Friday, May 13, 2022

On App Store Pricing Inflexibility

Jeff Johnson:

If I made StopTheMadness universal and gave the iOS version to previous Mac customers for free, even to the customers who only paid $4.99 three years prior, I’d be passing up a huge amount of money — money I desperately needed at the time just to stay afloat.

The App Store unfortunately doesn’t support paid upgrades. Nonetheless, in my own mind, I treated StopTheMadness on iOS as a kind of paid upgrade: if you already purchased the Mac version, and you wanted the new iOS version, you had to pay extra.


If I charge $9.99 for the universal app, or even more than $9.99 to reflect the added value of cross-platform support, then I scare away potential buyers of the iOS version. On the other hand, if I charge $7.99 for the universal app, I may be losing a lot of revenue. Despite the wild claims of people who are ignorant of the software business, little indie developers like me can’t “make it up in volume” with lower prices, because the hardest part of selling for an indie developer is making potential customers aware of the existence of your app. Lowering your price doesn’t magically make customers appear.

I think the inflexibility of pricing upgrades and different versions of the same app is holding back the products that are available. It seems like the App Store is designed for apps where the software is really a window for selling content or a service. If the app itself is the product, and the goal is to tailor it to each platform and to build deep features over time, the paid-upfront universal model is a bad fit. Subscriptions help in some ways, but they don’t account for the facts that customers don’t want to pay for platforms they aren’t using and that developing for more platforms is more expensive. It takes a lot more than a clicking checkbox.


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