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

Alex Hudson home at
Fri Nov 9 13:57:06 UTC 2007

On Fri, 2007-11-09 at 08:46 +1100, Ben Finney wrote:
> On 08-Nov-2007, Alex Hudson wrote:
> > 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?".
> Your comparison seems to point to the way out of this knot. Instead of 
> saying "We need a total of $40 000", why not say "We need $8 each from 
> at least 5 000 people; if you can pay more, that's welcome"?
> If the latter *still* isn't attractive, then I don't see the point of 
> that particular comparison.

No, I think you're missing the point. With a pledge system, you're
making a promise that the proprietary vendor isn't: you're saying "when
I get $40k, I'll free the game". You're placing an overall value on the

Nobody bought Quake from id software on the expectation that they would
GPL the game, but offering to free the game as part of the value
proposition changes the equation. And that's why I don't really think it
will work. 

The other problem is, when do you release? Do you:

     1. release immediately as proprietary software, release as GPL once
        the target is reached;
     2. release as GPL once the target is reached.

If you do 1., you're likely to never reach the target because the closer
you get the more people will decide to hold off until the GPL release is
made (or, you keep the fund information private and face accusations of
fraud when the target isn't reached :). If you do 2., you give the
people who paid the money no benefit above non-paying people.

It's a really tricky scenario to get right. From history, we know that
delayed GPL releases tend to work pretty well: people are willing to pay
up for apps which are later free'd, and that's a model where pure
software licensing sales can fund the development. However, it does seem
to preclude community involvement pretty effectively, which could be an
issue. And without that time lag, you face all sorts of problems about
how and when the code is released under a free license.

I would love for these guys to succeed, I just really don't think they



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