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Shovelware, also known as "crapware" or "trashware", is essentially lowest-common-denominator software. Perhaps the software was created to take advantage of a fad. Perhaps it was made to cash in on a bit of marketing share of something eminently useful. Or perhaps it was an actually good or clever idea that either suffered severe budget cuts and time constraints, or was simply made as an afterthought in the developers' spare time. Regardless of how it was made, almost all examples of shovelware are made with little thought or care, as if they just scooped up a load of software from a trash heap, dumped it on a table and slapped on a price tag, hence the name.

Several movie tie-in games are considered shovelware, though there are exceptions.

Shovelware on a grand scale was a major factor in The Great Video Game Crash of 1983.

Some common characteristics:

  • Usually found in discount bins, even if they've only been released a week ago.
  • Has similar appearance to other, more popular or refined products. For example, many "Tycoon" games. Essentially, one cousin of the Shoddy Knockoff Product.
  • Quality usually ranges from mediocre to abysmal. Often mostly created in a programmer's spare time and turned into a product.
  • Sold in bundles of several products (Like those five-dollar "50 Great Arcade Hits" discs at discount stores that are neither great nor arcade games nor hits. This was, in fact, the original definition of shovelware).
  • Usually comes with glaring, colourful and sometimes obnoxiously-designed box arts, as with the case of casual and budget games for the Wii.
  • Most of them are Western-developed, but there's also some Japanese and Asian ones too, like the Simple 1000 series.
  • Some are based on movies, TV shows, and toys and then there's the weirder ones like ones based on food products or endorsed by a celebrity. See The Problem with Licensed Games. Some are also made just to advertise certain products, people in business and marketing like to call this "advergaming".
  • A good chunk of shovelware games, especially on the PC, contain so many glitches and bugs that it's an Obvious Beta.

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