Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Shareware is Dead – Long Live Shareware!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 22, 2010

Greg of Monkeytime Software sent me this announcement about the organization formerly-known-as the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) finally striking the word “Shareware” from their name:

Shareware is Dead – Long Live Shareware!

I’m mixed about the change. Yeah, the term “shareware” is pretty much as obsolete and out-of-fashion as the floppy disk and dial-up bulletin boards. But I still think there’s a huge gulf of meaning between “shareware” and “software.”  Does this name change indicate that Microsoft project managers are now part of the intended audience for the organization?

I’m not sure what term should replace it. I’m jealous about applying “indie” to non-game software. Microsoft uses terms like “ISVs” and “Micro-ISVs,” but those are basically terms coined by Microsoft that mean, “Not Microsoft” and “Not only not Microsoft and mainly beneath our notice.”

At least one commenter made the point that “shareware won.”  That’s pretty much the case. Nowadays, most software is available directly online, and most of it has free demo versions available. Granted, some of the old shareware founders may still balk at the idea of crippled / limited demos being considered the same as shareware. But seriously – the old brick-and-mortar sales channel may be far from dead yet, but it’s still dying. The old “Computerlands” of the world are long-gone, and while perhaps OfficeMax still sells a lot of business software, most places I’ve worked have purchased their software licenses entirely online. Hey, even Microsoft offers free demo versions of some of their software now!

I guess this does feel like an acknowledgment that a fondly-remembered era has finally passed. An era I mostly recall as the days of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Epic Pinball, Jazz Jackrabbit, Jill of the Jungle, Duke Nukem (2D and 3D), and Commander Keen…  and of BBS “portal” games…  sigh. Those were a godsend when I was a broke college student.

So maybe what was once pioneering and strange is now the status quo. Shareware won. It’s all good.

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • ClassicsRemade said,

    For games it isn’t that clear IMO. Lots of people still want their box sets, possibly with world maps and the game story in a manual. Demos are often available to get players interested, but many will pass on the online channel and conclude their purchase at a game store.

    This being why places like Basilisk and Spiderweb offer physical copies for an extra charge, sent by snail mail.

    In my corner of the woods game stores still survive. They don’t thrive, but isn’t that the state of the gaming industry in general with most titles failing to break even?

    For games I would tend to say shareware is dead, long live demos.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I gotta admit, I just got my boxed copy of Eschalon: Book 2 (I got it for the soundtrack), and it was pretty cool. Proved to me I’m not a complete convert yet to the digital age.

    But you say the stores are surviving, but not thriving.

    Wanna hear about one game store that is truly thriving?


  • ClassicsRemade said,


    Can there be a comparison? A few leading portals on one end that can serve the whole planet and tens of thousands of physical outlets on the other that serve their own neighborhood.

    Of course the digital leaders with no inventory are bound to be more profitable than your typical brick and mortar store, or even places like Amazon, but there are few. Does it mean everyone gave up on their boxes?

    Like CDs and videos the market has shrunk and will probably continue to do so but there will probably always be those that want those boxes.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Nope, I’m not suggesting boxes or brick & mortar will ever go away. But they will fade over time.

    I’m looking at Record Stores as a harbinger.

    Last week I bought a bunch of used videos and games from Hollywood Video, a video store chain which is going out of business. Blockbuster video doesn’t seem to be far behind.

    I think the same fate is in store for game stores. Give it time. It’s already happened with PC games, which now get only token shelf space in game stores – only only slightly more space for big-box shops. And I remember those same game shops, not that many years ago, were about 100% computer software, and wouldn’t stock console games.

    But the core concept of shareware was really taking advantage of peer-to-peer copying as a distribution mechanism to bypass the middlemen. The technology has changed – my wife has a netbook now that doesn’t even have a CD-ROM drive. And in a lot of ways, Steam is another middleman.

    So it may be only a qualified victory.

  • Bad Sector said,

    Micro-ISV isn’t a Microsoft term. It was made by Eric Sink (who at the past worked as a game developer but today he has his own -ISV- company making source control software). The meaning is an ISV made by a single person or a couple of people.

    I think most indies can call themselves as “Micro-ISVs”, although it doesn’t sound as cool as “indie” :-P. But its less vague.