Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Getting old software/games running on older hardware.

Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby dumpsterac1d » 2019-2-08 @ 17:58

Hey all, just registered as a poster although the topics here have been invaluable for me while I dig back into vintage computing, specifically DOS/IBM compatibles.

While looking for old software on physical disk on eBay, I noticed that the old shareware disks that were inexpensively sold in the early 90s have increased in value to pretty ridiculous amounts. I was wondering if there would be a market for physical shareware releases with fully printed labels and newly verified media in 2019. I'm very aware that if people feel like they need physical copies of these titles, they're easy to find and easy to copy, and even fewer people have floppy drives and are running proper DOS, yet I feel like the shareware library needs to be cataloged and distributed on physical media once again.

If I do decide to do this, pricing is a very interesting concept to tackle...

A Washington Post article from 1992 is celebrating a "new Shareware Craze", highlighting that people have access to software for a "mere" $5 a disk. Adjusted for inflation that's more than $8 2019 dollars. What are some thoughts on reasonable pricing for this? I don't want to make money, just get paid for spending the time to do this.

Any thoughts?

Edited for accuracy ;)
Last edited by dumpsterac1d on 2019-2-09 @ 03:34, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby Jo22 » 2019-2-08 @ 19:05

dumpsterac1d wrote:Any thoughts?

Well, I don't mean to be discouraging (I love to collect old disks, incl. Shareware/Public Domain types), but..
The old Shareware concept of back then said that a seller of Shareware disks should never ask for more money than
the disk (media) and a little service charge would cost. The limit often was about $5 back then, if my memory serves me well.
We know, of course, that sellers of Shareware/Freeware Compilation CD-ROMs never really cared about this either. ;)

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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby dumpsterac1d » 2019-2-08 @ 19:46

Thanks!

So my initial thought was 6.99 - 7.99 USD per disk, depending on the format. 3.5 disks are aplenty and generally copy quickly, while 5.25 disks are a little more expensive and take a little more time both to copy and to verify.

Adjusting for inflation, this is a super small cost for the consumer versus 5 1992 dollars, and is far below what others are charging for non-verified moldy shareware disks on eBay, yet would make the process worth it for me. Consumer would get new labels with pixel art from the game and a small logo for my "shareware distribution", and I'd probably throw some other shareware-like retro fun ASCII art in a readme with every disk, bonus things about the game, etc. Nothing too fancy, but something worth having that I can easily make look professional and do up at home.

I mean, I can't seem to find Hovertank 3D on a floppy. I could PUT it on a floppy myself, I guess, but I'd rather own it? I dunno if others would find this useful or interesting at $7 or $8 a disk.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby K1n9_Duk3 » 2019-2-08 @ 23:12

Why did you mention Hovertank 3D in this "shareware" context? As far as I know, the game is not shareware and has never been shareware.

Also, I'm not sure if you can legally sell copies of just any shareware games on a floppy disk without getting permission from the original author (or whoever owns the rights to the game nowadays). Be sure to read the vendor information (if the games come with something like that) and/or get some legal advice before you sell anything.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby dumpsterac1d » 2019-2-09 @ 01:09

K1n9_Duk3 wrote:Why did you mention Hovertank 3D in this "shareware" context? As far as I know, the game is not shareware and has never been shareware.


It is however open source, and has been GPL'd since 2014, along with Catacomb, Catacomb 3D, and Catacomb Abyss.

And while I agree that I should probably check individual fine print on each piece of software before selling, asking that I consult a lawyer ($$$) before making anywhere between 10-50 shareware disks for $6.99 ea of out-of date software for an operating system that was made obsolete 20 years ago that is legal to share (and in a vast majority of cases sell, according to its own license) is kind of ridiculous.

I appreciate the comment and I would like to err on the side of caution as you suggest, but if any creator has an issue with floppy disk distribution in 2019 of content they produced 30 years ago under a shareware license (not full games, mind you), all they'd need to do is notify me and removal would be imminent.

All I would want out of something like this would be to highlight the work of people in the context it was originally distributed and enjoyed, and make us old people happy to put brand new (read: package fresh and verified) floppies in their drives, booting into DOS and running games they might not have had access to, or lost. especially for anyone who had subscribed to Shareware distros back in the day. And if that creates problems for the creators or copyright owners of the shareware, then I'd stop production.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby BinaryDemon » 2019-2-09 @ 02:01

Surprisingly it is acceptable to profit from distributing freeware, at least under some licenses -
https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.en.html
Check out DOSBox Distro:

https://sites.google.com/site/dosboxdistro/ [*]

a lightweight Linux distro (tinycore) which boots off a usb flash drive and goes straight to DOSBox.

Make your dos retrogaming experience portable!
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-2-09 @ 02:03

Image
I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.
Very silly indeed: https://audaxeundum.wordpress.com
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby dumpsterac1d » 2019-2-09 @ 03:33

keenmaster486 wrote:Image


:depressed: :depressed: :depressed: Editing first post :(
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby Jo22 » 2019-2-09 @ 13:36

dumpsterac1d wrote:Thanks!

You're welcome! :) What I wrote was just my first thought that came to mind.
Many, many years ago I made diskette labels for my own little Shareware/Freeware/PD collection that I had,
so I can understand the desire to make new Shareware disks.

Speaking of the $5 limit, someone/we should also take into account that floppy disks are nolonger
every day objects either and have increased in price also. Still, if the author of a Shareware game *explicitly*
names/named a maximum price tag in his readme file, someone/we should respect that (or ask back if the
contact information is still valid) or try to interpret it by todays standards (some authors argued how that
limit comes together).

Anyway, most authors have forgotten about their early works or released them as Freeware long, long ago.
So in pratice, this should rarely matter that much. Sure, there are exceptions..
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby keenmaster486 » 2019-2-09 @ 17:01

I would look at the original price for a standalone shareware disk of that particular program and adjust for inflation.

The prices of floppy disks are still minimal compared to that.
I flermmed the plootash just like you asked.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby K1n9_Duk3 » 2019-2-10 @ 01:58

dumpsterac1d wrote:
K1n9_Duk3 wrote:Why did you mention Hovertank 3D in this "shareware" context? As far as I know, the game is not shareware and has never been shareware.

It is however open source, and has been GPL'd since 2014, along with Catacomb, Catacomb 3D, and Catacomb Abyss.

Only the source code is available under the GPL, not the actual game assets. You could sell your own game based on the source code, assuming you're using your own graphics, sounds and levels, but you aren't allowed to sell the entire game just because its source code was GPL'ed. Just look at Wolf3D, Doom, Quake, Duke3D ...

The first Catacomb game was originally distributed for free on a Gamer's Edge sample disk (not sure if that means you are allowed to sell copies of it, though). And Catacomb Abyss was released as shareware, so that might be a valid candidate. I would avoid Hovertank, Catacomb 2, Catacomb 3D, Catacomb Armageddon and Catacomb Apocalypse as they were never released as shareware or freeware as far as I know.

dumpsterac1d wrote:And while I agree that I should probably check individual fine print on each piece of software before selling, asking that I consult a lawyer ($$$) before making anywhere between 10-50 shareware disks for $6.99 ea of out-of date software for an operating system that was made obsolete 20 years ago that is legal to share (and in a vast majority of cases sell, according to its own license) is kind of ridiculous.

You can do whatver you want. I just thought it would be wrong to give feedback on this topic or encourage you to do something like this and not mention the potential legal issues. Yes, consulting a lawyer would probably cost more money than you'd make from selling the floppies, but I guess that you'd be paying a lot more if you got into trouble. If you don't mind the risk then go ahead anyway. I just wanted to make sure you're aware of the risk, however small it may be.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby dumpsterac1d » 2019-2-10 @ 02:41

K1n9_Duk3 wrote:Only the source code is available under the GPL, not the actual game assets. You could sell your own game based on the source code, assuming you're using your own graphics, sounds and levels, but you aren't allowed to sell the entire game just because its source code was GPL'ed. Just look at Wolf3D, Doom, Quake, Duke3D ...

The first Catacomb game was originally distributed for free on a Gamer's Edge sample disk (not sure if that means you are allowed to sell copies of it, though). And Catacomb Abyss was released as shareware, so that might be a valid candidate. I would avoid Hovertank, Catacomb 2, Catacomb 3D, Catacomb Armageddon and Catacomb Apocalypse as they were never released as shareware or freeware as far as I know.


So after a lot of digging today (how I spent my Saturday lol) I came to the same conclusion, and am going to go after the Softdisk freeware/shareware Carmack and Romero games first. And that doesn't include Hovertank... Finding information about the legality of old software and the distribution of it is incredibly difficult, but I did see that the art and content of the 3D Catacomb games were specifically mentioned as not being GPL'd, so I assume the same is true for Hovertank. Bummer.

I absolutely love the original 2D Catacomb and while I'm not a huge fan of Dangerous Dave, both of those games are small enough to fit on a floppy disk. I might have to ask around if distributing these games as freeware is in fact legal, since the Gamer's Edge disk specifically talks about not selling it, just copying and giving it away for free. I might have to include this specific disk as a "bonus" to circumvent this restriction... Not sure yet.

K1n9_Duk3 wrote:You can do whatver you want. I just thought it would be wrong to give feedback on this topic or encourage you to do something like this and not mention the potential legal issues. Yes, consulting a lawyer would probably cost more money than you'd make from selling the floppies, but I guess that you'd be paying a lot more if you got into trouble. If you don't mind the risk then go ahead anyway. I just wanted to make sure you're aware of the risk, however small it may be.


And I def appreciate the comment. I want to do this as above-ground as possible and with the most respect for the creators as possible while still getting enough in returns to justify continuing the project, and I'm glad I can sound some things off the community before committing to anything.
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Re: Distributing Physical Shareware in 2019?

Postby dumpsterac1d » 2019-2-10 @ 03:37

I also wanted input on what I've come up with for a distribution method, both to make it worth people's while to purchase these things, but also to give a look back at what subscribing to a shareware distro was like. I contemplated having a subscription service, but I'm absolutely sure that I would get overwhelmed, even with 3-4 subscribers.

Format!
3.5 floppy regular editions on mixed-type floppies. If the software fits on a Single-sided Single-density disk, I will try my hardest to source that type of disk for compatibility's sake.
5.25 Floppy limited editions, using a similar approach regarding disk type to keep compatibility.

Editions!
I'd like to do bundles of 3 games that fit a theme. The first one, for example, will be based on Softdisk Shareware and freeware titles (Carmack and Romero games). Disk 1 will be free but included with the bundle and will contain Catacomb and Dangerous Dave. Disk 2 will have the shareware edition of The Catacomb Abyss. Disk 3 will have the shareware episode of Rescue Rover. About half of the disks I will be authoring and checking will go in these compilations, and the remaining half will be available for purchase individually (barring any restrictions on sale VS free, etc).
I'd like these special editions to be in 3-fold card stock slipcases with a printed cover and a foldout talking about the games included, system requirements, etc.

Packaging!
More about the 3-fold card stock slipcase - Due to the fact that these must be ordered in quantities far greater than one edition would require, these will have to be generic, but will include an era-correct logo for my shareware company, some information about the project, minimal links, and a generally non-intrusive and clean design. I have 2 types I have my eye on, one that will fit the 5.25 floppies perfectly, and another that will fit the 3.5 floppies pretty well.

Art!
Floppies will have full-color printed labels. The look I want to go for is the game's own logo from the title screen on the left, basic instructions ("type RUN") for good old times' sake, and logo/info. Another feature of these disks will be a checkbox that will be hand-checked after testing is completed on that disk.

Extras?
I'd like to have a folder included on each disk with information about the releases on the disk, the historical importance of these particular games, old reviews of the games, whatever text I can find that is pertinent.

Frequency! Numbers!
Because I'm not sure the level of work that will go into doing this, the first run will be a trial and I aim to do two 3-disk releases per year, while having enough back stock to have a web store open year-round. First run will probably be 15-20 3.5 editions of the Softdisk Shareware Collection (or whatever I'll call it) and 5-7 5.25 editions. Cost is a tough one, and will have to be worked out once total cost of the runs is calculated.

Very interested in feedback on any of these things.

Really looking forward to making these, even if nobody buys them... Although I'd hope that it fulfills more than a few peoples' nostalgic need to have physical DOS games again without spending horrendously large prices for moldy shareware disks.
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