Sunday, October 23, 2011

On giving away stuff for free

In this article, independent developer Dave Gilbert discusses a recent decision concerning a promotional giveaway.

Today I wanted to address another infrequent question I'm getting about the pre-order offer. The DVD contains all the previous Blackwell games burned onto the disc, and buying it gives you immediate access to Blackwell Convergence, the third game in the series.

I've gotten a few emails from customers asking why I didn't give them access to Blackwell Legacy instead, since it is the first game in the series. It technically makes the most sense, but in practice... not so much. When a company gives a product away for free, it's not just to be nice (well, maybe a bit nice). The free product is being used - primarily - as a promotional tool. So why not lead with your best product? Telltale did this with Sam and Max a few years ago. The fourth game in the series - Abe Lincoln Must Die! - is now freeware, and it is widely considered by fans and critics alike as the best of the season. This is no coincidence.

Blackwell Legacy is a solid game, but it was also my first game, and I've improved my skills significantly since it was released five years ago. Convergence is a much better showcase for the series, so it made more sense to give the customers immediate access to it. Had I given them Legacy instead (or given them all three, in which case they would play Legacy first), I ran the risk of them not seeing me at my best.

Maybe this was the right decision, maybe it wasn't. Some of you might feel slighted. Heck, you bought the DVD which contains the games, so why can't you play them now? To you I say: I understand. So, here's what I'll do. If you bought the DVD and don't want to wait for it to arrive before playing the first three games, I will give you a voucher so you can nab the downloads free of charge. Send me your DVD order receipt and I'll hook you up.

[This article originally appeared on New York Gamedev.]

Dave Gilbert has been interested in adventure games ever since 1986, when his mother made the mistake of buying him a copy of Wishbringer. Since then, he has authored over six successful freeware games, including 2004's award-winning Two of a Kind. In 2006, he turned his hobby into a fulltime career and founded Wadjet Eye Games.