A clone is a game created in imitation of some preexisting game. Free Software clones of proprietary software are quite common and gaming is no exception. There is no hard line separating a clone from a spiritual successor but generally speaking, the clone will play close to exactly like the original while the spiritual successor is more loosely based on its look and feel.
Reasons for creating a Free clone of a game rather than play the original can be as varied as the people who choose to do so. Some examples may include:
- Malware avoidance: Non-free software typically contains some form of copy protection system and other measures, which compromise the security of the system on which it is installed and may interfere with its normal operation and even spy on users.
- Compatibility: An older game may not work on modern hardware or operating systems. A new game may also be unavailable on a Free operating system, or just the particular OS the programmer prefers.
- Abandonware: A game may be in need of debugging and critical features, or remastering to make use of modern hardware, but the original developer is unavailable for this purpose. Mods for this purpose might not be supported by the original game, or they might be insufficient in scope.
- Ideological commitment: The developer may wish to play a particular type of game but object ethically to using non-free software.
- Master study: One may be imitating a great work simply for the purpose of honing one's skill.
- Self-promotion: A developer's profile on sites such as GitHub might be used as a kind of résumé or in one.
- Ephemerality: Non-free games today are generally reliant on servers controlled by the publisher and/or distribution service (such as Steam) in order to function at all. This applies to single-player games as well as multiplayer. These servers may be shut down on a whim, or because the company went bankrupt—which happened to Desura. Users may also be banned—preventing them from accessing already paid for games over unrelated disputes. It may have already happened to the game or someone may anticipate that this will eventually happen to every service (expecting that the publisher could not possibly keep the servers running for ever at own expense). Some developers may simply object in principle to supporting such an abusive model.
- Fun: Sometimes people just want to code.
Wanting to play a game without paying a high price for it is not as likely to be a motivating factor as for enterprise software, since the cost to the individual player is much lower than the cost of development, which can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a high-budget video game. There is still the possibility that it might matter in some cases, such as simple mechanics which are trivial to recreate or games using an expensive Pay to Win model.
- Commonly called "free to play" by the charlatans selling them.