Financing open source games
There are a few basic ways of financing open source games:
- Crowdfunding - Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc. - developer promises to do something if given enough money, but they may not actually do it, or may run out of money etc.
- Closed source first - eg. some Humble Bundle games, Blender - make closed source, open the source if some promised cash threshold is reached.
- Bounties - Bountysource, Freedomsponsors etc. - does not seem to work well for large projects, probably too difficult / too much work to scope (?)
- Competitions - Ubuntu App Showdown, ? - the app showdown was somewhat effective, given that the competition only ran for 6 weeks and the prize was only a $300 phone
There have been some other proposals - eg. Fair Crowdfunding of Digital Goods / Average Cost Threshold Protocol - where the game would be closed source initially, with the price falling (and initial buyers receiving refunds) as more copies are sold, until eventually a threshold is reached and the game becomes open source.
The problem I see with the fair crowdfunding proposal is that you are still reliant on the developer successfully delivering, which they may fail to do, and that prospect creates doubt for contributors. So let's consider the competition idea.. what would happen if 1,000 Phoronix readers each contributed $100 to a prize pot? What about 10,000 contributors? That would be a $1m prize pot, enough to motivate many hours of creativity. What if the prize were to be awarded in 12 months time, to the best new original open source game? Obviously the rules would have to specified in more detail, but what about the basic concept? Would people contribute, or would they behave like the rational actors described in the ACTP protocol, and minimise their expenditure? Would they hesitate to put their money forward, knowing that others would benefit for free from their generosity? Or are people at heart altruistic, wanting to support a project that they like? It raises some interesting questions, but the most important question is, would it work? Would enough people contribute enough cash to drive the development of good open source games? Do enough people care whether a game is open source or not? How much money would be required to motivate small developers to try it, rather than just selling their games on the Android and Apple stores?
Does this include financing the source release of existing games?
I work for a games development company and I believe with enough requests and a budget for a developer to carry out the porting task it would certainly be possible to get some of the titles released open-source.
So I might suggest that we as a community get together and decide on games we would be most interested in getting source access to and then contacting the developers / original publisher.
As a commercial option, gerhaps GoG might be the best way forwards for this? They can get the source opened and then sell the game data?
There are so many great games that ran on Windows 95 to XP that are going to be lost to us unless we can solve this issue of digital preservation