Some will argue that giving away free stuff isn’t a good business strategy if all you do is give away free stuff. Let me tell you why this strategy works for me and why it might work for you.
A couple of years ago I used to work for a company that created online text-based multiplayer games. These games were boring, had little to no visuals and were solely meant to hook people and convince them to buy in-game credits. The gameplay was nothing more than clicking a few buttons. The most interaction you got out of the multiplayer aspect was the discussion board or adding a member to your friendslist.
A small percentage of players would get addicted to the game to a point where they decide to buy credits. Since they’re hooked, they’ll probably keep buying these credits. If they buy enough, they’ll help pay for all the players that decide not to, and the game becomes profitable. While I’m no expert in the field, I’m sure this is also the business strategy for any mobile game on the market that offers in-app purchases.
While it wasn’t intentional at first, this is exactly how I can keep creating game assets and not charge people for using them. I release thousands (15,000 and counting!) of assets to the public domain, which means people can use them in personal and commercial projects without paying a fee or even giving credit.
A small percentage of downloaders decide to make a donation. With those few donations I can cover all the costs of creating more assets. Therefore I can keep making and releasing assets without worrying too much. A nice side-effect of giving away stuff for free is that it spreads word extremely fast; no need for advertising or marketing.
Instead of focussing on the commercial aspects or financial gain, I can now solely listen to the community and grant their requests. To me this is the most beneficial way a company can be run.
So far my assets have been used in numerous prototypes, guides, books, tutorials, games and especially game jams. Teachers have contacted me to use the assets in their classes and I’ve been in close contact with a few schools to provide game assets and advice on game development in general. It’s an astonishing feeling to be able to help students with their education by providing game assets they can freely use.
There’s no telling if this thing will keep working in the future, but for the moment it’s going great and the donations ensure I can keep spending time creating more free assets.