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Digital game distribution

July 8th, 2015 by

UnReal World RPG have come long way how it have been distributed digitally since it started on 1992. First it was on multiple BBS as Shareware application and if you ordered then it was delivered by 4 disks by mail and you copied them to your hard disk. It was pure DOS application at that time. Game author Sami Maaranen have been always modern about this kind of things you could send order by email or normal mail on late ’90. After millennium real digital revolution started.

Internet early days

As that Big company released Window 98 and after that Windows XP URW started to look akward as it was still a DOS (it included graphics but still). Distribution model changed from BBS to Internet WWW-page were you could download installation package (still Shareware) and pay for full version by mail.

In this point distributional things started to rise. People wanted to buy a game with credit card and that wasn’t popular way in Finland which caused little bit hustle. Answer for that was start using ‘Albert’s Ambry’ net distribution system. It was working as expected and it had all needed facilities only problem was Albert’s Ambry got out of business rather soon after URW entered to it.

Times goes by and Internet grows

After Albert’s Ambry get out of business years has passed and UnReal World RPG was distributed through it’s web-page. Everything worked just fine until download rate began to be so huge that Internet service provider started to complain about the traffic that URW caused monthly. Time for mirrors and bigger pipes. Paypal arrived and it made credit card payment things simpler.

Distribution models changes 2013 and UnReal World turned away from old-school Shareware system. Shareware is very good model but it’s rather heavy to use. You provide two versions of your application (one that is for testing and another with full whistles and bells or one that can be modelled to full version with password). Shareware was changed to donation based system (and if you want to donate to URW please do so. All money goes to development of the game [Except that food what two cats can eat]). Donation model is easier games like UnReal World which are regularly updated. You get full game straight a head and you donate if you like it.

Modern web days

In same year 2013 URW changed from Shareware to donation based it also was ported to Mac OS X and Linux (openSUSE, Fedora and Ubuntu/Debian supported currently every build). Port was done by me and it was rumble as you try get DOS game to another platform but it was also ported few years back to SDL1 so it wasn’t that bad.

I assume all you gamers know there is one mammoth in modern PC game distribution: Steam. There were also smaller players like: Desura. Their idea is the same. You have distribution system that is standardized (which all games should be working) and you can buy new games to your own catalogue with credit card from their system. URW entered to Desura last year and now Desura is out-of-business. Desura was great channel delivering applications (supported Linux, Mac OS X and Windows) but I understand it’s very difficult to make money when you are wrestling against Steam.

In near future UnReal World RPG will in Steam as it get through Green light program. Hopefully it doesn’t give death kiss to that service too.

Lessons learned

Take time to make your installers as good as you can get. There is no excuse to have awful installer or Tar/RPM/DEB/DMG-package. If anyone can’t play your game straight away they will complain to you or they just move away without taking any second though. That is the power of Steam.

Don’t trust just one distribution model. If your distributor goes out of business have plan B on hand (very near if possible). If you are doing games for Apple iOS then you are out of luck but If you can use multiple ways to distribute your software do it. You need to work little bit more but more places more eyes to stare your application but. Remember these days many youngsters just play what they can download from Steam (and not blaming them from that) or some other shop that is tied to their device. They don’t know how to install game from Internet or they just don’t care.

If you support Linux (as you should). Ubuntu is biggest but also Arch people are fast growing player community (Fedora is non exist and openSUSE is mediocre). Have at least Ubuntu and provide DEB-package (in future Snappy) and if possible TAR-package (If you are willing provide RPM and Arch package). Have menu integration and do you homework with Linux. In future Linux gaming will be on rise if Steam machines take any market share and today you can buy many Linux AAA-games (over 1000) from Steam today!

Sorry to write this but truth is: In many cases user are all wrong (they just can’t understand how to play your game) but they pay the bills so make yourself a favour: fix bugs fast and give support at least at some forum. Community around the game is very hard to build and it even easier to lose. Final wisdom: last support multi platform. Mac OS X and Linux downloads are minority but do you want to cut these customers out?

Ok summer is crazy.. endless and crazy.. Peace out!

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