On the difficulty of not giving away

My first and last experience of releasing software that stick was FScript. It is an extension for the greatest keyboard launcher in the world FindAndRunRobot. I built the largest part of it during the christmass holiday, as I got a cold just before driving to my family home and I had to cancel the trip. I was better the next day but still not good enough to drive that long. So I was left with plenty of time and nothing on my planning. FScript taught me that giving software makes you feel great. You have a lot of good comments, telling you about how you made their life better. Everybody love you, they scream your name in the street (ok may be I dreamt this part ).

Selling software is very different. People don’t see you anymore as the messi, when you come and give things away (or may be it’s santa claus ? ) : they see you as a vilain capitalist.

Kongregate forum has an old discussion about playing flash  fullscreen. The original person who asked that question probably moved away a long time ago, but as the thread is still active, I proposed SwiffOut as a solution. I originally thought that keeping a low price (3$ ) would preserve some of benefits of free product. I was so wrong : The first reaction was that people kept arguing about the price without even trying it.

Then I told that I gave licences to flash game developer and it really changed the direction of the discussion. People tried SwiffOut, I got downloads and interesting opinions, bug reports. Curiously, to this day nobody asked for free licences. I’d still like to give them, so if you are a flash game developer, do not hesitate.

I really want to give away licences, partly because I need to get some users to get a little bit of word of the mouth to propagate, partly because I remember of giving things away and how great it feels. Balsamiq Studio  was sort of webfamous for doing that and it didn’t go too bad for them. As you can’t give it to everybody because that would be freeware, you need to select some groups that are closed enough and that sort of deserve it from the project point of view so that it makes a little bit of sense.

Bloggers that promote your stuff are a good group to whom you really want to give licences. This probably apply for any project : Exposure being the lacking resource on the internet, you shouldn’t be too cheap on that.

While talking to kongregate forum I felt that flash game developers were a great group too, as good games really contribute to SwiffOut and it’s better for me if they can signal me that SwiffOut doesn’t work on their games.

Confrontation was good anyway and it helped me to emphase differences between SwiffOut and Flash Game Maximizer on the website. I also discovered others extensions like “better kongregate” that I didn’t know exists. Hopefully, they are not better than Flash Game Maximizer because as you know SwiffOut is the best browser extension for playing flash games fullscreen (shameless autopromotion ).

The signal here is that $3 price is probably too low. Paying customers tell me it’s too low, dc member mouser (and FindAndRunRobot creator ) tell me it’s too low, and people seem to only care between free and not free. This is why the price will go up to $5. It won’t be before the 6th june, because SwiffOut would be 1 month old, but it’ll be very soon. I’ll announce it on the SwiffOut intermediate page anyway, so if you use SwiffOut, you’ll know it before the price increase.

SwiffOut – increasing compatibility

I managed to some extra games to work with SwiffOut (including final-ninja ). In the process I had to cancel the resolution in the settings selection. SwiffOut now select the closest resolution to the game. If you had a previous version, the upgrade doesn’t remove the settings executable but it is now useless.

The IE plugin for detecting flash benefits of deeper scanning across sub-frame. If you use SwiffOut from IE, you’ll probably get many more sites working.

Inside the SwiffOut experiment : Services…

Even though it is possible to implement automatic licences delivery using paypal API, I paid for “e-junkie” service and I’m a really happy customer.  You can customize all sort of things, like emails, landing pages, licences, etc…  I’ve only used a few but it’s really good service.

I’ve stupidly taken hosting service from godaddy, having been cheated by fake promotion. So I paid something like $90 for hosting + domain name for a way too big server plan. I feared a bit that I couldn’t connect my domain name with my host service, but now I think that was stupid. So cheaty marketing works but only so so. I’ll do all the bad publicity I could to them. They also have very bad practice of telling me that my plan is about to expire, when it’s only expiring in 8month or so.

I think I’ll go for ‘a small orange’ when my plan end up. Reddit vox populi win.

I was pretty happy with the design of the website, but nobody told me anything about it. May be nobody gives a damn about the design of website. May be we shouldn’t care too much about that.

Facebook like is a cheap way to get more customer exposure. Like generated one extra visit at no cost. Ok, the visitor just quit immediatly.

Google analytics is useful at getting some knowledge about what users do on the website. I discovered today that I can track downloads with it too : http://www.goodwebpractices.com/roi/track-downloads-in-google-analytics-automatically.html

Inside the SwiffOut experiment : first sells…

The first announce of SwiffOut was the 6th may.

So far, I talked about SwiffOut on various forums, donationcoder first, then two french forum. DC members are very supportive, while the two french one are more critics about paying software. Cultural differences ? I haven’t a french version of the website, so this might be an issue too.

DC generated 5 sales, one at $9.90 and three more in the day after I reduced the price to $3 and more than 40 visits. The $9.90 was probably a sympathy sell, but is cool anyway, it help finance the project. DC kindly add me to the DC newsletter and that contribute to greater exposure. Given that the trial period hasn’t ended I hope to get some extra sells in 30 days approximatly. The last sell occured very recently so this may confirm some silent users.

$3 price translate in $2.53 after the paypal fees. Not a lot of money, but it’s not that bad, I always heard that paypal fee were way too high for selling micropayment. It isn’t worse than selling iphone apps. I asked every customer after the sell and each would confirm that they would have pay $5 as well, so I’ll probably increase the price a bit afterall. Hurry up customers if you’d like to pay the $3 offer.

A final word about this project, is that I finally have something to blog about.  I’ve always wanted to blog, but the only subjects I had in mind were related to my work day and I couldn’t talk about them.

About the blog

GrownSoftware blog is an experiment to see if I can sell a simple but useful piece of software online.

That tool is SwiffOut. SwiffOut allows to play games fullscreen. Litterally, it get “the swf out of the browser”, swf is pronounced swiff. It is simple but it is a better product than anything else that exists for playing flash games. FlashGameMaximizer the similar Firefox extension that exists does its job but admit performance issues and is forced to reduce flash quality to improve rendering speed.