Since the App Store launched in 2008, it’s forced change on a lot of developers. Some have adapted, and some have remained firmly with their head in the sand. It’s been very disruptive not only in the way we now refer to software, but also in how we download and discover new apps. The biggest change of all, however, is pricing. Software has never been so accessible and affordable as it is today – and generally, this is a great thing.
I know without a doubt the Mac App Store and iOS App Store have helped us grow as a company, and for that I’m forever grateful. But it hasn’t happened without its fair share of heartache.
App Store Pricing
The iOS App Store spearheaded the trend of cheaper apps and that propagated to the Mac App Store when it launched. We were totally onboard with this line of thinking, it seemed like there was nothing to lose, users love to get a bargain and we like to get our apps into the hands of as many users as possible. So tentatively we lowered our prices for short periods of time to see what effect it would have, and things seemed to be working out well. We’d get a small boost in revenue and a spike in chart position. Everything looked good and it seemed like a great way to promote our apps to an even bigger audience. All of this was pretty peachy in the short term.
Up until recently we sold our well known screen capture tool, LittleSnapper on the Mac App Store for $39.99. Over the past few years we’ve put it on sale, often knocking $5 or $10 off the price and once we even went as low as selling it for just $5. Sure we sold a lot more copies, and while that was great because more people got to use the app, it actually had a rather negative effect that wasn’t obvious at the time.
Fast-forward three years to July this year, when we launched Ember for Mac (aka LittleSnapper 2) for $49.99.
The launch went amazingly well. We were featured on the Mac App Store, awarded “Editors Choice” and made it into the overall top ten. It received outstanding reviews across the board and users who purchased it were telling us how much they loved the new version. Ember has also just received a “Choice” award from MacFormat – the biggest Apple magazine here in the UK. However, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. We had a lot of users saying they wouldn’t buy the new version at full price, they’d just wait for it to go on sale.
This was heartbreaking to read, as for well over a year we poured our heart and soul into building this new version and built a team dedicated to Ember. We honed and tweaked it to make it a truly great successor to LittleSnapper, however because we’d put LittleSnapper on sale, some users didn’t value it at the price we were asking. I mean, I can hardly blame them, I’d have probably thought the same thing put in their shoes.
This concern over price volatility, and folks holding off from upgrading, actually have a very real and direct impact on the future success of an app. The less revenue an app makes, the less resources we can assign to it.
No More Discounts
We honestly believe we build some of the best, most polished apps in the world. We sweat so many details, yet users are waiting for them to go on sale, simply because that’s the way things have been done. We now know that volatile pricing is not sustainable for us and wrong for so many reasons.
The audience on the Mac App Store is not yet large enough to sustain low prices (like the iPhone can, sometimes) – it’s just not feasible. If companies keep selling software at bargain basement prices without a large enough market, it doesn’t end well – they go out of business and if that happens, the very people who love great apps lose too.
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.
If you’d like to support us, you can purchase Ember on the Mac App Store today, and if you already own Ember, perhaps recommend it to a friend or leave a nice review on the store.