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Thread: This hobby as a passive income?

  1. #1
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    Default This hobby as a passive income?

    I wonder if our hobby is too small to make a relatively decent passive income creating content that most users might find interesting. The problem is DW, MLT and TS pretty much have this niche covered. I've been using this software since 2001, creating routes and 3D static content for users on a free basis. But I wouldn't mind dabbing into becoming a minor payware co, developing items for OR and possibly TSW. What is the payware vendors mindset on this? Is it worth pursuing as a p/t job?
    Rory

  2. #2
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    I am not a vendor, but certainly a consumer.
    I would pay for anything that interests me, and can be used in OR: routes, engines, rolling stock, objects.
    That said, how many people are left that would make it worth your while? And, worth the headache. Headache meaning: I want this, I want that, why can't you make this instead of that, you should do this not that.
    Too many self centered humans thinking that you are there to create just for their personal desires.
    On the other hand, the smaller handful of us would be grateful for pretty much anything of quality.
    Your Blackfoot v3 is a case in point. Good enough to be payware compared to others I've paid for and wanted to shoot myself afterward.
    I'm just rambling, but hopefully someone will give you the inside "business perspective".

    I'd do it this way if I was a creator who wanted to earn some cash for my time and effort. Make things. Show them in screenshots here (or wherever). See what kind of interest is generated, and explain it's pay or donation, whatever...see if it is worth the effort.
    Neil

    Here at home, in the railroad mayhem capital of the world.

  3. #3
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    Don't expect it to be more than a Hobby with some income. Due to costs involved with just doing business, I would recommend teaming with an existing Payware vendor. I say that based upon sales records we have been keeping on ConBuilder since 2011. Our current average sales per month are 1/5th of what they were in 2011. And that includes repeat sales (donations) from previous purchasers. 17 years ago there were as many as 4-5 generations of RR enthusiasts who found something new called MSTS. Many of those people have died, found something they like better, got burned out, or had their wives demand their time away from train simming. But 17 years later most all of the existing RR enthusiasts have already discovered Train Simming so the birth rate is the only contributing factor to new customers beyond the ever dwindling base of existing simmers.

    Then there is the Pirate and Sharing problem. Route and Rolling Stock cannot be secured by security procedures such as we have with ConBuilder. Once released it might as well be freeware.
    Charles

  4. #4
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    I'd say the collaborations are a fine way to go. Like with DW doing the stock for Sherman, or SLI doing the stock for Mactier, Horseshoe, and Feather River. Let the folks who do strong work on routes do that, and let the rolling stock people stick to what they do best.

    I would, however, be reluctant to do beautifications to existing routes that people already have downloaded for free, as I don't think that will be as rewarding, financially. Buyers would be more interested in 'fresh tundra', so to speak. I've seen plenty of route beautification projects of old routes, but the track database always remained the same so as to not destroy old activities (as if they were sacred cows) built around the track layout imperfections of the past. I also worry that the MSTS/Open Rails franchise is becoming known as the place where the poor folk go to sim. And unfortunately, these users drain off support hours from volunteers and still add pretty much zilch to the momentum of the franchise, at least not in the same manner that regularly supporting our vendors would. It's fine that the simulation application is free, but the level of demands for rolling stock lately to be equally free, or this constant chasing down of old Danny Beck models that are free, much to the surprise and amusement of Danny himself, is a bit worrisome.

    I also wondered if there are people who would be interested in doing up routes for payware vendors and who would be willing to donate the route portion for free just to act as new route leverage to get rolling stock makers to produce some much needed rolling stock for a specific railroad or era. Something like do up a payware grade version of the Conrail Buffalo Line (single track, PRR signals, Pennsylvania coal shortline interchanges, terrain not yet represented in this sim) and give it away to a vendor, just so it can act as a pry bar for them to create a much needed superpack of Conrail engines from the 1979-1989 era, from PC patched to factory blue, from GP35's to C40-8's. If that's the only way I can see a cornucopia of Conrail, and if I wanted it that bad, it would be worth my time to make such a 'donation' to a vendor. Likewise, although "been there, done that" Sandpatch doesn't really float my boat, anything B&O, C&O, and WM route-wise done up that is payware grade and donated to a vendor that acts as leverage for some current grade Chessie stock is more than welcomed. BNSF, UP, CN and CP are well covered. Where is Family Lines territory? Where is Chessie and Conrail? Or good old Norfolk and Western?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by crstagg View Post
    Our current average sales per month are 1/5th of what they were in 2011. And that includes repeat sales (donations) from previous purchasers.
    Timing is everything, and surely the peak time for trainsim payware sales has passed, sorry to say, for all the reasons listed.

    As far as "doing up routes for payware vendors", uh, no one in the software/content business, no one in their right mind anyway, would ever accept such a "donation" due to the risk of intellectual property legal claims down the road, even possibly from the content creator's heirs. It's not done that way in business. The legal fees for the necessary contracts, and yes there would have to be contracts, surely would never be recovered.

    Sorry, Rory, but no sale ... best to keep the work as a hobby, not as a business plan. Probably better to not try to (forgive the corporate cliché) monetize your trainsim content.
    - FTLDave

    "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." - Wernher von Braun

  6. #6

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    Rory, speaking as one who does payware work, the simple answer is no.

    Two problems with what you are saying: "passive" and "income" !

    First is it takes a lot of work (and love) to make something good worth selling. It's not passive!

    And second, the income I made from payware last year was not enough to report to the IRS and that threshold is pretty low. Three figures.

    That said, the way to make money is to focus on current-day easy things to make that are broadly popular you can repeat again in many forms. That was the Streamlines/Train Simulators model.

    I think there might be another route, working as something of a patron-supported coder for Open-Rails (or TSRE) or possibly certain payware. I think people would pay donations to somebody who donate serious time to make real improvements in open rails. We aren't talking a "living" mind you, but a comfortable high 4 figure sum, maybe 5 figure that could justify your time if you were already good.

    Lastly, despite Charles' statement, I think Open Rails (and even the other simulators too) is dramatically under marketed and it would make sense for us payware types to kick in some marketing effort. However talk is cheap and so far it hasn't been something I've wanted to put effort into - I just don't have a lot of time these days.

    Christopher

  7. #7
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    Chris Yep, passive is the wrong choice of words hehe. Ouch on the income. I figured there would be two sides of this coin. IMO the market for this kind of genre isn't big enough to attract millions of users that probably don't or won't use this software. Pirating is also a big issue that payware producers have to fight with constantly. Competition from other payware vendors could steal your business ideas or create better content than you, especially with talented people with professional 3D platforms that cost more than a pretty penny. It was just a passing thought. I'm happy to buy products from TS, so I guess I'll stay the consumer type for now and continue to make free stuff.
    Rory

  8. #8
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    Hi Rory,

    As a "freeware" guy - you DON'T have to deal with customers - that's a HUGE plus in my book... I'd have to be paid some serious coin to take on that responsibility... My stuff is take it or leave it - LOL...

    Regards,
    Scott

  9. #9
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    Been there, done that years ago. All it created was an additional income tax headache and a tiny percentage of what would have amounted to a minimum hourly wage. Then there was the added stress of the royalties drying up after falling out of favour with the developer (despite the product still being on sale) or in the other case the developer going out of business in dubious financial circumstances.

    When things go payware it also gets much nastier. Release a crummy freeware item and the user deletes it. Offer shoddy QA for a paid item or poor after sales service and watch your rep go down the tubes or even start getting chargebacks from did-satisfied customers. So your little bit of pocket money eventually amounts to little more than loose change!

    I would imagine the demand for payware in MSTS/OR is considerably less than that in the DTG product or even Trainz, but even there I doubt private individuals are making a worthwhile return on their invested time.

    Be magnanimous, create and distribute as freeware to share your vision and passion with fellow train simmers.
    Vern.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottb613 View Post
    Hi Rory,

    As a "freeware" guy - you DON'T have to deal with customers - that's a HUGE plus in my book... I'd have to be paid some serious coin to take on that responsibility... My stuff is take it or leave it - LOL...

    Regards,
    Scott
    That is a definite plus when the customer has a couple of bottles missing from his six pack when it comes to dealing with Windows and PC Files.
    Charles

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