Back in 1993, id Software released their latest title: Doom. They also tested a new marketing strategy for PC games called shareware. The idea was that a small inclusion of the game would be released for free to the public to garner those who may want to try the game first before purchasing the whole game at full cost.

It was also a small enough file that would allow for the trading of the game to friends since it could fit on a 3.5 inch floppy. For those too young to remember what a 3.5 inch floppy was, it was really small. Really, really small.

What the shareware model was intended for is to give the user a clear idea of gameplay mechanics, story, characters, and plot. Designed in such a way to give you just enough and leave you wanting more. Which would, in turn, ask you to purchase the rest of the game.

Fast forward to 2016, Bethesda Softworks (current holders of the Doom franchise) announces something out of the ordinary: a shareware. A free level to download from their latest Doom game for all to play. Uninterrupted, unaltered; a vertical slice of their latest entry in the series. Free to download for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. For a week. Why a week? Because no one deserves to do or play anything for free. That pie in the sky thought process is long dead much like the days of the popular arcade. But a glimmer of something from the past.

Shareware is an idea that needs to have a resurgence in the gaming community. When developers release demos they are just that: demonstrations. Demonstrations of what the game could be like. Followed by the mystery of “am I looking at actual gameplay or pre rendered footage?”

These types of questions shouldn’t be in a potential buyer’s mind. It’s another hurdler that they need to jump over before they purchase your game. If you have a shareware version of your game to offer, a vertical slice of an actual piece of your finished product, to play, to master, to memorize and familiarize themselves with so when they purchase the full game, they’ll be ready.

Nothing is a better statement as to what your game has to offer that vertical slice.

And it should be small enough to fit on a 3.5 inch floppy.

Just kidding.

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Eric M Hunter

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