Following recent effect Taylor Swift’s blog post had effect on Apple’s policy towards makes of music, I hereby nominate Wil Shipley to be the Taylor Swift of indie Mac developers.
In his article from more than three years ago, The Mac App Store Needs Paid Upgrades, Wil explains all the troubles of not having upgrade option for software on the Mac App Store. The situation hasn’t changed since then, at all. It should be true for App Store as well, but Wil’s an old-time Mac developer, so his focus is on the Mac App Store.
Back in 2013, Dan Counsell, the CEO of Realmac Software (a company which developed the popular iOS app Clear and several popular OS X apps, including RapidWeaver), wrote a good post “Sustainability and the Mac App Store” about their take on Mac App Store pricing.
The post is a good read, but here’s the TL;DR version:
- Unlike iOS App Store, Mac App Store audience is not yet large enough to sustain low prices
- Discounts can increase the numbers of app users, but they usually hurt profitability over time, especially when users are accustomed to frequent discounts refuse to purchase apps that are not on sale, and wait until their favourite app will go on sale before purchasing it
- Following these insights, guys in Realmac Software have decided to stop offering discounts on their apps in Mac App Store:
So we’re doing something different on the Mac App Store – and we’re going to buck the trend a little. We’re not going to devalue our Mac apps by putting them on sale, we’re going to ask a fair price that ensures we can keep on building the apps you love. It’s as simple as that: stable, sustainable prices for apps that we think you’ll love.
Recently, Realmac Software released the latest version of their flagship product RapidWeaver with a direct version only, skipping Mac App Store:
It was a hard decision to launch outside the Mac App Store, but I’m glad we did. We’ve been able to provide a much better customer experience, especially for all our existing customers. Not only were we able to provide upgrade pricing, we were also able to provide free upgrades to customer customers that purchased RapidWeaver 5 in the 2 months before version 6 came out, and issue them with a free upgrade automatically. In my opinion this is great customer service, and something that’s missing from the Mac App Store.
Realmac Software is not the only company developing OS X apps that is skipping Mac App Store. Some others are: Panic for the latest version of its Coda web development app and Bare Bones Software, with popular HTML and text editor BBEdit.
Will this trend of developers jumping Mac App Store ship continue? Will Apple be forced to make changes in Mac App Store policies and functionality in order to stop this trend? Or will developers just have to adjust to Mac App Store low pricing, lack of flexibility and paid upgrades? Hard to say, but if history of past Apple behaviour is any indication, it will not make much concessions to the developers, and they will have to adjust…
I had the luck of seeing Michael Jurewitz speak about App Store pricing at NSConference in 2013. At that time he was working at Black Pixel, between his positions at Apple. At the conference he presented a comprehensive analysis of App Store prices of application, specifically on the Mac App Store, at shared tips and suggestions. Luckily, you can now see the talk for free on the net. I suggest that you do – it’s a time well-spent.
For those who prefer to read, though, he later posted a series of posts at his blog, called “Understanding App Store Pricing“. The main takeaway from this analysis is that more expensive apps earn more, on average:
Apps on the Top Grossing list are, on average, 294% more expensive than apps on the Top Paid list
Thus, he suggests developers to try charing twice for their current applications, to test price elasticity, and for potentially higher earnings. Of course, raising prices will not necessary result in higher earnings but as most developers set their price on feelings or estimations and then never try changing it again, making this reality check may be worthwhile. App Store prices don’t have to be static.
From Mac to iOS
While the prices for productivity applications on the Mac have stayed relatively high, things have not been so good on iOS. Recent discussions in the blogosphere in the last couple of months raised the issue of lack of sustainability in the iOS market, with its rock-bottom prices. More and more indie developers were moving to consulting or to work at larger companies, including at Apple itself.
Recently, Q Branch, the company behind Vesper, released a new update, which added iPad support, among other things. The most important change, though, was the pricing. Vesper’s price increased from $2.99 to $9.99. John Gruber, one-third of Q Branch, posted the following in his Vesper update announcement:
Put another way, we’re going to charge something sane or die trying. We tried following the iOS App Store trend by pricing Vesper at just $2.99 for months. It didn’t work. Prices like that are not sane, and not sustainable, at least for well-crafted productivity apps. So Q Branch is drawing a line in the sand, and we hope other iOS developers will follow
Given that Gruber’s reach and influence among iOS developers is high, it will be interesting to see if their call to raise prices of apps on the App Store will be able to reverse the trend of low-priced apps. We shall see.