Useful Notes / Shovelware
Image taken from this article.

JonTron, "Plug and Play Consoles"

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. The term is also used (especially in the past) for game bundles of very low-quality games where quantity is regarded more important than quality (a common form of this was game bundle CDs shipped with game magazines). 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.

Many 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, pretty much by definition. Often mostly created in a programmer's spare time and turned into a product. A cheeply made but decent game would be termed budget rather than shovelware, with the distinction being subjective.
  • 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 are also some Japanese and Asian ones too, like the Simple 1000 series.
  • Some are based on movies, TV shows, and toys and then there are 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 they're Obvious Betas.
  • A good chunk of shovelware games also tend to fall under the Party Game genre.
  • 'Asset flips' — games made using a build-it-yourself game engine and unaltered stock or store-bought assets — are an increasingly common form of shovelware on digital storefronts.
  • Sometimes, all the money comes from people uninterested in actually playing these games. Customers know they are garbage, but they buy it for the game's intentional or unintentional humor, or as a cruel joke, like gifting the game to their "friends", or getting easy achievements, collecting, and more recently, bonuses that come from owning these games, like the Steam Trading Cards (which are crafted into badges, used to gain Steam XP, or sold for credits for games).