Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th May 2015 21:41 UTC
General Development

My dislike for application stores, the race to the bottom they enabled, and the myth of it being a great way for small developers to make it big is well-documented at OSNews, so yeah, I couldn't pass up this story (don't click the link yet!). Developer Sam Soffes released an interesting application on the Mac App Store, and when he looked at how well his application as doing later that day, he was in for a shock.

For launch, the price was $4.99. I may play with that some over time. I was originally thinking $2.99 and a bunch of folks on Twitter said $4.99 was better. Anyway, Redacted was #8 top paid in the US and #1 top paid in Graphics at the end of launch day. It was also at the top of Product Hunt with 538 up votes! Wow!

This sounds amazing, right? Surely, this is a story of an indie developer making it big, becoming a millionaire overnight. Good feels were had all around, right?

Now read the post.

Order by: Score:
What?
by ryak on Thu 7th May 2015 21:54 UTC
ryak
Member since:
2015-04-20

The race to the bottom is great for end users though.

I find everything I need on the app stores, the quality for the top-level apps are great and they cost nearly nothing.

It's sad that the authors doesn't make tons of money, but the willingness to pay for software was never really there. Reality kicked in and now we're "there".

Moving on.

Reply Score: 3

RE: What?
by Savior on Thu 7th May 2015 22:32 UTC in reply to "What?"
Savior Member since:
2006-09-02

The race to the bottom is great for end users though.


A race to the bottom?! Have you seen the demo video of that "application"? It's barely more than the kind program people write as their first project when learning a new GUI toolkit: one text area and three buttons for three simple algorithms, zero design. I find it unbelievable that anybody would pay $5 for that.

That said, the conclusion of the story is priceless. Literally.

Reply Score: 9

RE[2]: What?
by Bobthearch on Fri 8th May 2015 00:08 UTC in reply to "RE: What?"
Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

No kidding. There's probably a hundred desktop programs that are free and/or open source that could provide the same function.

Am I the only one that thinks the entire "mobile apps" market is a scam on gullible consumers?

Guy 1, "This app costs $5. I could do this for free with GIMP or Paint.net or Picasa or the software that came with my camera."
Guy 2, "But it works on your phone!"
Guy 1, "Wow! Why didn't you say so! What a bargain!"

Reply Score: 7

RE[3]: What?
by krreagan on Fri 8th May 2015 18:26 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: What?"
krreagan Member since:
2008-04-08

OSS sucks rocks for the vast majority of the user applications out there! especially the ones that do not have corporate sponsors. There are very few that are truly usable. I cannot tell you how many time I have downloaded an OSS app that should have been just what I needed... except that the developer stopped when it was "done". ie. when he got bored and so the polish that separates really good usable SW from close but useless, was never done!
There are a few exceptions but these usually have companies backing them up that can afford the man power to do the polishing.

Reply Score: 0

Well..
by Poseidon on Thu 7th May 2015 22:10 UTC
Poseidon
Member since:
2009-10-31

Considering that the company always gets control of how long and if the software is there, and that they always make money, it's understandable that they push it.

I'd love to see that go away and perhaps they can switch the system to a repository.

The other issue that I have maybe 4 apps at less than 7 dollars each from the store. Only one app that is $90 USD I purchased outside but alas: it gave a code to download from the App Store because the vendor canceled the installer to "prevent piracy".

Reply Score: 4

RE: Well..
by ssokolow on Thu 7th May 2015 22:35 UTC in reply to "Well.."
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

Only one app that is $90 USD I purchased outside but alas: it gave a code to download from the App Store because the vendor canceled the installer to "prevent piracy".


Ugh. Insult to injury.

That sort of thing is why I've always been wary of any sort of vendor lock-in and ensure that the entire software stack for anything I buy is fully functional in an "airgapped and installed from scratch via DVD+R backups" situation.

(eg. Commodity hardware -> Fully open-source Linux desktop -> DOSBox or Wine (open-source) -> GOG.com game)

Granted, in practice, I tend to run the nVidia binary drivers on my gaming devices, but my AMD onboard works perfectly well with the Mesa drivers as long as I run more demanding 3D games at lower resolutions and, now that I've got a GeForce GTX 750, I'm going to wait to see how this whole "signed firmware" mess for 900-series cards turns out.

Edited 2015-05-07 22:40 UTC

Reply Score: 5

What does this have to do with the app store?
by leos on Fri 8th May 2015 01:56 UTC
leos
Member since:
2005-09-21

Name a single thing this story has to do with the app store. This guy made an simple app. Some people bought it. He made some money but not as much as he would have expected.

This is the fault of the app store model how exactly? The Mac app store is several orders of magnitude smaller than the iOS one. Why would you expect to make $15,000 in half a day, when an insanely popular app like Flappy Bird was making $50,000/day on the iOS store at #1 overall?

Never mind that any reasonable programmer could write this app in a day or two.

Edited 2015-05-08 01:59 UTC

Reply Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Name a single thing this story has to do with the app store.


I agree with the rest of your post. However, it is quite revealing to learn that an app in the Mac Store can break the top 10 in US paid sales, even if for only 1 day, on 59 units...

Sure, it isn't specific to the app store model, but it does say something about the Mac Store, namely that not a whole lot of people are bothering to buy anything on it. Yeah, this app was trivial and way overpriced for what it was. Yet it hit the top 10, even when almost no one bought it.

Lesson being (imo) you can sell people trivial things for trivial amounts of money, but only when you create a captive distribution model where they have no other options... $5 apps that don't do anything look exactly like $5 apps that don't do anything when peddled to people in an open market...

Successful app stores manufacture value by limiting your options - they simply don't work otherwise. The Mac Store isn't (yet) armed with the ability to limit your options, so it doesn't quite work...

Sad, but true.

ps...

when an insanely popular app like Flappy Bird was making $50,000/day on the iOS store at #1 overall


A reasonable programmer could have written that in a day or two as well (ok, maybe a week if your slow...)

I love the whole Flappy Bird story. Good for that guy, really - I like success stories. But seriously, all those sales were based on mindless buzz, accidental exposure, the media effect, and the cup of coffee price tag. None of it had anything to do with the app.

No one bought Flappy Bird because of the quality of the software, or to reward good work, or for any rationale reason at all. I know the guy didn't intentionally go out and try to scam anyone, it was an accident. But that is my point - accidental success seems to be the most common scenario as far as indie apps go. Its all lightning in a bottle.

If you want to get into indie software, go make really good, non-trivial, serious-amounts-of-effort apps that service real needs. Then sell them. If they are good, some people will buy them and you might earn enough to make a living at it (barely). If you expect anything beyond that, you are naive - simple as that. There is a reason people say you can't catch lightning in a bottle... Because you can't. The "app store model" doesn't change the equation at all.

Edited 2015-05-08 03:08 UTC

Reply Score: 7

leos Member since:
2005-09-21

Sure, it isn't specific to the app store model, but it does say something about the Mac Store, namely that not a whole lot of people are bothering to buy anything on it. Yeah, this app was trivial and way overpriced for what it was. Yet it hit the top 10, even when almost no one bought it.


Yep. I've bought probably about a hundred apps on the iOS app store, and maybe 2 on the mac app store. The programs I use on the mac are either free (Safari, Mail, IDE, etc), or not on the app store (Photoshop, Office, etc). Not surprised that the mac app store is pretty small.

Lesson being (imo) you can sell people trivial things for trivial amounts of money, but only when you create a captive distribution model where they have no other options... $5 apps that don't do anything look exactly like $5 apps that don't do anything when peddled to people in an open market...

Successful app stores manufacture value by limiting your options - they simply don't work otherwise. The Mac Store isn't (yet) armed with the ability to limit your options, so it doesn't quite work...


I don't agree with this. The Mac app store is small because it is a late player to the game, and the big names aren't on it. Look at Google Play though. It is a large and busy app store, even though Android users are not limited to it.

If you want to get into indie software, go make really good, non-trivial, serious-amounts-of-effort apps that service real needs. Then sell them. If they are good, some people will buy them and you might earn enough to make a living at it (barely).


A much better path is to find an industry that is not technology based. Find a process that is highly manual (there are still millions of them) and find a good way to automate it with technology. Get a good contact in that industry and sell your software for a high price. Still endless potential for niche software.

Reply Score: 2

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

I don't agree with this. The Mac app store is small because it is a late player to the game, and the big names aren't on it.


The Mac app store is small mostly because it is entirely optional. There is no captive consumer base, so there is no real volume, and the allure for developers isn't there. It is trying to operate on a platform that has a long established open market, and without the confines of a closed ecosystem there is limited appeal for developers to bother really. I have been using OSX since the Mac Store existed, I have even bought a few apps on it. I'm not saying it is bad; easy updates, quick and easy purchases, all good things. But it doesn't create the sort of artificial value that the iOS app store does...

Look at Google Play though. It is a large and busy app store, even though Android users are not limited to it.


You right, Ill concede that. Mostly though, what it has going for it (so far) is that it isn't draconian. You don't have to jump through silly hoops and follow complex rules that you only find out about when you break them, so there is little reason not to distribute through it. You don't have to pay to get a developer license either, its pretty frictionless. So yeah, in some respects it is a counter example to what I said. Google so far just hasn't given their customers or developers much reason not to use it, kudos to them.

Bu then you look at a chart like this:

http://appleinsider.com/articles/15/04/15/apples-ios-app-store-wide...

So Google actually distributes nearly 2x the number of apps that the iOS app store does, but those apps earn half as much money, and the chart leaves out the important fact that Androids customer base is nearly 4x larger (so its even worse than it looks)...

So yeah, Google Play "works"... But (speaking in terms of revenue and reach) the iOS app store works about 8x better. That is the artificial value I am talking about - that 8x number is because Apple's iOS userbase has no other options.

A much better path is to find an industry that is not technology based. Find a process that is highly manual (there are still millions of them) and find a good way to automate it with technology. Get a good contact in that industry and sell your software for a high price. Still endless potential for niche software.


Totally agree on that.

Reply Score: 2

Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

He made some money but not as much as he would have expected.


It's not about the money he didn't make, it's about how you can be the #8 best selling app and only sell 59 units. I would certainly have expected a "best selling app" to sell much more than that.

Never mind that any reasonable programmer could write this app in a day or two.


Honestly, I'm amazed even 59 people bought it.

Reply Score: 6

leos Member since:
2005-09-21


It's not about the money he didn't make, it's about how you can be the #8 best selling app and only sell 59 units. I would certainly have expected a "best selling app" to sell much more than that.


Yeah I understand that, but I think in retrospect the guesses were just way off base. If we know that on iOS a top game (again the Flappy Bird example) makes about $50,000/day, then we can estimate from there. There are 800 million iOS devices, and only 80 million macs out there. So right off the bat you should not expect more than $5000/day even if you were #1. Also the Mac App store is relatively new, so I wouldnt be surprised if there's another factor of 10 less activity on it compared to iOS where the marketing from the beginning has been "There's an app for that".
So I would expect about $500-$1000/day for #1 spot on the mac app store. #8 and $452 seems about right.

Edited 2015-05-08 04:41 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Macrat Member since:
2006-03-27


Honestly, I'm amazed even 59 people bought it.


That's the real story here.

Reply Score: 6

App Store is good for this indie dev...
by sergio on Fri 8th May 2015 03:33 UTC
sergio
Member since:
2005-07-06

The question is: How much money "Redacted" would make without the existence of the App Store?

My bet is 0... and $452 is much much better than 0 ergo the App Store is good. ;)

Reply Score: 4

worthless app
by nicubunu on Fri 8th May 2015 06:34 UTC
nicubunu
Member since:
2014-01-08

I understand the story is a different one (top amms in the Mac app store make very little money), but I can't get over the fact is a worthless app, which even at 0.99$ would be overpriced. It's so basic, it should be given away for free.

Reply Score: 3

RE: worthless app
by daedalus on Fri 8th May 2015 07:58 UTC in reply to "worthless app"
daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

True. I wrote a quite simple app for the Mac for repairing WAV files that had become corrupted. Made it reasonably pretty, wrote the documentation and packaged it up. Probably a similar amount of work to this app. I then released it for free, and have received probably around €50 in donations in a year. But it's such a simple little app that I would have been embarrassed to even submit it to the Mac app store, let alone ask for money. I guess different people have different perspectives on these things...

Reply Score: 4

Something to pay attention to:
by deathshadow on Fri 8th May 2015 16:29 UTC
deathshadow
Member since:
2005-07-12

If you look closely one of the problems with the store, and one of the reasons it's such useless BS is that, well, look at his numbers...

The product got upvoted more than it was SOLD. Since it only has one avenue of delivery (via the store) the problem is clear, people can like or vote for products they've never used and haven't bought, giving you a complete BS rating.

It's one of many fixes I think App stores need, make it so you can't vote for something you haven't bought and run at least once; of course they'd NEVER go for that since it would reduce the number of people voting since once you have it, are you REALLY going to be bothered to go back and rate it?

Though again, it would make the voice of the people who do bother have even more legitimacy, particularly when it comes to positive reviews.

Marketing 101 does come into play there sadly; people are ten times more likely to take the time to complain than they are to give praise.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Something to pay attention to:
by dnebdal on Mon 11th May 2015 08:34 UTC in reply to "Something to pay attention to:"
dnebdal Member since:
2008-08-27

It's one of many fixes I think App stores need, make it so you can't vote for something you haven't bought and run at least once; of course they'd NEVER go for that since it would reduce the number of people voting since once you have it, are you REALLY going to be bothered to go back and rate it?


That's kind of fixable through UI design, though. Imagine if the app store had a panel with "You bought these apps, but haven't rated them yet". If they just want bulk ratings, having a star widget there where you could submit a rating with a single click would probably see a lot of use; if they would prefer fewer ratings with more feedback it could pop up text field with stars and cancel/submit underneath.

Something like this: http://imgur.com/mVQhbYO

Reply Score: 2