The argument holds for general software, but there isn’t a viable business model for open source games. No point in telling people to get games elsewhere, there is no elsewhere other than games made as a hobby.
As a parallel: Here in Brazil child-targeted advertising was banned on TV. Cartoons and kids’ shows, without funding from ads, disappeared as a consequence. If people stop paying for proprietary games, they won’t magically come out of elsewhere: the industry will simply die.
For small indies Itch.io is a thing, but donations are not going to pay for the next GTA.
The malware was detected and removed even though it’s closed software… so one could argue open source is not necessary. You could also argue that DRM-free games are good enough.
I think this argument makes sense for firmware or operating systems… but I’m not sure it applies to games.
I agree that looking at the developer side is important. There has to be a viable business models for game developers or games will remain in hobby territory which will reduce what is achievable. Games take a lot of time to create, developers have to eat, and pay for a place to live, support a family. If they’re going to work on a game full time they need money, that money has to come from somewhere. Releasing everything for free means, fitting development into the cracks of remaining energy from a full time job that IS paying the bills.
This sounds like an issue with capitalism to me. I mean, most of us are doing what we actually want between shifts of some mundane, alienating, unfulfilling job. I don’t pity a developer who makes games between their office hours any more than a factory worker who writes poems off the clock.
Proprietary software (games included) is an affront to freedom and democracy. Just because an industry exists doesn’t mean consumers are responsible for maintaining it, and no one would seriously make that argument about, say, cigarette companies. Our society is better off without proprietary software, let’s just get rid of it once and for all.
Yes, it is unfortunate that we live in a capitalist world and capitalism forces us to work. To ease the burden, instead of a mundane, alienating, unfulfilling job, some of us would like to work doing things we enjoy, like writing games. It is also unfortunate that few companies¹ can make games as a service, otherwise that could fund game making in the same way companies like Intel pay for Linux kernel development.
The remaining options are:
Make games libre, but the player pays a coin to unlock a few lives. Hmm, that wouldn’t work.
Make games libre, but the player pays to unlock in-game perks. Obviously wouldn’t work.
Make games libre, but charge the player a monthly subscription fee to keep their accounts active on a server. Nope, wouldn’t work.
Make games libre, but stuff builds with ads. Sounds like the Android App market. It works, kinda, but if it’s any better is debatable.
Make games libre, as a hobby. This is fine and happens already, but severely limits scope… and it requires also having a job.
¹ Off the top of my head, the companies that make games as a service are those that make advergames and educational games. Often, neither are games people really want to play.
Depending on how the licence works there may be other options.
Having people pay a subscription for access to the game while it’s in early access/development under the condition that they mustn’t disclose the source. (It’s possible, but flawed depending on how much you can trust people, though since the game is ‘early access’ it might be easier to figure out the leakers and cut them out of the process).
Relying entirely on donations. Might not be enough to support a family but could probably support a single person living like a student if the person is lucky. I know a lot of artists have taken to stuff like Patreon and Coffee (however it’s spelt) to support their art.
Putting a clause in the licence that anyone planning to profit from a derivative pay you royalties (kind of like how certain game engines demand a cut of the profits of profitable games). Has the flaw that you need to be able to enforce the licence, but ultimately that’s a flaw with all licences. (There’s little to stop someone violating the GPL if the person who wrote the software can’t afford to lawyer-up.)
Promotional merchandise (people can get a copy of the source code, but they can’t make merchandise of your IP).
Selling mods/extra levels. This way both you and modders can benefit financially.
Using kickstarter to fund a game for the duration of its development. Again, if the source is leaked during development it’s not too catestrophic and the money is already safe in the bank.
Ultimately nothing that doesn’t impose some sort of freedom restriction though.
(Not that restrictions on freedom are inherantly bad - there needs to be a balance. After all, laws are a restriction on freedom.)
Oh yeah, the Angry Birds business model (it’s not opensource but it probably could’ve been without affecting their income negatively). That’s actually a good one, for those that can pull it off.
There was a time games were turning to Kickstarter, but it looks like it isn’t really an option anymore. It’s interesting that Arduventure gets around this because you’re actually paying for a physical device, not the game.
A Boston Dynamics video that doesn’t feature robot cruelty?! Have the robots overtaken their human overlords and now run the marketing department?
Going from memory, they were an independent developer. A bunch of ex-capcom employees who’d worked on Megaman. A small, experienced team that already had a huge following, the perfect way to raise 4 million dollars on Kickstarter.
As far as I know, games haven’t been getting anywhere near as much ever since, but I admit I haven’t been paying much attention anymore.
It was a joint effort between two companies, Comcept and Inti Creates. Comcept did the design and story and Inti Creates did the development. Comcept was small (currently only 15 employees, presumably less back then) but Inti Creates is quite big (80 employees now, presumably only slightly less back then).
(According to Wikipedia at least.)
And there are two publishers listed, which further suggests it wasn’t entirely independant.
There’s two reasons I say kickstarters are more suited to independants than established companies. One because it involves a level of transparency companies aren’t used to, and two because there’s an obligation to deliver - you can’t just cut your losses and call it a failed project like companies are sometimes able to (partly because they have other games on the go).
I think sometimes there’s a temptation for companies to treat kickstarter as a replacement for their usual funding sources without realising the extra rules and expectations involved.
That’s not to say it’s impossible for a company to successfully use kickstarter to fund a game, just that it involves changing their attitudes and processes in order to do so successfully.
Thanks! At a glance, the Gamebuino is the same as the Arduboy in this respect; it requires no proprietary software or firmware to use. It seems less convenient to discover and flash libre games to it. However, the Gamebuino even has schematics available so it might have some advantages over the Arduboy in terms of freedom to observe and modify the device.