Thursday, November 12, 2015

Castro 1.5


Castro is now a free app. Every feature is available without charge.

If you like Castro, please consider becoming a patron by contributing $1/month. You will support the work of a small indie app studio in a way that the standard App Store model never can. Yesterday, Supertop needed an endless stream of thousands of new customers to sustain our business. From today, we can be successful with a far smaller number of much happier customers. We can offer better support. We can add new features more often, instead of holding them back for splashy major releases. In other words, we can do the things that indies do best.

Samantha Bielefeld blames Overcast 2 for accelerating this “race to the bottom.” Overcast may have been the impetus, but I see it as more canary than cause. I think it’s likely that—given current App Store realities—this change will be a (relative) financial success for both Overcast and Castro. Patronage may be the least bad option for certain kinds of apps. Individual developers don’t make the rules; they can only respond to them, trying different ideas in the hope of finding something that works. Regardless, it’s a bad sign for the app ecosystem in general. It’s hard to believe that this is where we are given that over 1 billion iOS devices have been sold. But if cheap-paid-up-front and free-plus-in-app-purchase don’t work with this installed base, it will take more than just selling more devices to solve the problem.

See also: Jason Snell.

Update (2015-11-13): Charles Perry (tweet):

The iOS developer community has been locked in a game of the Prisoner’s Dilemma since the App Store was introduced in 2008, and we’ve lost at every turn. For us, the stakes aren’t whether we’ll go free or go to jail, but whether there will be a vibrant market for paid mobile software. Our choice isn’t whether or not to sell out an accomplice, but rather it’s whether we’ll choose short-term gains while at the same time contributing to the perception that mobile software isn’t worth paying for, or if we’ll forego those short-term gains knowing that a competitor could cash in and make our restraint all for naught. In short, it’s about the race to the bottom.


This new model, in fact, is the opposite of patronage. Instead of requiring a patron to provide money up front in exchange for an item of value, this new model gives away all the value in advance and requires nothing from those who receive it.

Michael Rockwell:

But what happens when we get even further away from the days when we paid for apps and get accustomed to a world where high-quality, best-in-class applications are free. How long will users continue paying? My guess is not very long.

I hate to say it, but I think we’re in the midst of an App Store bubble. There’s far more developers building apps then there is money in the ecosystem to support them. And the sad truth is that that if Overcast didn’t do it, somebody else was going to. That’s just the way markets evolve when there’s seemingly infinite supply.

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