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The Return Of Shareware Games 314

An anonymous reader writes "CNN has a new column up looking at the re-emerging trend of shareware as a means to distribute games. With development prices soaring and space on retail shelves getting scarce, smaller companies like PopCap Games and GarageGames are returning to gaming's roots - and making money in the process."
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The Return Of Shareware Games

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:41PM (#6237822)
    Wow, people aren't just cracking them like we used to do?
    • Re:Making money? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jpmkm ( 160526 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:42PM (#6237837) Homepage
      I remember back in the olden days shareware only had a couple levels(out of the many that the full version had). Therefore, there was nothing to crack. If you wanted to play the full game you had to actually buy it.
      • by inaeldi ( 623679 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:55PM (#6237977)
        Or download it from the BBS nearest you.
      • by leoaugust ( 665240 ) <> on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:02PM (#6238038) Journal

        The bottomline is that it does not matter whether the publisher calls the game or program shareware or not. It is by default shareware, till I decide to convert it to payware or freeware. It just goes to show how the shareware philosophy is no longer on the fringes but it is the mainstream.

        With so much of warez, crackz and serialz, put out by some brilliant minds, I think there is no real difference between a shareware and payware today, esp. in this superconnected space of internet. You can try anything, whether shareware or payware, for almost as long as you like, and if you really like it, then you pay for it. It is the same philosophy that I use for music files too.

        From many programs that I try, I choose only a few that I eventually buy. Thus, from my point-of-view it makes no difference whether the publisher calls it shareware or not. With all the crackz and serials every game/program is shareware for me till I decide to convert it to either payware or freeware. It is nice that some publishers are waking up to this reality.

        • by Goldberg's Pants ( 139800 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:28PM (#6238205) Journal
          The bottomline is that it does not matter whether the publisher calls the game or program shareware or not. It is by default shareware, till I decide to convert it to payware or freeware. It just goes to show how the shareware philosophy is no longer on the fringes but it is the mainstream.

          This is a very good point

          The term "shareware" has been bastardised over the last decade. Back when the concept first arose, SHAREWARE was software you could share with your friends and, if you felt it warranted it, you sent the author a donation. There was nothing crippled, there was nothing missing. You could freely copy it, and the developer might make a few bucks.

          This new usage of the word now means nothing more than game demos put out by developers who can't/won't get their games on the store shelves.

          In short, it AIN'T SHAREWARE, not by the correct definition.
    • yeah, shareware is the way to go! i downloaded a shareware version of airfix dogfighter and liked it so much that i went onto kazaa and downloaded the full cracked version!

      gotta love shareware.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I am glad to hear that shareware gaming is making a comeback. This is because I believe that the shareware approach rather than the "If you can't beat them join them" approach of WineX and the hand me down approach of porting old Windows titles will be the way of building a successful Linux game industry. The basic problem with Linux and gaming is NOT that Linux users don't pay for software but simply that there are not enough of them tp support the release of "big time" commercial games under the Linux pl
  • huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:42PM (#6237831)
    garagegames isn't making any money, at least last I heard. They're a dev house like any other dev house, only they happen to peddle things on the side; or would if anyone would buy.

    PopCap isn't succeeding because of shareware, PopCap is succeeding because their games are like heroin!
  • KDE Games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:42PM (#6237839)
    I am just fine with the games that come with KDE. Not only can they entertain you, they may also build some intelligence.
  • Snood (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackmonday ( 607916 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:43PM (#6237842) Homepage
    My free time was eradicated by a shareware game by the name of Snood [].

    • Re:Snood (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Andorion ( 526481 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:49PM (#6237901)
      Am I the only one who really didn't like Snood? Something about the FEEL of the game - it just wasn't well executed. That, and the fact that the game concept has been done a thousand times before.

  • That's fantastic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Night Goat ( 18437 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:45PM (#6237865) Homepage Journal
    Fucking A. That's great. Maybe people have gotten wise to the fact that a really fun game that lacks shitloads of bells and whistles, and full-motion video after every level will make a bigger profit than a boring game that cost a ton of money because the designers didn't know when to leave well enough alone.

    If designers price the games properly (i.e. don't charge me $50 for a downloaded puzzle game) then I wish them the best of luck.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You have a lot to learn about the real world. I've played many shareware games that were just as bad as any big budget snoozer you allude to. You obviously don't get out much.
      • by Old Uncle Bill ( 574524 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:28PM (#6238208) Journal
        That's not what the parent was saying. He said it didn't have to be all bells and whistles and graphics to be good. Yeah, a lot of low budget games suck some serious ass, but so do a lot of $50 games. This is why I have spent more money in the last year on $20 PopCap games(Bookworm rocks!) and other shareware games instead of the $50 games. Also, at least for me, there is less tendency to pirate a $20 game than a $50 game. And, you may actually learn something from Bookworm. I don't think you are going to learn a whole ton from Unreal 2K (I could be wrong).
      • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:49PM (#6238692)
        While that is true(*) I think the poster was trying to say that it doesn't need the other crap to make it a good game. Yeah...lots of shareware is crap, lots of commercial ware is as well - and some on both sides is good. EyeCandy will only go so far to make a game seem good. A good game will seem good regardless of extras.

        (*) your argument holds true with something else that comes up here a lot - music. Everytime there is an article about the RIAA, people start going on about how you should ditch anything mainstream for local/indie bands. Well...just because they're indie doesn't mean they are good either...most of it (like mainstream) is crap.

        Kinda like the college music attitude of the late 80's, early 90' could be someone farting on a bucket, but as long as it wasn't mainstream they would consider it as golden.
      • Sure, lots of free-to-download games are really bad. So what? They're free!

        Delete them. That's like, the whole point of shareware.

        As long as you don't have to pay for crap games, who cares?

    • ...a really fun game that lacks shitloads of bells and whistles, and full-motion video after every level will make a bigger profit than a boring game that cost a ton of money...

      Full motion video?

      I think the only major game to use much of that in the last three or four years was the recent Enter the Matrix. There are probably other exceptions, but as a rule it just isn't done any more- the game engines look good enough for convincing cut-scenes and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than video, not to mention
    • Mutant Storm by PomPom Games [] and Ricochet Xtreme by Reflexive Entertainment [] are my all-time favorite shareware titles and both could easily sell at twice there going rate ($20). While there's always going to be crap in the shareware world, there's also some gems. These two are definitely gems.
  • by Broadband ( 602443 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:47PM (#6237884)
    I don't know about you guys but I miss the days of being able to try a demo before buying a game...sometimes months prior to the release. I remember playing the Quake III: Arena beta for months before it was released at which point I was first in line to purchase it.

    Nowadays you get games that are released without demos or in the cause of Unreal 2003 a demo months after the game is available retail. Is it just me or does it make more sense to either release demos/shareware prior to launch rather then waste development time weeks after launch when most people have demoed it at a friend's house by now.

    Just my observations :)

    Oh and another great thing about shareware is it can be freely ported and released on different platforms without it being considered piracy. Its nice playing Heretic Shareware on my Dreamcast.
    • by secolactico ( 519805 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:54PM (#6237961) Journal
      I don't know about you guys but I miss the days of being able to try a demo before buying a game

      You can still do that. Many games usually have a downloadable playable demo.

      Oh and another great thing about shareware is it can be freely ported and released on different platforms without it being considered piracy

      Eh? Perhaps you are confusing shareware with, say, open source.
    • UT2003 had a demo before release - but only a couple of weeks before, which wasn't enough for Epic to use it for feedback like they said they wanted to. It was Unreal 2 which had the demo after release.
    • by ctrl-alt-elite ( 679492 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:07PM (#6238069)
      A lot of times, it wasn't just the demo but the full first episode of the game. That way, you got more than enough experience playing the actual game in order to decide whether you like it or not. This is a far cry from the "one level, two guns" approach that most games take nowadays, where you barely even get to see what the game is about befor you're presented with a screen telling you to buy the full version.

      Then again, back in those days the gaming industry was a lot smaller and a lot less driven by hype machines. Could you imagine a game like Daikatana selling in the glory days of shareware, when sales were driven by word of mouth and 'gaming personalities' such as John Romero, Kilcreek, and Cliffy B were non-existent? Back then, they relied on a good shareware first episode to hook the player, not slick magazine ads or fancy movie tie-ins (*coughenterthematrixcough*).

      But then again, maybe I'm just looking at the past through rose-coloured glasses here... ;]
      • Exactly. I think one of the problems today is most games are sold on hype like movies and once the product is purchased it really doesn't matter how bad it is. Here is a great example: Enter The Matrix. The game came out right during E3 and at the same time of the movie so everyone who was a Matrix fan wanted to buy it, and the game reviewers were too busy at E3 to review it. So instead it sold out everywhere only to be realized that is isn't the extrodinary game it was advertised to be. I bet you if a
    • I played the demo to Freedom Force. Kinda liked it - a fun game. Found it for $20 at a store. Bought it - doesn't run. Go figure.

      Still remember getting hooked on the demo to Ultima Underworld though.
  • I wonder why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Disevidence ( 576586 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:47PM (#6237885) Homepage Journal
    With the emergence of games shipping unfinished, with so many bugs and really pathetic gameplay, is it any wonder shareware is coming back. Its the simple phrase - "Try before you buy".

    Most development houses are pushed these days by publishers to get games out in peak selling periods, and often these games are lacking in more than a few departments. Thats why shareware could work once more, especially with ease of purchase over the internet and bandwidth these days.
    • by Codex The Sloth ( 93427 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:09PM (#6238088)
      As development costs on games have skyrocketed to the levels of feature films, the quality has gone down and games have started to stagnate. The reason is that the backers want a high certainty of return on their investment rather than taking a risk. This is the kind of mentality that leads to games like "Enter the Matrix". Sucky game with a movie tie-in (of course Movie tie-in games have always sucked. Slate [] had a great article on this recently).
      • As development costs on games have skyrocketed to the levels of feature films

        Millions of dollars? Really? I'm not saying you're wrong, but could you give an example? I haven't heard of game dev $ reaching that high . . . (then again, I kind of left keeping up on the gaming scene a while ago . . .)

        • Well, a AAA title has a dev time of anything between 2 and 4 years. I can't give exact figures, but games like UT2k3, NWN and any other top title (I'm talking production values, not gameplay quality) cost anywhere between 2 and 10 million to make. Go read Gamasutra, fatbabies and other sites of the like for exact figures.
    • Most development houses are pushed these days by publishers to get games out in peak selling periods...

      That's what we live for. Those peak selling periods. Sell, sell, sell. Everything must go now.

      I think this is yet another symptom of our system of monetary exchange where we value the money more than the process of exchanging. What is important in life is to exchange those goods, but we lose sight of that and go for the money every chance we get, sometimes forgetting about the goods we're exchanging
    • Re:I wonder why (Score:4, Interesting)

      by HBI ( 604924 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:48PM (#6238313) Journal
      Amen to that.

      I used to buy just about every good looking game that came out. Now I buy only bargain bin titles that I know are good.

      Why? I don't want to fight through the bugs. Even Diablo (1) was horrible due to this - it crashed incessantly at first, and things haven't gotten much better. Unreal Tournament really sucked in this regard. Generally I just go looking for the patch for X game because you know there is going to be one.

      When the games are this buggy, and obviously unplaytested (otherwise, why the bugs?) then it's small wonder the gameplay blows in most cases.

      Moral: lack of software QA effort translates into lost sales. Also, big corporations on tight deadlines produce shitty code.
      • Re:I wonder why (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mac Degger ( 576336 )
        Shows you how it pays to buy standardised hardware, though. If you have an intel cpu, a soundblaster sound card and an nvidia gfx card, you'll be surprised at how little games crash.

        OTOH, get an amd, a vortex sound card (yeah, better 3d positioning [hey it at least has a z-axis!], but the gravis ultrasound was better than anything in it's time, too [still is better than most cards out there now!]) and a matrox gfx card, and have fun with those BSOD's.
        • Agreed, but I usually have standard stuff.

          My current rig is an ASUS P3 board, Radeon 9000 and a SB PCI 512. Nothing earth shattering there and nice compatibility. Many titles are still flaky. Something DirectX and old like Starcraft is rock solid though. The only explanation I can find is that they bothered playtesting that and shook all the bugs out.
  • by 222 ( 551054 ) <[stormseeker] [at] []> on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:52PM (#6237932) Homepage
    Most games released today generally have a demo, usually available before the official release of the game. It either lets you know whether you want the game, or gets you hopelessly addicted...
    Just like Doom....
  • ambrosia (Score:5, Informative)

    by SweetAndSourJesus ( 555410 ) <> on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:53PM (#6237943)
    Ambrosia Software [] has been doing this on the Mac for ages. Their games are always fun, reasonably priced shareware.

    I've bought more than a handful of their titles, and have had more fun with them than most commercial releases provide.
    • Re:ambrosia (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kaz Riprock ( 590115 )
      I'm personally waiting for EV:Nova to come out for my PC. I own the first EV, but haven't had a Mac for a few years now to keep playing it.

      EV:Nova will be my reintroduction into the Ambrosia family. (Now if they could get more ports, I'd buy a few of their other games...Office Harry was a lot of fun).
    • You can't forget... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jellisky ( 211018 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:01PM (#6238020) Journal
      ... the king of the weird and fun shareware for Mac (and some Windows):

      Freeverse Software []

      Freeverse is one of my all-time favorite shareware companies. Games that work well, play well, can be as addicting as all heck, and often have an odd sense of humor.
      Between Ambrosia and Freeverse, most Mac users don't need any other games. Okay, maybe some others, but those are usually enough for many people.

    • W00t. Ambrosia is an old Amiga demoscene group. Sat with them on a demoparty once, nice guys.

    • Yeah, but everything Ambrosia puts out absolutly rules. 90% of absolutly suck. [] In my expierence, non-box games are more fun and more inventive than box games because box games today rely too much on graphics and cutscenes and voiceovers, and wind up terrible. See enter the matrix. Good graphics, good movie, downright crappy gameplay. Then consider Rockstar's GTA Vice. The graphics aren't the most impressive (I will not argue about this.) but the gameplay rules. Rockstar is a smaller, more independant develp
    • Ambrosia and Freeverse. Two companies that have been doing the shareware thing for close to 10 years and making it. Fun stuff!
  • by ctrl-alt-elite ( 679492 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:53PM (#6237944)
    The poor site didn't stand a chance. Here's [] Google's cached version.
  • Yeah baby (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sn00ker ( 172521 )
    Shareware is about due for a resurgence.
    And whatever happened to "The Incredible Machine"? That game rocked. Simple concept, but great in terms of developing analytical and problem-solving skills - My younger brothers and their friends (all in the eight to 12 age range at the time) were seriously hooked.
    These days most of the games that keep kids that age entertained are FPS (violent) or massive multi-player (not good if you don't have a 'net connection (and, yes, there are people out there who don't)
    • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:58PM (#6238001)
      I tried to play TIM on my Athlon 2600 system not long ago. The game wasn't designed for fast machihnes, unfortunately. You click "Go", the screen blurs, and your machine is lying in pieces at your feet. Not a chance in hell to see what actually went on.

      It's a pity, cause I agree that game was great.
      • Yeah. Even Pentium-class machines were getting a bit too fast.
        My family got a P120 with 16MB (oh yes what a power-house), and seeing what you'd achieved was getting pretty hard without a very, very complex machine.

    • Re:Yeah baby (Score:5, Informative)

      by Twid ( 67847 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:04PM (#6238054) Homepage
      I found most of the "Incredible Machine" series available for download at The Underdogs [] (a great site for info/downloads of old games).

      I haven't tried to install any of them yet, but I grabbed v3.0 and the original. Getting old DOS games to run under XP can be tricky, but there is always DOSEMU, which usually works. There are some tips on the site if you have trouble.

      • I never had any success with DOSEMU. I have had great success with Bochs. Managed to play Project Space Station (1987) by Avantage on my p3 800 MHz. Processor emulation is the strong point of Bochs. That game simply rules and should be made again. The main problem with Bochs is getting the sound operational. I've had no luck with sound. Does DOSEMU do any better?
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:53PM (#6237950)
    There are 2 types of shareware :

    - Limited version : when you pay, you get a key that unlocks the full product

    - Full working version : the author asks you nicely to pay, or send a postcard, coin stamp ...

    Concerning the former, at first, people who know how crack it (tracing with a debugger and NOPing away the final key test), others reinstall regularly or play with the system time to get the program to continue working, and some do pay. Finally, if the program is successful enough, there'll be a key on a crack site eventually anyway.

    For the latter, it's like spammers : authors hope for a 1% return rate, knowing full well most people won't nicely send them money for their hard work once they've installed the software.

    Most people aren't honest. It's sad but it's a fact, and it's especially true for software users. So, the real question is : are current times so desperate for gaming software shops that developers revert to releasing shareware instead of selling their work as regular products ?
    • by Doctor7 ( 669966 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:20PM (#6238144)
      I released one shareware game on the Atari ST, and had some success with a hybrid approach. The released version was the full playable game, and registering got you the editor, support files, and even the source code if you specifically asked for it. So anyone who just wanted to play the included scenarios (it was a wargaming system) was under no obligation, and those who did register had enough interest in creating content that they were worth corresponding with.

      The registration fee was fairly nominal, I'd written the game for my own use and it was only the fact that it could be neatly divided into game and editor that prompted me to try a shareware release. A few people even sent more than I asked for on the basis that it had given them as much playing time as any commercial game.

      Mind you, all this was in the days when recieving a registration meant sending out a floppy containing the new content. Being able to do everything on-line makes the whole business a lot easier, but it has also killed off the concept of public domain libraries, which were the primary way of getting the unregistered version out there in the first place.

    • Of course, ridiculous programmers try something even more stupid: give enough to get a taste and require you to buy the rest/sequel/full version.

      That is a ridiculous scheme, doomed to failiure. I quake thinking some might want to do as "unsucessful" as Commander Keen!

      -- MG

    • So, the real question is : are current times so desperate for gaming software shops that developers revert to releasing shareware instead of selling their work as regular products ?

      I think you are looking at it entirely the wrong way. I have one shareware game out there doing reasonably well Shameless Plug [] and I have another finished about to be released. When you sell shareware you aim for a good conversion rate (downloads to orders). A good conversion rate is around the 2% mark for games. So only 1

  • Now all of their money will be going into paying for extra bandwidth...

    "Please be patient and try again in a few moments. is currently experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tsali ( 594389 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:55PM (#6237973)
    There's other approaches, too. In the genre of simulation sports of baseball and football and such, it is usually produced by one or two developers who "open up the process" to everyone and release public betas.

    I find that this approach matches extreme programming to some degree if releases are done fairly regularly, and you can get a good read on the pulse (or lack of a pulse) on what the game should have above and beyond your original intentions.

    The game I'm working on I release every two weeks if possible, and it has been a motivator to keep plugging ahead.

  • I wouldn't say that what popcap does really resembles the shareware of old, which often consisted of short teasers for much longer, more elaborate games. The plain old game demo is the closest thing to "Wolfenstein Episode 1" et al.
  • Economic Cycle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @06:57PM (#6237993) Journal

    Maybe this is a sign that we are in the last phase of the recession, and into the "pre expansion" phase of the business cycle.

    I wonder how many of the people writing these games were layed off and decided to pick up on some ideas that weren't worth exploring during the boom.

    Here's hoping that some of these guys get into hardware and innovative business ideas too. It could spawn the "next big thing".

    I also wonder if these guys are old school shareware authors-- no crippleware (at least not severely*), no spyware, no adware, no nagware. Just "guiltware", which is pretty effective, despite all the crackerz out there. Best of all, traditional shareware was uncrackable because it was already cracked!

    *Judgement call. An HTML editor that can't save is crippleware. An HTML editor without the advanced features or a "lite" version is not such a bad thing. For games, having just the first few levels is acceptable. Classic example: Quake.

  • by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:04PM (#6238046)
    - The demos tend to be representative of the final game. I don't get to play 1/10 of 1 level with 99% of the the features disabled - as I often do with boxed software. It's not in a shareware developer's best interest to turn you off with a bad demo. There is no shelf presence to make you think "Damn, I should give that a second-chance"

    - Instant gratification. I can download a demo, decide I like it, place and order and receive my liscense code within a matter of minutes. The days of waiting for your registration to be processed are coming to an end.

    - Price. I can get most games for $20, $30 tops. This, coupled with the faster registration times I mentioned above make shareware more of an impluse buy than ever.

    - Developers generally have a better attitude. This is purely subjective, but in my experience the developers are much more interested in what the community thinks of their product and how it can be improved than the "boxed" developers. The "release and forget" mentality is simply not that big of an issue in the shareware community.

    - More complex games are showing up as shareware. In the past, simple Tetris-like games have been the mainstays of the shareware industry. Escape Velocity, and the Mac version of Uplink are good examples of this. More users with high-bandwith connections are making epic-scale games easier to distribute.
  • by Featureless ( 599963 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:04PM (#6238053) Journal
    It's fascinating how many bright people are locked out of the industry right now.

    Everything is geared towards big-money projects, which you can't get into unless you're one of the X thousand people already into it. No one gets these gigs; even if you do, you can make a successful game and still come out owing money to the cartel. Of the $50 you pay for a game, it's split (very roughtly) 50% for the store and 45% for the publisher. You have to have a megahit to get ahead.

    Ahem. Meanwhile, back in the real world...

    There are interesting avenues in cell phones (but our shitty regulatory system set that back about 5 years in the U.S.). Handheld gaming is tantalizing, at least because you don't need 10-20 million minimum to make a handheld game, but even there you get into the same kinds of issues with the platform vendor, their favored publishers, and the mafioso retail system. So in reality most "garage shops" are locked out of that too.

    This is a big bummer, because you can produce some pretty amazing games on sub-million budgets (even sub 200,000 budgets) and this is where the real innovation happens - not with the polycount skyscraper competition but with whole new gameplay ideas. Check out shops like Large Animal Games [] - these places have amazing ideas, there is basically no channel for them to sell their wares.

    Online vendors, micropayments, etc. are barely nascent; shareware is actually still near the top of a lot of lists. No game will be Wolf3D or Doom of course... None of these systems will make you a lot of money. But like with a lot of things the internet now allows smaller places to live on this sort of thing that couldn't have before.

    There is a big market waiting to happen if we can figure out what comes _after_ shareware; if there's some way to allow the little guys to sell their goods in a cheap, secure way. To cut out the middlemen, in other words.
    • Dunno about the situation in the US, but a lot of newer phones in europe are java there should be an avenue for the small fry to sell; over the internet.
    • by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @11:24PM (#6239578)
      Check out shops like Large Animal Games - these places have amazing ideas, there is basically no channel for them to sell their wares.

      This is where Sony can make inroads against Nintendo with their upcoming handheld. Include a 32MB+ CF card (or built in memory) that can transfer games you download online, via USB cable to the handheld. All of the big name games will be in the stores, but you will have tons of independent games to make the system more attractive.

      Hell, I already get all of my GBA games that way []

  • Return? (Score:5, Informative)

    by malice ( 82026 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:09PM (#6238087) Homepage
    We've been making money selling shareware products (really, just electronically distributed/sold products these days) for the past 15 years, and making money at it. Yes, with a real office, real employees, and real paychecks.

    • We've been making money selling shareware products (really, just electronically distributed/sold products these days) for the past 15 years, and making money at it. Yes, with a real office, real employees, and real paychecks.

      And you've been doing a good job too! Though I'm not a big player of games, I have played several of your games in the past. In fact, just reading this discussion has encouraged me to take another look at your recent offerings.

      Would you be able to give me an insight into the co
  • The best new shareware games I've played recently are Space Tripper [] and Mutant Storm [] from PomPom, a two-man UK company.

    Alright, I admit it, I used to work with the guys who wrote them, but they're still the most awesome Defender / Robotron-style (respectively) updates I've ever played.

    Oh... they have windows, mac and *linux* versions, so I guess the slashdot crowd should appreciate that.
  • by dethl ( 626353 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:26PM (#6238191)
    We'll get to play great games like Commander Keen once again?
  • Diablo, the first edition, I remember was available as a demo. I also remember that "Future Shop" sold the "shareware" version for those who didn't want to make the multi-meg downlownload. I can't remember the size of Diablo exactly, but it was pretty massive for a 56k modem, likely to be 50-100meg or so if my memory is correct. Quake II also still has a nice little shareware edition.

    You know... after getting a 99cent copy of diablo the shareware edition, I payed full price for the game within a week.

  • by bluelan ( 534976 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:31PM (#6238225)
    If you like classic rambling role playing games like Ultima III, check out:

    I personally recommend Avernum II and III. Geneforge looks interesting as well. There, but for the cruelty of life, go you.

  • by shird ( 566377 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:32PM (#6238230) Homepage Journal
    This doesnt surprise me actually. The only people that pay for games these days are the honest ones that would probably pay for the shareware ones. The emergence of P2P file sharing means that all games are essentially 'free', its just a matter of being honest and legit to actually pay for them. Seeing as these are the only people going to pay, you may as well go with the flow, and give out your games free and ask people to be honest, cause thats whats going to happen anyway.
  • Shareware hasn't gone anywhere, it's still here. It appears that some of the bigger players are now just trying to come back to it to reduce their costs.

    --- Shamless Plug ---

    Try some of these games. Some are free (like the one I wrote (FrostByte Freddie) and some are shareware. Check them out at Dark Unicorn Productions []

    --- End of Shamless Plug ---
  • by TheAwfulTruth ( 325623 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @07:52PM (#6238331) Homepage
    Since they are DEAD SET against the entire concept of shareware, to the point of being absurdly rude about it.

    But here, even in the free software haven, shareware is considered viable and very much alive.

    I am a shareware developer and had looked to license qt for a small run, low cost piece of software and they told me to go get stuffed. Full, insanely high priced, commercial license or GPL or go to hell is their motto. :(
    • Re: shareware vs GPL (Score:3, Informative)

      by TeknoHog ( 164938 )
      Full, insanely high priced, commercial license or GPL or go to hell is their [QT's] motto.

      The GPL does not forbid selling the software. Its main restriction is that source code must be available to everyone who gets the executable program.

  • Sure, he swiped his alias from the famous character on *Moonlighting* portrayed by Bruce Willis, but man could that guy write great shareware games. His version of Monopoly on the Atari ST was incredibly fun...and it would cheat too! But then the entity known then as Parker Bros. got mad, sued him, and he disappeared. Actually, I think the game was *freeware* come to think of it... If anyone has any info on what the guy is doing now, I'd appreciate it...
  • Good little games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sixdotoh ( 584811 ) < minus pi> on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:01PM (#6238389) Homepage
    I don't know about the rest of you, but when I think of shareware I think of the small little games you download to waste time away. Games like Commander Keen (to get really old-school), Icy Tower (and other great games by, and . . . well, you know, those small little 1 to 3 megabyte games you download that are great to pass the time/relieve stress and have fun. Most of these games are made by one person or just a small group who got together and cranked out a little game just for fun.

    These type of games seem to have dissapeared in recent years, and is it because the big download pages (, are consumed with a flood of commercial demos from the big name game developers and these small games are nearly invisible because of the vast amount? Or have people stopped making these types of games, unable to compete with the desire for top graphics and gameplay.

    I was on a Mac from about 1995-1999 and the quality of the shareware on the Mac platforms seemed to be far better than Windows shareware. The games were more fun, rarely crashed or didn't work. Anyone else seen this? Anyone have any reasons for this? Anyone care?;~)

  • by Shishio ( 540577 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:02PM (#6238396)
    It's good to know PopCap Games is making money through their shareware model, but it's not going to get me to buy any games I can find at []. I can hardly bring myself to fork over cash for games like UT 2003, and I've been playing the demo of that for quite a while now.
  • Play before you buy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:04PM (#6238408) Journal
    Really, if more games came out first as shareware, it's likely piracy might decrease.
    Good thing about shareware include:

    • Test the actual gameplay
    • See how it runs on your hardware
    • Not having to shell out for duds
    • Bugfixes to pre-release shareware can help final releases be more stable

    In many games, it should be hard to make a shareware copy. Just clip the game after X levels/scenes/items etc, and you've got a nice demo. Shareware could also be nice for hardware reviews, I seem to remember various hardware being tested on shareware versions of doom, etc - which provided a nicer "reality" benchmark than today's crackable Futuremark, etc
  • by marcushnk ( 90744 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [sutcenes]> on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:07PM (#6238428) Journal
    I downloaded a "shareware" version of "Crimsonland"

    Got hooked, finished what I could and proceeded to whip out the CC to finish buying it..

    Bastard addictive game it is too.. highly recommended for those that want a deceptivly simple challenge...
  • waste of effort (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:13PM (#6238472)
    It is very difficult to make any money in shareware, only a relative handful of people ever been successful. I would estimate chance of recouping money worth the effort at well under one percent. A never ending stream of starry eyed programmers discover this every year.

    Create something for the love of it and let it free. Don't waste time with shareware because:

    a) you'll be disappointed.
    b) no one will use it.
    c) your work will be unappreciated.

  • by lysium ( 644252 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @08:36PM (#6238611)
    I was quite surprised when I came across the shareware offerings that are appearing on OS X. Ambrosia Software released what I have to say is the first innovative game I've seen in a long time. Uplink by Ambrosia Software-- a Gibsonish hacking simulator, in the sense that Elite and Frontier are economic simulators.

    The first time I ran against an International Banking system, I actually started sweating as I watched the traceback get closer (so quickly) to my home system............ this will appeal to your inner hacker, perhaps as a guilty pleasure.

    Most engrossing game experience since Half-Life. And at least six other games floating around the mac shareware sites of equal quality. Blows the hell out of anything commericial AND the noble offerings of Linux developers.


  • by rmohr02 ( 208447 ) <mohr.42@[ ].edu ['osu' in gap]> on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @09:34PM (#6238969)
    It appears Garage Games is licensing their Torque Game Engine to anyone for $100 [].
  • Try before you buy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pabtro ( 609586 )
    Shareware = Try before you buy
    A tryout for 30 days is the industry standard(Microsoft, Corel, etc.). âoeSharewareâ has always been âoealiveâ.
  • Availablity. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chronus ( 201970 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @09:56PM (#6239088)
    Could it be that the means for delivering good shareware is finally catching up to the amount of data files(Animation and such) that the average spiffy game is employing? I don't mean the small shareware games to kill a few hours, but the larger more pro ones. I know that if I had to sit for a few hours to get my install of Starscape, like I would when I had my modem, I would probably not have bothered.
  • Phrase Craze Plus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lunartik ( 94926 ) on Wednesday June 18, 2003 @09:59PM (#6239106) Homepage Journal
    Thanks to this article I searched out Phrase Craze Plus (a Wheel of Fortune knock-off) which I used to play under Macintosh System 6. I downloaded it, it opens in OS 9 and plays fine.

    No sound though. Hmm.

    Anyways, Macs had tons of shareware and it was stuff you were free to use and encouraged to make donations if you enjoyed it.
  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @01:19AM (#6240209) Journal
    The problem with this article is that 90% of the "shareware" I download isn't shareware at all, it's a demo.

    The way I (and most people I know) define these terms:

    Shareware: Software distributed in a fully functioning, non-limited version. A request is distributed along with the software that asks the user to send some money to the author(s). whether or not you send the money, the software will have all features and not disable itself at any time. The software may have a "nag" screen that asks for you to send the fee.

    Demo: Software that is disabled or restricted in some way from it's full version. To use the software's full feature set, or to use it for an ulimited amount of time requires you to pay a fee. Not paying the fee will cause the software to disable itself, or to continue to operate in a lesser manner than the full version.

    Freeware: Shareware that has no request for money. the software is free.

    Free Software: Similar to freeware, but the source code is usually available and usable by end users.

    There is a VERY large push today (apparently backed by sites like Versiontracker) to use "shareware" and "demo" interchangeably. Sorry, but I just don't but it. I pay shareware fees when I use truely shareware software. I've decided to boycott any software that claims to be shareware but is in fact a demo.

    Some software (such as BBEdit on the Mac) sort of blur the line a little. BBEdit Light is freeware, you may use all the program's features for as long as you like. But Light is also a demo for the full BBEdit which is commercial software that has more features than Light. There is also a true demo version of BBEdit that is lauch limited, then refuses to operate.
  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @01:30AM (#6240243) Journal
    More evidence to show the legality of P2P sharing systems!
  • by POPE Mad Mitch ( 73632 ) on Thursday June 19, 2003 @06:31AM (#6241232) Homepage
    It seems that the the low cost and ease of distribution and charging that the internet gives us is once more making it viable for the small one-man firms to trade.

    A prime example of this is Llamasoft, Jeff Minters old company. Back in the 80's and early nineties he produced what many people would say are some of the finest examples of really addictively playable games. Revenge of the Mutant Camels, and Llamatron being some of my favourites.

    For many years since the Yak has put most of these old versions on his website for people to download and enjoy, claiming it wasnt worth the expense of trying to sell anymore, but with little or no new material available.

    Now it seems he has relaunched Llamasoft [] and is releasing new improved games as shareware, with full versions available for about 5UKP, which is serious value for money for work of this high a calibre.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein