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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:22 am 
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I’m team sumez on a personal level. So far i’ve bought 10 homebrew cartridges, and 0 ROM images. Having a unit beside the living room tv, it’d be a shame not to use it.

As import fees are rising and trade wars being waged, i think homebrewers really ought to seriously discuss among each other how to tackle hardware distribution outside the US more efficiently. Distros outside the US? Bundle-in cooperation? I backed full quiet on the premise that i could bundle HH85/86, splitting the fixed rate portion import fee between them.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:31 am 
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If all that's available for purchase is a ROM, sure, piracy will probably run rampant, but my comment was mainly about pirating the ROM of a game for which cartridges are available for purchase. My reasoning was that an illegally downloaded ROM doesn't necessarily equal a lost cartridge sale, because that person probably wouldn't buy a cartridge anyway. If the game was really good though, piracy could even help it get some notoriety, which could translate into more cartridge sales.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:35 am 
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Do we actually have someone willing to share sales numbers (not profits, or even necessarily exact numbers, just percentages of total sold units) of a game that was put up for sale as both cartridge and paid ROM at around the same time (within a couple of months at worst I'd say, like Lizard's PC port)? I'm genuinely curious to see how they compare.

I should be careful of what I write, because it might come back to bite me. But personally, if I ever get to release a large, ambitious game, I would probably do a ROM file release alongside a cartridge. I don't want to deny people access to my game just because they don't have an NES. I don't support piracy, but I'm also a strong opponent of any kind of DRM, so Steam wouldn't be considered unless people really want it. I personally believe the best way to avoid people pirating your game is by making it easier for them to buy it legally.

However, piracy isn't the only issue at place here. Some great points have already been made, and I think they bear repeating:
Oziphantom wrote:
It guess it comes down to "what you want to achieve", if you are a purist and you want people to play it on the pure hardware and your goal is to make and release a "real" NES game. Then physical only makes sense..

This. For me, making a game on the NES, is exactly that - a game that plays on the NES! Running it on a PC via an emulator is completely missing the point, and I might as well just have made a PC game, which would have been much easier.
One part is my own fascination with the hardware, but there is definitely a very strong childhood dream somewhere in there, that gets extremely excited by seeing something I created run on an actual NES console, the complete legit way.
There are other aspects to it too. I enjoy the physicality of it, and I genuinely dislike the idea of zapping through a "ROM library". I saw this quoted on Reddit the other day, and I definitely observe the same tendency, not only in my own habits, but also from people in various NES/retro gaming communities:
"That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly." - Thomas Paine

Even having to pick up a cartridge and physically insert it into your device-of-choice counts for a lot in my world.
In line with those thoughts, if I were to make a digital ROM release of a game, I'd probably pack it in with an emulator that doesn't allow people to savestate anywhere out of the box. I think it's a little sad to see how often people tend to completely miss the strength of some classic games' design simply due to mashing through them using cheat features such as this. I do think it's fun to be able to cheat in a game, but I want it to be a part of my game's own design.

dougeff wrote:
Ok, but what's a fair price for a ROM only?

The cartridges are going for $30-50 (or 60 for CIB)

But mobile apps go for $1.

That just doesn't seem like much money.

This kind of relates to the above quote in a different manner. You have your game that you poured blood and sweat into for years. Release it as a tiny digital file, and the wast majority of digital videogame hoarders on the internet will complain if it costs anything more than $10. Hell, most probably wouldn't accept anything higher than $5. We're at the point where people would even give you shitty user reviews on whatever service you are using, if they can't get the game for just a couple of bucks.
People understand the value of a physical product, but it's very hard to understand why a few kilobytes should cost anything at all. If you want to sell your ROM file, you need to be able to make people understand its worth.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:15 am 
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Yeah, I'm in full agreement with the "do what do you want to accomplish" statement. As a creator, I mostly just want people to play my games. Which means I like having a ROM available for free/cheap, so that more people will play it. I also like selling carts because releasing your game on hardware feels AWESOME, and I know some people like to buy the carts.

As a consumer though, I very rarely would buy a cartridge. I just don't need more crap in my house, so collecting isn't interesting to me. And I very rarely actually play on my NES -- I'm much more likely to play on my phone using an emulator. So if I actually want to PLAY your game, I'll get a lot further if there's a rom. I'm happy to pay for the rom (to support the developer) but I don't feel like paying an extra $20-$30 for physical bits that aren't valuable to me. I'm not angry or feel entitled if you don't have a rom for sale, but I just likely won't buy and play your game.

As for pricing of a rom download? I think a fair price is whatever price the dev would net from a physical sale (ie the cost of the cart minus the physical production costs), BUT, who cares what "fair" is? The dev can set whatever price they want, and they will or won't get sales. If you sell me a rom for $1, I guarantee I'll buy it. If it's $10, I'll buy it if it looks good. If it's free (which is the price I often set for my ROM downloads), then there's nothing stopping me from buying your game (and if I really like it, I'll probably donate some money back to you anyway).

Sumez wrote:
Do we actually have someone willing to share sales numbers (not profits, or even necessarily exact numbers, just percentages of total sold units) of a game that was put up for sale as both cartridge and paid ROM at around the same time (within a couple of months at worst I'd say, like Lizard's PC port)? I'm genuinely curious to see how they compare.


Lizard would be a good one to ask about, because I feel that Brad really did the rom release well. I didn't feel like a 2nd class citizen buying the rom, and it wasn't locked into some proprietary emulator on steam or something. I paid him $10 (which was a very fair price), got a ROM, and could play it on my phone, raspberry pi, powerpak, whatever.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:43 am 
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I agree with a lot of the replies here. With regards to my thread title, I didn't mean a game specifically sold as ROM and only ROM, just having a ROM only option in tandem with physical release.

I can definitely see it as a risk/reward selling the ROM, but I would think the reward, even with people passing the ROM around, would be much greater. More eyes on the game, and having a chance to play it, should potentially result in more sales from people that have no interest in a cart.

As it stands with games that are only available in physical release, they are currently getting zero of my dollars. With a ROM sale they would be getting less money, but that smaller amount of money, and more exposure, would always be more than the zero they would get from me otherwise. I am happy to buy off Itch, that's where I got Lizard and Nova the Squirrel.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:44 am 
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Sumez wrote:
Do we actually have someone willing to share sales numbers (not profits, or even necessarily exact numbers, just percentages of total sold units) of a game that was put up for sale as both cartridge and paid ROM at around the same time (within a couple of months at worst I'd say, like Lizard's PC port)? I'm genuinely curious to see how they compare.

I typed out a much longer response to this, but after some reconsideration I'm going to make it a bit shorter:

Since release, the count of download sales vs. cartridge sales have been something like a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. My personal expectation is that this ratio would widen even more if sales were better than they have been.

As far as what to do in your project, that's up to you. The vast majority of games lose money, with indie having it worse than AAA, and NES homebrew likely even worse. We don't have many data points to look at here, but almost all unsuccessful games get quietly buried, so the scraps of information you do have to go on are skewed massively by the survivors. Profitable games are an outlier, and there are unique factors to every one of them. Anti-piracy measures were probably right for Spyro 3, but it seems unlikely to me that the factors that made it worthwhile for that game would apply to any NES homebrew. I'm not going to say it won't/can't ever make sense to NES homebrew, though. Gather whatever information you can, but this is a hard decision, and obviously can't be made for you by forum strawpoll.

The idea that every homebrew will inevitably be ripped is not necessarily true. There are several homebrew in my cartridge collection that I doubt anyone could find on the internet, but in my honest opinion it has almost nothing to do with the vague anti-piracy measure of a cartridge-only release, and everything to do with obscurity. If not enough people actually know about and want to play your game, it won't even get pirated.

Even asking about Lizard, I've shared a lot about this game, but I only share what I want others to see, so take any info I give you with that grain of salt. Lizard's not even close to profitable at this point in time, but I'm still working on it. (I've unfortunately been about as slow in my marketing efforts as I was in finishing the game. :P)


Just for the sake of argument, I think the two most financially successful modern NES releases are probably Cheetahmen II, and Super Russian Roulette.

Cheetahmen II was already widely pirated even before it began, and of course didn't even bother with any attempt at anti-piracy.

Super Russian Roulette does actually have a uniquely complicated mapper, which would probably work as an anti-piracy device... except there's no ongoing sales of this game. It stopped with the Kickstarter. Whether or not it would have worked becomes a moot point, because even if it was dumped and emulated there's no sales for that to compete against.

In both cases, the most important factor for success was (no surprise here) marketing. Anti-piracy doesn't seem to figure strongly in either of those cases, so... just food for thought.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:24 pm 
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Sumez wrote:
This. For me, making a game on the NES, is exactly that - a game that plays on the NES! Running it on a PC via an emulator is completely missing the point, and I might as well just have made a PC game, which would have been much easier.

Don't forget that ROM releases are also played on flashcarts. When I'm sitting down to seriously try out a new homebrew game I always do it with my PowerPak.

Nova the Squirrel for example is fully meant to be played on the console, with me checking to make sure everything looks good on a CRT, making sure it's comfortable with a real controller, and fixing problems that only occur on real hardware. It doesn't have a cart release yet, but the intent is still fully for you to download it and put it on your PowerPak or Everdrive.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:25 pm 
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rainwarrior wrote:
Just for the sake of argument, I think the two most financially successful modern NES releases are probably Cheetahmen II, and Super Russian Roulette.

In both cases, the most important factor for success was (no surprise here) marketing. Anti-piracy doesn't seem to figure strongly in either of those cases, so... just food for thought.


I don't have facts to back it up, but I get the idea that the Haunted Halloween games have been pretty successful. But that reinforces your point: marketing. Those guys do the most intense marketing I've seen from any homebrew developer.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 3:03 pm 
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gauauu wrote:
Haunted Halloween

These both have Steam versions for download. Not quite a ROM release, but it's some kind of middle ground where there is at least a digital option.

As for whether they were financially successful, I don't have any information about that.

I could also list Mystery World Dizzy and Dream World Pogey. Both of these released the ROM for free, and did a decent number of sales on their kickstarters. These both have a bunch of hidden extra development cost that was borne long before the kickstarter, though.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:40 pm 
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rainwarrior wrote:
gauauu wrote:
Haunted Halloween

These both have Steam versions for download. Not quite a ROM release, but it's some kind of middle ground where there is at least a digital option.


To me, that's actually the least interesting option. I can't play it on my NES, but I also can't play it on the emulator of my choice. At that point, it's just (to me) another PC game that looks like a NES game.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:07 pm 
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gauauu wrote:
At that point, it's just (to me) another PC game that looks like a NES game.

If I'm not mistaken, that's exactly what HH85/86 on the PC are, they're not being emulated. I think.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:32 pm 
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Haunted: Halloween '85 is a native PC remake, with noticeably different physics when running down a hill. The Curse of Possum Hollow uses an emulator.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:31 am 
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I realise there is no where near a large enough sample space for this but
I would love to know the impact on sales of digital and physical given the existence of a demo. Some C64 publishers treat the digital version as a free giveaway, to get people to buy the physical, it acts as a demo. But if one has a demo does it achieve the same thing?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 6:18 am 
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It’s going to get anecdotal but i don’t think we have anything better to go by.

Games with demoes that got me buying their physical release:
-Cowlitz Gamers 2nd adventure
-The incident
-Lizard (maybe... or maybe it was just all the available insights).
I can’t remember if i ever played a battle kid demo, but it is possible.

None was part of some KS campaign when i bought them, even if the articles written on KS for lizard probably influenced my decision.

Kickstarter campaigns kind of sell by presentation. The campaign itself is ideally a demo of sorts, just not necessarily a playable one. I feel Kickstarters that fail sometimes do so because they fail to sufficiently/clearly demonstrate the project. There are of course a whole range of other factors to it, too.

There’s also some games where i played the demo and didn’t get the cartridge. I guess playable demo:s are very good for letting buyers decide beforehand if it is a game that will appeal them. Providing the demo does a good job describing what to expect. I wanted to like mad wizard but didn’t find the demo intriguing enough to make me order it, what with all the import duties. Then i keep hearing on the assembly line how great it is and am wondering what i missed.

All the compo entries that eventually end up as KS campaigns are sort of demoed that way.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2018 9:20 am 
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Just in case you missed when it happened, but The Mad Wizard was eventually released as a free ROM, and you can get it here:
https://slydogstudios.org/


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