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View Full Version : What's it like to sell shareware?


Doctor Q
May 14, 2003, 09:49 PM
What's it like to be in the shareware business?

How did you... test your program in a variety of environments? pick your price? decide whether to operate on the honor system or use unlock codes? write your license agreement or README file? publicize it? distribute it? maintain it?

How many (or what percentage of) users paid what you asked? Did you make enough money that it was worth the effort?

If you are a shareware author, please share your experiences.

Doctor Q
May 15, 2003, 05:09 PM
Perhaps I should have asked this first: Are there any shareware authors among MacRumors forum members?

caveman_uk
May 15, 2003, 05:26 PM
For answers to these sorts of questions try asking some existing shareware authors whose stuff you think is good and seem on the level. I've spoken with some about this (UK authors) and generally they were really helpful.

rainman::|:|
May 15, 2003, 06:26 PM
i've been wondering about that-- how much they make. it can't be much, but it'd be interesting to know... like glu, i have Weatherpop and i always wonder about the company. anymore all shareware developers go by a business name, and they don't want you knowing how well (or not) their company is doing.

:)
pnw

iJon
May 15, 2003, 06:42 PM
Originally posted by paulwhannel
i've been wondering about that-- how much they make. it can't be much, but it'd be interesting to know... like glu, i have Weatherpop and i always wonder about the company. anymore all shareware developers go by a business name, and they don't want you knowing how well (or not) their company is doing.

:)
pnw
actually ive heard of people making tons of money from my shareware. my dad still tells me the story of this guy back when the mac was very popular. i guess this guy made some news app or something or some calendar, cant remember what it was. he told me that he had so many checks coming in the mail it was crazy. Could have changed though. I bet the people who make Watson make a good amount, thats one hell of an app.

iJon

ozubahn
May 15, 2003, 07:57 PM
It all depends on whether or not your application is useful. I have read that most shareware authors don't make much money, but then again most shareware is not especially useful, or is useful but interchangeable with software available elsewhere for free. I think if you can come up with a program that people actually want, you can make a decent part time job out of it at least. Thorston Lemke (GraphicConverter) makes money. Ambrosia makes money. I don't know about the little guys. I'll get back to you as soon as I launch the app I'm working on (which will happen sometime after I actually write it). :)

melchior
May 15, 2003, 07:58 PM
oreilly.com/mac did a short piece on shareware developing a little while ago... http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/2003/01/24/dev_osx.html

melchior
May 15, 2003, 08:00 PM
Originally posted by ozubahn
It all depends on whether or not your application is useful. I have read that most shareware authors don't make much money, but then again most shareware is not especially useful, or is useful but interchangeable with software available elsewhere for free. I think if you can come up with a program that people actually want, you can make a decent part time job out of it at least. Thorston Lemke (GraphicConverter) makes money. Ambrosia makes money. I don't know about the little guys. I'll get back to you as soon as I launch the app I'm working on (which will happen sometime after I actually write it). :)

hehe, good luck with that =) by the way, where 'near tokyo' do you live?

Vlade
May 15, 2003, 08:20 PM
I can actually answer this because I am a shareware developer :)

First off sorry for any bad grammer or spelling, im to lazy to proofread.

I started programming about a year ago and I loved it, so I decided to make a shareware game (its in my signature) called Escape. The game was more of a learning experiance than a way to make money, but I did make some nice money off it :)

Most all of my friends on the idevgames forum (about 100 active mac game programmers, 100s of articles, http://idevgames.com (my name is Jake there)) that have made shareware games have said there first game didn't get one registeration, so most shareware games from individuals like myself don't make much money.

My game Escape has had 32 registerations, at an average on 7.50 dollars each (I let the user pay what he wants for the game, Its the best method for your first shareware game), so thats about 250 bucks. I know 2 people that have made over 5000 dollars with one game, but thats rare for individual publishers

My game uses a different method than serial numbers, because serial numbers are so easy to steal. I make a file with a binary serial number in it, and when that files inside the games folder it unlocks all the features. I distribute it on versiontracker.com and 2 other download sites, and that gets me about 2000 downloads every time I update it. My registeration rate is about 2%, I think thats pretty good for my first game.

Basically the biggest peice of advice I can give about shareware is registering my game(check my sig for the web site). The second biggest peice of advice is to start small, start by making a simple pong game, than move up to a scrolling racing game, then add lots of features to it, and then start by making a small shareware game. Concentrate on the gameplay, and at the end if its really fun add good graphics. Don't expect to make tons of money off your first (or second) game, making shareware games IS NOT ABOUT MONEY, its about gaining valuable experiance programming and having fun, and maybe paying for your development tools.

Vlade
May 15, 2003, 08:23 PM
And and alot of people have the missconception that their tetris clone will make them loads of money, it wont, it will make them 0 dollars. You need something original or really fun (Or usefull if its not a game).

If you want to start programming, I recomend METAL Basic. Its free, fast, great graphics, a great forum at idevgames. For a download go to my page in signature, click METAL BASIC on the side, and at the top there is a download link.

ozubahn
May 15, 2003, 08:41 PM
Originally posted by melchior
hehe, good luck with that =) by the way, where 'near tokyo' do you live?

Thanks. :)
I'm technically in Kawasaki, but nowhere near Kawasaki Station. I'm on the Odakyu Tama Line, pretty close to Tama Center and Machida. Where are you?

bbarnhart
May 15, 2003, 09:52 PM
I wrote some lame freeware 12+ years ago and some shmuck from Austraila sent me a letter in the mail asking for more features. Yes, he took the time to send international mail hoping that I would change something to this stupid program I wrote. It was very funny at the time.

All the apps that I've released as freeware still work.

melchior
May 16, 2003, 12:02 AM
Originally posted by ozubahn
Thanks. :)
I'm technically in Kawasaki, but nowhere near Kawasaki Station. I'm on the Odakyu Tama Line, pretty close to Tama Center and Machida. Where are you?

i'm currently living in fujisawa but i'm floating around, i've lived (when does staying become living?) in a dozen different cities in the last 18 months. boku puu :D tanoshi!! i take the odakyu sen to shinjuku sometimes and have visited hokone and mishima on occasions. i leave in one month for a massive 150 day overland trip to europe :D

now, ON TOPIC!

i want to just make a thankyou and give encouragement to all those considering developing a shareware app. it's a tough road but it's worth it.

i use shareware software everyday. the only major brand software i use every day is photoshop (and apple's 'freeware'). shareware is one of the best things about OS X.

shareware is not a place i want to make a name for myself but i hope that thousands of developers continue their hard work for OS X shareware!

Doctor Q
May 16, 2003, 03:11 PM
Thanks for sharing this info, Vlade. It gives us some good perspective. Hey, I see that you're going to offer Escape for Windows too.

It's funny that you mention Tetris clones, because that describes one of the game programs I wrote. Its defining feature was speed control. You can change the speed at which objects fall at any time, from 1 (slow) to 9 (fast). The points you earn depend on the speed setting. You can use speed 0, which turns it into stop-action, where you can move the new piece up/down/left/right; it doesn't fall at all. You earn the least points that way, but even little kids can do it without having to worry about their reaction time. This program wasn't shareware, just a program I wrote for friends.

The macdevcenter article mentioned by melchior has interesting comments (and quotes) about shareware and open source software. The suggestion to write programs that complement, rather than compete with, well-known programs makes sense.