Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

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tepples
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Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by tepples » Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:29 pm

It has come to my attention after a discussion on NESdev Discord that several NES homebrew games have been produced on cartridge in small quantities and then discontinued without a ROM release. Examples include Super Russian Roulette (whose "Get a copy here" button on its Kickstarter campaign page just redirects back to Kickstarter) and a bunch of KHan Games releases. Spook-O-Tron appears not to have been made available at all other than to Kickstarter backers.

Why are NES homebrew games taken out of print? It's not like there are minimum order quantities and long lead times for a second printing, as they're produced with CPLD mappers and flash memory, not ASIC mappers and mask ROM. One can just flash on another game using the same mapper or another mapper that the board supports, as with print-on-demand. I know things like Tetris, movie tie-in games, and league-based sports games get pulled when licenses expire. But last I checked, the vast majority of NES cart releases weren't produced in nearly enough quantity to even qualify for an opportunity to license something from an upstream licensor.

If games are discontinued because replicating them has become too expensive or too time-consuming, why is a ROM withheld? If a developer is no longer selling copies of a particular game, what measurable financial impact would mass copying of the game have on the developer? If it has to do with sales years later, I don't think NES homebrew has been around long enough for a counterpart to Buena Vista's "vault" strategy, where a movie is rereleased on home video every seven years and then put on moratorium in order to pump up the perceived resale value. Have developers produced extra cartridges in small quantities to subtly trickle onto eBay once a game becomes a collector's item? Or is it that providers of shopping cart software as a service bill sellers per available SKU?

Or would NintendoAge forums be a better venue for this question?

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pubby
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by pubby » Sat Mar 30, 2019 2:49 pm

Sales come in a hockey-stick shaped graph. A few months after release they're down to practically nothing. There's very little money to be made after the first run.

Printing is cheapest in bulk. Most printers will charge you through the nose if you only want to print a few copies.

ROMs are withheld because doing so can dissuade people from buying your future games. Why pay $60 for a game when you know in a years time it will be released for free? It's sort of like the Osborne effect.

With that said, I'm sure it's viable to keep games for sale as long as they're cartridge-only and no box. You can do that at home without needing a printer.

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NovaSquirrel
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by NovaSquirrel » Sat Mar 30, 2019 3:04 pm

pubby wrote:Why pay $60 for a game when you know in a years time it will be released for free?
Having a ROM available does not necessarily meant it would be available for free. It's very easy to put up a ROM for sale on a site like itch.io and that's what several homebrew games have done.

If someone doesn't provide me a way to give them my money for something at all I don't mind if I acquire it for free though. :p

tepples
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by tepples » Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:12 pm

pubby wrote:Why pay $60 for a game when you know in a years time it will be released for free? It's sort of like the Osborne effect.
Why buy any game on launch day when it'll go on Steam sale or PSN sale in a year?

Some of the more anti-copyright users of another forum I'm on would claim that if you don't get enough preorders from Kickstarter to cover the cost of developing and shipping the game, the game ought not to be developed in the first place. They say if you can't release a computer program under a free software license from day one, it's unethical, and this makes the vast majority of the video game industry unethical.

calima
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by calima » Sun Mar 31, 2019 1:50 am

Besides boxes and manuals having MOQs, it may not be worth their time to produce one cart copy a month.

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Sumez
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by Sumez » Tue Apr 02, 2019 3:18 am

Yeah my impression is that there's a combination of multiple things at work here.
First of all, as everyone mentioned, once your first batch sells out, any additional interest would usually be a cart here and there, and very rarely a continuous flow of shipped products, so producing more than the initial batch might be a lot of extra work, with little actual purpose.
Meanwhile a game like Battle Kid never dropped out of production, which I assume is due to the interest in it having been pretty consistent.

On top of that, once you are in aforementioned situation and haven't sold any carts since the initial batch, it would be logical to assume that you could produce new batches a few years later down the line. And while this isn't unlikely, and it's definitely happened before, we now have the silly issue of collectability to consider.
If only 200 carts were sold originally, and none have been sold since, it's likely that used copies will trade hands for a decent amount of money that might even be higher than the original going price. And in some cases quite a bit higher, too.

While most people really aren't obliged to take this aspect into account, it might still be considered a good idea to try to stay on the good side of people who actually bought your product in the first place. And if you actually originally announced that only 200 copies would be sold, making more batches later on would definitely hurt your credibility as both a developer and a person.

All that said, I see absolutely no reason why people wouldn't be selling the ROM image on the side. Have some more people actually try your game.

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Punch
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by Punch » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:02 am

Most of the sales comes from collectors, aka the people who get mad when a game they own gets a reprint. If there's perceived future "rare" value to be had people will buy it regardless of the actual game in the cart.
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gauauu
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by gauauu » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:27 am

tepples wrote: Some of the more anti-copyright users of another forum I'm on would claim that if you don't get enough preorders from Kickstarter to cover the cost of developing and shipping the game, the game ought not to be developed in the first place. They say if you can't release a computer program under a free software license from day one, it's unethical, and this makes the vast majority of the video game industry unethical.
But who cares what random people at Slashdot/Soylent think?

The difference with so much of NES dev is that for most people, it's a hobby. Which means people's motivation isn't always the same -- for some it's side profit, but for other people, it's something else. I personally would want the most people to play my game as possible, but for some people, they want to make a cart release and be done. Others care about the collector market, like previous posts here said.

I guess my point is that the answer is going to be different for everyone.

Erockbrox
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by Erockbrox » Tue Jun 04, 2019 2:28 pm

Some people do a game and release it and then move onto other projects. I still think that the owner should have the game available for sale somewhere because sometimes an interest in a game happens later and sometimes very interested people miss the release.

For me personally, I would like to play a lot of the homebrews that I see being released and so in my mind I plan on buying certain titles later down the road, so I hope that I can still get them when that time comes.

Femenism
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Re: Why do homebrew cartridge releases get discontinued?

Post by Femenism » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:06 am

It seems to me that the problem of low popularity, as has already been correctly said, is in a narrow format, not for a large public, therefore there are no such sales as on consoles and PCs.

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