Thursday, August 19, 2010

Being Nice Is Good Business.

One of the fundamental truths of writing single-player PC games now is that it's so easy to pirate anything that people will only buy your game if they want to. Which means that being honest and forthright and likable is a key business strategy.

For the fifteen years we've been selling games, we've had a suite of generous, customer-friendly policies. However, we haven't been clear and forthright about them. Some of them are only known to people who ask us for support privately. The others can only be found by hunting our web site. This is dumb. If you're going to the trouble to be nice, make sure everyone knows about it! So I wrote this little manifesto that will be prominently linked to on our site.

In you're an Indie developer and like one of our turns of phrase, please feel free to borrow it.

Our Spiderweb Software Promises To You

Spiderweb Software is a small company. We read all our e-mail, we love our customers, and if you are sad, we are sad. We're literally a Mom & Pop company, and we believe in the personal touch. So here are our three promises to you ...

1. No Obnoxious DRM!

Pirates exist. Sad, but true. But we won't let hatred of people who rip off our games drive us to annoy our paying customers.

When you order from us, you get a number you can enter into the demo to turn it into the full game. And that's it. No online authentication. No need to keep a disk in the drive.

If your computer dies and you need a new registration key? We're sorry to hear that, and your replacement is free. Register on the Mac and switch to Windows? A new key is free. Your child wants to play the game on his or her own machine? That's awesome, and an additional key is free.

2. Money-Back Guarantee!

If you don't like our game, we don't want your money.

We have a no-questions-asked One Year Money-back Guarantee. Game stops working? You wake up one morning and realize that it sucks? You decide that you hate us personally, and our adorable children too? Money back within one year.

You might think, "Hmmm. I wonder if people ever buy the game, play it through, and demand a refund." The answer is: No. This has never happened. You know why? Because our customers are awesome people.

3. Big, Free Demos!

Spiderweb Software has the biggest demos in the business. What's more, the demo is actually the full game. You just need to enter a key to unlock the whole story.

That means that you get a chance to play a bunch of game and make sure that 1. It works, 2. You are having fun, and 3. The retro graphics don't enrage you. If the demo works for you and is fun, you can buy the full game and be confident that it will still work and still be fun. And if it doesn't? Have we mentioned our Money-Back Guarantee?

We love that almost all of our customers played a demo first. It means we're earning our pay honestly. Because, again, If you don't like our game, we don't want your money.

Hopefully, we will come across and friendly and honest when this goes up on our web site. And the truth is, we at Spiderweb are pretty friendly, honest people. But make no mistake. At the heart of it, the reason we are putting this up is pure self-interest. Since being nice is a core part of our business plan, when we are nice, we will do it in a loud way.


  1. You had me at no obnoxious DRM. I do accept the idea of companies turning down the screws until they've made their reasonable profit. Once that occurs, and the sales are sloping off, they should release a no-CD update (or whatever is necessary to un-DRM it) for their loyal customers. A few companies have and I respect them more for it. I still play Diablo II to this day.

    1. Very special blog hop. I read about Bella several weeks ago and have a post on my blog already. But, I will add another today along with her latest card. Thanks for organizing a hop for such a great cause.

  2. You have said in previous posts that you have a strong and loyal customer base. I imagine that building this customer base was not easy. Can you have a post about your first steps? Like the first game and first sales? I imagine those steps are not transferable to the present, but still would be an interesting read.

  3. If only more companies were this nice.

    no DRM ftw.

  4. I still remember becoming a loyal customer *wistful* I was twelve years old, and Geneforge was the best game I had ever played...

    Out of curiosity Jeff, have you ever considered putting your games on Steam? (okay, I'm sure you've considered it, the real question is why haven't you?)
    I'd think it would do wonders for your exposure.

  5. Steam is a good idea. I like that I can e-mail Jeff and get new registration keys, but the "problem" is, I'm lazy, and getting my games again would require me to find out what I really own (I bought Avernum 5, I think I bought Avernum 3 for my girlfriend, and I can't remember if I bought Avernum 4...), then download and install a fresh copy, find my saved games and copy those, and finally contact Jeff for the key.

    Steam takes away most of those steps. It remembers what games I have, it installs games in a few clicks with no serial number, and it has a copy of my save files (which it will sync across my Mac and PC, another cool feature).

    Main problem is, existing people would have to re-buy Steam copies of the games, unless Jeff is awesome and finds a way to link people's existing purchases with their Steam accounts, and I'd rather he spend his time making games instead!

  6. I've got all of my Spiderweb games on my Steam list anyway, and its not like Steam would really offer any features that would necessitate buying again. I was just thinking in terms of sales potential, which seems from my perspective to be huge, so I'm wondering why he hasn't taken that step yet.

  7. Awesome as usual :)

    As to re-buying for Steam, you could always run a "Spiderweb pack" like I see all over during sale times, where you get all of a companies games at a discount, and just make it older games with a large discount or something.

    I'd probably just buy them all individually anyway. As a Steam bonus, I don't have to keep track of CD's any more :)

  8. About Steam: It's not just a matter of putting your game onto Steam. They have to pick YOU first. It's not easy to get onto that system.

    - Jeff Vogel

  9. One thing I have found unclear is: Do I need to download the demo, start it, get the keycode, stop it, register, wait (oh the horrible waiting C:) enter activation code, play. Or is one sent with the game on order?

    I bought one of your games a long time ago, but I've forgotten how I went about it via your site by now.

    Same goes with buying packs on CDs.

  10. Get the demo and start playing. If you like it order the key and you can keep on playing (assuming you having hit the end of the demo part). When the key comes enter it and just keep on playing. That's all there is to it.

  11. Really? You can't submit to Steam or something for consideration? That seems....weird.

  12. It amazes me that Steam wouldn't pick your games, since the Mac RPG category on there is absolutely scant of titles. Out of 100 RPGs listed, I counted seven Mac-compatible games, one of which is "Wandering Willows" which though cute, is barely most people's conception of an RPG.

  13. Steam does have a contact address, but they're notoriously bad about actually getting back to people who contact them. From talking to other developers who've got their games on Steam, it seems like the only way to get their attention is to email them and keep emailing until you get a response, and hope it's a positive one.

  14. This is common sense. I wish every game company had this. I would buy a *lot* more games if they came with a money-back guarantee. Most indie games are complete rubbish, slapped with a $20 price tag and a demo that basically shows off the full gameplay, or no demo at all. I don't buy most indie games anymore, and outright criticize those who insist on selling a game without putting up a decent demo. The only reason people complain so much about $20 price tag is because you have no idea what you're buying... imagine buying a $20 shirt online without knowing if it's your size, knowing the colors, or whether the fabric is nice, with experience that over half of them are rip-offs. I'd happily pay a sizeable amount for a game I know can last me at least a month.

    I never really thought about it for Spiderweb games, because the demo either sold the game to me or didn't. The Avernum demos themselves are worth as much gameplay as some roguelikes. A game sells either through good reputation or by proving itself. Any game that has the confidence to put in a money-back guarantee gives me confidence in buying it.

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  16. Spiderweb's demos are really great! Some time ago I downloaded Avernum. I tought it was cool, but not that much. Then I downloaded Avernum 2, but it also hasn't impressed me.

    Then I've found Blades of Avernum, and I just loved it! The multiple scenarios instead of one huge world, fascinated me, and the possibility of download scenarios on the internet is just delightful.

    I really like Spiderweb!

  17. Last few years successful marketing proves that being nice and giving away 'value' as many gurus will say - is actually having great impact on long term business success.

    And as side effect everyone is happy :) pure win/win

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