I’ve made my previous games free. As in proper free, gratis, no fee, no IAP, none of that, just free.
I’ve been making videogames solo for thirteen years now. Thirteen! That’s a lot of years. And over those years, my games have carried me further than I expected to be carried. In some cases, carried further than I probably wanted to be carried as well but there we go. They’ve also played no small part in making sure I’m still around to make games. Not just in how they’ve helped support me and gotten me console and Steam deals to toy around with but thanks to the generosity of people who’ve bought, played and liked what I do, when I nearly died they helped keep myself and my family afloat. This is something I’ve not forgotten. For all the times I’ve felt like throwing in the towel, and over the past six months or so that’s been more so than ever before, it’s that knowledge that’s kept me going.
Yes, there are some total complete tools on the periphery of games and yes they work way too hard at making games an unpleasant place to work within but the vast majority of people who buy and play videogames are good people. And there’s a not insignificant amount of those people who helped make sure that we would be fine when we really, really weren’t. I’ve said thank you for that before but it bears repeating. Thank you.
I started out in freeware. I love freeware and believe that freeware is one of the most valuable aspects of the indie scene. Freeware now is more difficult than at any point in time. As Fog found out after releasing the glorious Echoes+ on Steam for free, people wait for the catch. For all the talk of F2P being harmless, it has done countless damage to the perception of actual free games. Free is often seen as a trick. When are we going to hit the advert wall? When is the game going to try and put the thumbscrews on us for cash? It’s depressing and I’m sad that we let games get to this place where actual-genuinely-free is seen as a rarity. Whilst I’m not the greatest fan of the business models behind F2P for the most part, I’m not going to argue they shouldn’t exist. I will say that they should never have been allowed to co-opt free for themselves and hopefully, now “free” is “get”, we can start taking free-is-really-free back.
Of course, out there in the real big world of videogames, actual-genuinely-free isn’t that much of a rarity. The brilliant Gamejolt does wonders, Itch.io has no shortage of free or donationware titles. Ludum Dare and other jams continue to produce fine free works. Despite the best attempts of places like Download dot com to place a foul stigma upon downloads, free thrives. But it doesn’t thrive in the same way as it did when I started out. It isn’t now a hobbyist normal. There’s an expectation that things should and will cost money. It’s funny looking back to the revolutionary zeal of 2006 when the Indiegamer forums and those who frequented them with all their business talk were seen as old has beens standing in the way of progress and now, everything they stood for, all the differences and fights, are what indie-at-large is. Indie is business and free is now not-a-thing. Not real free anyway.
App stores have brought with them expectations. Over time browsers and OS manufacturers have put systems in place that make downloading from the internet feel less safe than it really genuinely is. Free thrives but it does so against the odds. it does so at a time when it’s expected that you’ll try and make a go of making games as business. I understand that to a degree, making games is the new buying a bass guitar to get the fuck out of dodge. I was fortunate enough to be able to start flying solo “because I was bored”. I understand that for many, this is not an option.
My games were never big games. I never wanted them to be big games. I wanted to make the kind of games that someone would waste 5 minutes on and feel fairly happy with that. I wanted to spot gaps in a genre I loved and see what I could fill those gaps with, what I could draw out of them. In some ways, they were not free to prove that these kind of things could be not-free. So other people would feel confident enough to say “this is OK, I can charge for my work”. This is generally understood now, I guess. Time has moved on, games and what can be sold has moved, joyously, along.
And it’s in this climate that I’m making my games free. I believe there’s a point where you can say “I have benefited from this enough in my time so now I’ll let them go out into the wide world” and indeed, should say. I realise this is, for the most part, a curiously old fashioned view but in the immortal words of the man who first encouraged me to make more games, “2 f00ks k”. As I say, I believe in freeware and that it’s an essential part of the indie scene. It’s OK to cheerlead it from the sidelines whilst not having games out there that are actually genuinely free (well, Squid Harder has always been free due to the music but apart from that…) but as ever, actions speak louder than words and all that.
So with that, my previous games are all free now. They join the games that inspired me to make games in their freeness, they join games that continue to inspire me in their freeness, they’ll never be Kenta Cho good but they can sit there and be as free as his wonderful work is.
Bagfull Of Wrong will continue to be the home of my old games for the forseeable future. For me, it’s onwards to the future of videogames. A sort of fresh start, a new chapter.
And for those wondering about bundles or keys or what have you, this is for you.
To everyone else, thank you and enjoy.