strategy: since you can't afford to run ads to tell people how good your game is, you need to convince them to play your games by showing them that your games are good and that you can be trusted to make something they'll enjoy.

That's the slightly more cynical way of thinking about it.

From a less cynical perspective, if you made something really cool, you want as many people as possible to see how cool it is. If you charge money for it, that prevents some people from enjoying it, while making it free opens it up a lot more to maximize the number of people who will enjoy it. If you're proud of something you did as a hobby, don't feel the need to charge anyone money for it; you did it for fun, and making something all about the financials can really suck the joy out of it, so just focus on sharing your passion and art with other people. Conversely, also don't feel bad about charging people money for your game: you put in effort and time into this, and there will be people who appreciate it.

Also, don't forget there are other ways of monetizing games aside from just selling the game itself: you can use a service like ******* where the people who enjoy your work support it by making periodic donations, or you can offer expansions/updates/full versions at a price so that people can get a taste for the game before buying it. Those are probably the only realistic options for the scale that you're probably working at, but there are lots of other ways companies are monetizing their games that you could use as well, though implementing them would be much more difficult.
 

NamEtag

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jun 27, 2020
Messages
73
Reaction score
50
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
N/A
Because dealing with all the real world processes to make something to sell is not fun.

Because if you go into it thinking about how to sell it instead of how to make it, the process becomes less fun and you are less likely to reach the part where you finish a product.

Because if you make it cost money, you suddenly have to compete with a lot more people and companies who know how to make their product superficially more interesting and now you have to market your game, which involves a very different skillset that you may not have.
 

Garryg

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
May 16, 2022
Messages
114
Reaction score
48
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMXP
Personally I do it as a hobby to relax. I've made games using various systems and languages over the years and they were all done primarily as a hobby.

Having said that, making games and releasing them for free is a good way to get your name known. I was at a place where people wanted to buy games I was making for the MB Vectrex on cartridge, and I was almost ready to burn the chips and release this when my Vectrex broke, and I realised how much people were wanting nowadays to replace it! So that didn't happen. I still occasionally get asked if I will ever release these games on cartridge. So yes releasing free games does get you known and can lead to you being able to sell games.

But probably the main reason I'm not trying to make indie games for a living is that I know I could never make anything like what I get for my full-time day job!

Probably because of this I generally just make what I want as well, with little regard to what would sell! Having said that, I still want to make a decent game that people would actually want to play!
 

ShadowDragon

Realist
Veteran
Joined
Oct 8, 2018
Messages
5,963
Reaction score
2,335
First Language
Dutch
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I try to make a game for free, not for fame, or reputation.
they can like it or they dont.

if they like it, they may donate, if not, it's oke, as I dont care about the
money.

the most important thing I believe if they like it or not, they have
a choice to donate and support the developer for a new game or
their current game improvements.

as they can learn alot from the feedback to improve or learn from
the engine better and new ways to make a better game out of those
feedback/suggestions.

noone is perfect and they never will, as long the people enjoy the game
and give valueable feedback/suggestion has probably more value than money.

you can agree or disagree on this opinion, as I see it in that perspective :)
 

thenerdmansion

Graphic Design/Complex Eventer
Veteran
Joined
Jan 5, 2015
Messages
310
Reaction score
119
First Language
Spanish
Primarily Uses
N/A
I want as many people as possible to play it. I can’t just spend years of my life on a project and then put it behind a pay wall especially if I don’t have a community that follows the game. Watching other people play your game and have fun gives you a sense of joy and dopamine. Shortly after, let the game build the community for you, watch as people do reviews of your game. Watch as people build walkthroughs of your game. As you gain fame and earn their trust you you start to finish your commercial title and pitch it onto the gaming community that you built then watch as the community spreads the word of your new game.
 

Sharm

Pixel Tile Artist
Veteran
Joined
Nov 15, 2012
Messages
12,813
Reaction score
11,101
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
N/A
I haven't done a game for free, but the art I've given away for free has been because I wanted to practice without making people pay when I wasn't prepared to be professional yet, and because I enjoyed the community that I was giving art to and wanted to share something with them as a thank you for that. I suspect the first game I make, if I ever stop being ADHD about projects for long enough to make a game, will be free for the same reasons.
 

Lord Vectra

Master Eventer
Veteran
Joined
Dec 6, 2015
Messages
253
Reaction score
366
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
So, I'm making my game, and it's going to be free. As others have mentioned, for some, it isn't the money. For me, this is my first official public game, so I want it to be free to get my name out there and get more feedback (people like free things). I have been told (and this advice sounds great to me) is you make your first game free to show people on forums like these, so you don't risk gathering a negative reputation on other platforms like Steam because if you're going for money, you're typically sharing it to other platforms as well.

To make it more personal, I have put a lot in my current game because I want to show what I'm capable of and want to relay that in my work because the more I put in, the more people recieve, and the more they recieve, they get a better well-rounded idea of who I am, my abiltiies, and give feedback accordingly whether it be about the game or myself, so to me, it's worth it to make it free even if I end up spending money on it because I'm expecting the value (the critique/feedback) to be worth whatever I put in to potentially create a path for me to get to where I want to go with this.

On the flipside, as someone who help people with projects, I would accept pay, but I will also do it for free as long as it's not a commercial project because I always say "a lot of nice things cost enough money in this world. If someone needs a little bit of help, I'm not going to add on to it." My Uncle and I butt heads all the time about me saying that, but it's how I feel, and it's a hill I will die on.
 

Finnuval

Old Raven following Rainbows
Veteran
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Messages
2,504
Reaction score
9,274
First Language
Dutch
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
For me the reason is tri-fold :

As many before me have mentioned there is the hassle of making a game commercially viable and the rules that go with that. They are not for me as it would drive me insane.

Second there is the need/desire to share. I want to share/tell this story and my art for others to enjoy. I want it out in the world being part of someone else's experience and enjoyment.

Lastly a combination of these two really imo. Once I start charging money for it ppl will start expecting things. And not that is do not believe what I make isn't good enough, however it is what I want to make. Not what others want me to make. Making a game commercial will inevitably lead to more concessions needing to be made on those fronts (at least if you are aiming for a large audience and want succes). Conssecions I am not willing to make with my own story.
(Opposed to when I do commissioned work or helping out someone per example as that is not my story, my desire I am just a vessel in which someone else finds a way to tell their story and thus adjusting to their needs is easy.)

That's my two cents anyway :)
 

Latest Threads

Forum statistics

Threads
124,348
Messages
1,162,931
Members
163,143
Latest member
WinterWolf
Top