Message #825

From: Brandon Enright <>
Subject: Re: [MC4D] commercializing cubing
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 06:59:34 +0000

Hash: SHA1

On Tue, 26 Jan 2010 19:18:19 -0600 or thereabouts Roice Nelson
<> wrote:

> Hi all,
> Here’s a non-technical question I’d be curious for any and all to
> weigh in on. I’m on the cusp of releasing another (beta) Rubik
> analogue program I’ve worked on a bit over the past half year, and
> was planning to post it free as I’ve done with other hobby projects.
> Then this blog
> post<>shows
> up in my reader today describing "the radical idea that you should
> sell what you make." I’m curious what others think of this. Is it
> unrealistic to expect people to pay, say $5, for a Rubik like
> program? Would doing something like that injure the commercial-free
> spirit of communities like this? Is the Rubik software market simply
> supersaturated with freeware, such that it’d be hopeless to try to
> charge anything for yet another Rubik program? (I tend to suspect
> the answer to the last is yes.)
> These projects are an incredible amount of fun, but an equally
> incredible amount of work. I happily pay for physical puzzles on a
> regular basis, but have always downplayed the monetary value of the
> software versions. How come? I don’t think I’ve had any fundamental
> reversal in my plans or anything, but the blog entry at least made me
> want to post this.
> I’d love to hear your thoughts,
> Roice

Hi Roice,

I have two different opinions here having been on both sides of your
situation (programmer, customer/user). I’ll pull both of them together
at the end so bare with me :-)

My perspective and opinion as a programmer:

In general a twisty-puzzle program or really mosts programs that I
would be interested in writing just aren’t going to have that many
users, free or not. Non-programmers generally just don’t understand the
amount of labor that goes into creating, updating, and maintaining a
complex program which limits the amount you can charge to rather low
levels (roughly $50 or less).

If you spend a significant amount of free time for ~6 months writing
some program a reasonable level of compensation is on the order of
$10,000 or more.

It seems unlikely though that you could get even close to 1000 people
to pay $10 or 2000 at $5 to start making it "worth your time". Of
course, you could always get lucky and have many customers and actually
pull in enough to make the effort economically worth it. More likely
though your primary return of effort is going to be non-financial
(personal satisfaction). The programmer side of me almost feels like
accepting any money less than what my time is worth is almost a slap in
the face.

I have been faced with this before. I opted for releasing free.

My perspective as a user/customer:

Generally I have enough discretionary money that I like to "thank" an
author for their hard work by giving them a few bucks – usually in
the $10-$20 range. If the software is free though often the best I
can do is is send them a thank-you email. I know there are others who
feel the same way and I know there are others who certainly do not. I
feel guilty when I only give somebody $20 though – I know it isn’t
enough even if they weren’t expecting anything.

Putting those perspectives together, I suggest you opt for the
Radiohead style "pay what you want". That is, your customers are
buying something, not donating money.

Here is an example of how you could represent that to the user:

The cost of this software is $10 but I also understand one price does
not fit all. If $10 isn’t right for you please choose a better
option from those below:

FREE – I’m sorry I just don’t have any money to spare right now.
$5 – Sorry I can’t afford $10 but I’ve got $5 to spare.
$10 – Sure, ten bucks seems worth it.
$20 – I’m excited about this software, here’s a little extra, thanks!
$50 – Thanks, this is great! Here, go take your wife out to dinner.

Of course some of your customers may choose FREE and maybe none of your
customers choose $50. Tiered pricing though allows you to "do a good
thing" in terms of giving away something valuable for less than it is
worth and still receive something in return.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do, I’m sure this community will
appreciate your work regardless.


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