We need to talk about money. And the events that make this necessary are mostly:
- Grateful members, suggesting ways to financially reward the work of achievement creators.
- Entrepeneurs contacting us trying to make some kind of partnership.
- Varied interactions where it’s assumed that we aim to grow our user base, and consequently the number of donations.
In order to prevent repeating the same arguments over and over again, I hope this article can be used everytime the monetization topic appears.
Here’s a list of the conclusions (but I still encourage you to read the reasoning behind them in the sections below):
- The only reason we have a way to financially support the project is to pay the services we need to keep RA running. But there’s no intention to make it a source of passive income.
- All patron’s contributions go to Scott (the creator of RetroAchievements). He uses it to pay the servers (Digital Ocean for computing, Amazon Web Services for content delivery). Any surplus is used for: domain renewal, server upgrades, Patreon fees and/or backup funds to ensure the site stays up.
- By being a patron there should be no expectations to have a different treatment nor as to what is being worked on.
- New consoles being supported is a work mostly being done in the libretro scene (we just make some adjustments to plug our tools, when it’s doable). If you hope your money to be used in new emulators, consider supporting them.
- Gain more visibility and growing our userbase (and possibly the amount of patrons) is not a goal we have (neither something we avoid).
- Everything we produce is, and will always be, free for everyone.
- We don’t have a political agenda against money! We just think that it doesn’t fit well as an incentive for what we do here.
A message for the grateful members
We all love an ad-free experience, don’t we? Thanks to the patrons we can pay the server with no need to use annoying adverts. But once we reached the goal to pay the server, increasing the contributions is just a way to show your gratitude to Scott for creating such an
addictive awesome hobby.
That’s fine! What he did is indeed great! But we need to put clear that currently RetroAchievements is a complex ecosystem managed by several devoted volunteers.
So, keep in mind that increasing donations:
- helps us to pay the services needed to keep this project running.
- shows how grateful the community is for Scott creating this project.
- will not increase the number of new consoles being supported (this mostly happens in the libretro front).
- will not increase the number of creators working on new achievement sets.
Talking about achievement creators, we all agree that the amount of effort put into achievement creation is huge, don’t we? It’s a very time consuming activity. But keep in mind that it’s a voluntary community effort. There is simply no reasonable way to financially reward everyone involved.
The way we operate today, disputes are already taking place to decide who will work on which game. Sometimes admins and/or QATeam need to intervene to solve such conflicts. Imagine how chaotic it would be if there was money involved! Imagine the accusations that the admins are favoring this or that creator so they can keep the money!
We are constantly improving the quality of achievements sets through revisions. Some talented artists are constantly improving the general imagery of the project with awesome badges and game icons. I’m not confident they would have the same enthusiasm to make such contributions if only the original achievement creator got the money.
[For a better description about what moves us, see The Retro Achievements Ecosystem.]
If you really want to show your gratitude, just say it! Use game’s official forum topic, or the achievement creator’s wall in his profile page. It can sound like a little thing, but I assure you that it’s important. People usually are more vocal when they’re dissatisfied, and it usually puts a load of negativity in creators’ back. So, showing your gratitude with kind words is surely valuable.
A message for entrepeneurs
Sometimes we are contacted by some people with an “entrepeneur” mindset, trying to find a way to make some kind of partnership. Usually the argument is that with the partnership we would be able to grow our userbase, and therefore, the amount of patrons.
The typical assumption is that receiving more financial support is something we’re after. Well, given what was exposed in the section above, we must put clear that this is not our goal. It doesn’t mean that we want to avoid growth, though!
The key factor here is that we are a DIY community. We value more members willing to put in some kind of effort to make RA better than increasing the amount of people making demands with a customer’s mindset.
It’s worth mentioning that we don’t have any political agenda against money. We just think that it doesn’t fit well as an incentive for what we do here. This project is what it is thanks to the effort of several contributors, there isn’t any reasonable way to fairly distribute any kind of financial support throgh the people who make RA.
Add to it the fact that projects related with emulation is always a “gray area”. Making money from it could bring an unwanted attention and we don’t want to be involved in any legal problem. This project exists since 2012 and people have been around here creating content for free, to everyone, for all these years. We greatly value this effort and want to preserve that for the future generations.
The main takeaway for entrepeneurs is: everything produced in the RetroAchievements community is free for everyone. It implies that you can use it as you please. You don’t even need to ask for permission.