Pre-payware / ransomware (was: Overcoming Social Inertia)

Alex Hudson home at
Thu Nov 8 09:49:30 UTC 2007

Just pulling out one topical point in this recent discussion:

On Wed, 2007-11-07 at 18:51 +0100, David Picón Álvarez wrote:
> Why does it make more sense for X to buy it at
> monopoly pricing, having close to zero input in the software's feature set,
> having no freedom to get someone else to improve the software at competitive
> prices, than pay in advance, perhaps in installments, pooling with other
> users, and potentially backed with an insurance if the software ends up not
> being produced, after which A gets an unencumbered copy of the software
> which has at least more of a chance to being taylored to their needs?

Via LWN, I found out that there is a new games company which is trying
to run their business on a model close to this:

The idea, as I understand it, is that they will release a demo of the
game and a pledge people can pay into. Once the pledge reaches a certain
amount, and people pay up, the game is released as free software under
the GPL.

The comments from LWN posters are pretty much what I would expect:
asking for $40,000 seems to be asking too much. Yet, that would only buy
~6 man-months here in the UK, if that, which is practically nothing for
a new game. And that would be at cost, too - and you can't run a
business without turning a profit.

If they sold the game on a proprietary basis, at maybe $8 a pop, they'd
only need ~5000 sales to break even and I doubt anyone would be
complaining about the price. Psychologically, there is a lot going on
there in terms of price, even before you get to "why should I pay for
something so others can have it for free?".

It will be interesting to see how they do. Pledges to liberate existing
software have been relatively successful, and a number of games have
become free software after having a proprietary existence without the
need of a ransom at all.

I'm of course not saying that the success of this particular company
will dictate whether or not the model can work: it might be that the
games they produce are crap, and the business would fail under any
model. But it will be interesting to see if they can make it work. I
don't think they can; but I'd be quite happy to be proved wrong.



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