How do free games make money (particularly Steam games) if they have few ads for them?

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Unless they just don’t idk im probably stupid 🙁

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Most of the free games are actually games that go on large sales regularly….also microtransactions exist for f2p models.

By offering those free options they make you open the store. It is no accident you have to scroll past the new shop arrivals on epic or steam for their free games. It is no accident you can press newsletter on epic which looks suspiciously like agreeing to the terms of service.

Steam does a similar thing by kinda making you dig for these free games…they won’t loudly announce them generally….so for a game like warframe which is free anyway.. it is going to generate traffic to steam by that method…fortnite for instance on epic apart from microtransactions tends to never be on the front of the store. It is always around other paid game offers.

They are ultimately a measure to drive people to view their store more.

**Free to play games meanwhile tend to have dlcs and microtransaction models.**

Other truly free small games like helltaker for instance.. well many of these started out as fun projects getting greenlit..it is enough to drive a donation page and interest for more, maybe sell the soundtrack…so through one avenue or another the people behind it will make money..for instance steam trading cards are also a way into revenue for a dev…and achievements and such, playtime tracking. All of that is activity for the store making it more active and credible… a thing steam wants and needs.

Your goal as a dev is either getting your time or your money…steam is interested i those player statistics and traffic into stuff…so by offering free stuff even f2p dev gamejam projects they can drive attention into the store.

Someone said that when a service is free, you are the product.

Basically it falls down into two categories:

1. Free games that serve to promote a platform (like steam for example)
2. Free games that are designed to hook you in so that you spend more on microtransactions later.

Valve’s most popular titles are indeed free to play without any need to spend a dime, but they promote Steam which is Valve’s biggest source of income.

Other games (particularly mobile ones) do have microtransactions that are cleverly implemented to sucker you in so that you spend more and more money. There is a term called ‘whale’ that defines people who spend vast amounts of money in these games.

There are a few ways that free games can make money, even if they don’t have many ads. One common way is through in-app purchases, where players can buy things like new levels, items, or power-ups. Another way is through rewards programs, where players can earn points for playing the game, which can be redeemed for prizes. Finally, some free games are sponsored by brands, which means that the game includes promotional content for the sponsor.

There are a lot of different possible reasons a developer might choose to make their game available for free. Broadly speaking these fall into two categories: (1) The developer has some other plan for making money, (2) The developer doesn’t care about making money from the game.

Some common plans for developers to make money:

– Free version is a demo, charge money for the full version
– Charge money for DLC / cosmetics
– Charge money for stuff that makes the game easier or allows you to progress faster through the game
– Ads are part of the game experience

As you can see, there’s a wide range of products, developers, budgets and monetization strategies.

For example, there’s [I Love You, Colonel Sanders](https://store.steampowered.com/app/1121910/I_Love_You_Colonel_Sanders_A_Finger_Lickin_Good_Dating_Simulator/) — a fun, low-budget title where you date anime Colonel Sanders. You won’t be spending any money, but the entire game is one giant ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

For another example, consider Diablo Immortal, a big-budget title in a legendary franchise by a studio that’s an industry titan. A game that while nominally “free” turns out to actually be a [predatory money grab](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o17lBUZgjTs) where some players [spend thousands of dollars](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5J_KQZrqUo).

Traditional studios rarely make games that are free with no strings attached, because they are businesses in the business of making money. On the other hand, there are plenty of free games from small indie studios, individual developers, or Internet collective projects:

– For some, game development is a fun hobby, not a full-time job
– Build reputation
– Improve skills or try innovative things
– Show off the capability of some related tool or engine
– Teaching game development
– Fan games (use existing characters / worlds without permission, often companies don’t care or even actively encourage this if you don’t make money from it)
– Want to create art for art’s sake

A few examples of free games that come to mind:

– [Battle for Wesnoth](https://www.wesnoth.org/), a tactics game
– [MineTest](https://www.minetest.net/), a Minecraft clone

Sometimes old commercial games are eventually made free by their owners, for example:

– [OpenTTD](https://www.openttd.org/),
– [The Ur-Quan Masters](http://sc2.sourceforge.net/), a game from the 1990’s that was later released as open source

I should also mention game jams such as [Ludum Dare](https://ldjam.com/). A game jam is an event where individual game developers or small teams challenge themselves to create a game in a very short period of time (often a single weekend), possibly under some constraints (such as a particular theme). Usually jam games are available for free.