If you have been using computers for a while, surely you know what shareware is, or at least you have tried some program or game that follows that type of license. What became of this type of program?
In the 1990s, the PC software market was exploding thanks to Windows 95; thousands of new developers appear every month with a new program, a new vision. In many cases they were very simple applications, in others they were complex programs and, of course, video games.
But all this was before the Internet became so popular that finding any program was a matter of doing a search. In addition, not everyone dared to take out the wallet with the risks of buying the wrong program.
Shareware, a way to use complete payment programs
Fortunately, those of us who had limited access to the Internet because they did not allow us to grab the daytime phone line, At least we have at our disposal monthly magazines that include albums (floppy disk, cassette or, especially, CD-ROM) with hundreds of shareware licensed programs that we can try everything we want before making the purchase.
Shareware should not be confused with freeware. The second is a complete and free program, but of those there were few and they were not always the best option.
Instead, a shareware program allows us limited access to a complete paid program, a kind of demonstration of what it is capable of. For all intents and purposes, the code is the same as the one you can buy, but the limitations ensure that sooner or later we will have to pay.
There were many kinds of limitations; for example some programs only left us half an hour to be used, or some features were greyed out and could not be used. Even in some cases, there was no limitation and we just had to accept a window to be opened from time to time.
In the case of video games, it was normal that we only had access to the first levels of the game. This versatility allow developers to choose the most suitable business model For your company.
The difference between shareware and demos is that the program is complete, and we just have to buy a license to disable the limitations. This is very important in the case of games, usually the heaviest programs.
If we download a demo and we like the game, we would have to download the full game, while if it is shareware, We already had the complete game ready to be activated. This is a very important time and data saving in the era of modems.
The importance of shareware for gamers
This is one of the reasons for the popularity of shareware in the 90s, but not the only one. Another reason we have to look for in the license that the programs had, which not only does not prohibit copying the program, but encouraged users to share it with their friends and acquaintances.
In this way, shareware programs made use of the idea of P2P before this technology became popular in the 2000s. Companies understood the importance of word of mouth to popularize their games.
For many young people like me, shareware programs were the window to enjoy the latest games of the moment without having to pay; even if they only give us a few hours of play, we can always try again with a higher difficulty. You will be surprised to know how many times a young person can play the same levels over and over again before he gets bored.
Undoubtedly, Doom is the quintessential shareware game, although id Software also relied on this system for other games. Countless teens copied these shareware versions, which undoubtedly helped their popularity and nostalgia for the game.
That is why it is appropriate that Bethesda announced this week that we will be able to play the first levels of the new Doom game for free, and that if we like it we can buy it.
Today shareware has been replaced by apps with micropayments, and in the case of video games the number of titles that do not even have a demo is baffling, and we have to trust videos and analysis to know if we are going to like them.