In two days, the Mac App Store will open its gates.
While there is the usual amount of speculation out there on technicalities and its potential overall success, it seems widely unclear what will happen on Opening Day.
So last week I sent out a casual lunch-break tweet to my network, which mainly consists of fellow app and game developers. The reply/DM results were eye-opening. I engaged four of them in a deeper conversation, sharing the essence in this post. See other idevblogaday posts for more great stuff from Indie devs!
Who is Who
My four participants are well known in the iOS world. Dave Frampton (Majic Jungle Software) is sending his successful Chopper 2 game into the race, Bryan Duke (Acceleroto) his famous Air Hockey game, Matt Martell (Mundue) his flagship reMovem and Craig Kemper (Little White Bear Studios) chose to go with his Nr. 1 iPad blocks puzzle game, Compression. Jointly, their iOS apps account for somewhere around 20 million downloads and I guess it’s safe to say those devs know their way around.
What I basically wanted to know was, how do those successful Indie Devs see the opportunity of the Mac App Store. So I asked five questions, how do they see the potential of any app on the Mac App Store compared to it’s iOS equivalent, what do they expect for their own app, what is their launch price and how did the development of the Mac app go, in terms of effort and resulting quality.
This is Sparta!!
One thing is immediately clear looking at the table. There will be no price race to the bottom. This race is over before it even began. iOS developers will by and large adopt the same price points and the same strategies for the Mac. They are going in hard. Longterm prices are calculated on a similar level as their iOS pendants.
I confirmed the pricing strategy reflected in the above table with pretty much every iOS developer working on Mac apps. Those prices reflect a simple fact. It’s a number’s game. Again. Volume only comes at the right price point. Only a high volume gives you a shot at the charts. And the importance of early chart positions certainly is cemented in the minds of every iOS developer. Very relevant on a platform that in theory has 4-5 times the outreach of the iOS platform (looking at web access statistics).
It’s worth noting that iOS developers have learned that it’s not all $0.99. While that might be a good promotional price, most quality apps in fact swing around the $1.99 price point, some go up all the way to $4.99.
Why does a 1:1 adoption of the price on the Mac seem so natural for iOS devs?
For once, Apple made the code re-use for a native Mac app very straightforward. Every dev I talked to mentioned porting times of less than four weeks. Which were mostly spent on all types of adjustments, like keyboard and HD support. Also, graphical assets for mobile games are typically originated at a much higher resolution anyway, as everybody in the iOS world needs to prepare for a foreseeable future of HD displays. The point is, if you already have the assets and re-creating a native Mac app is relatively low-cost, there is no immediate pressure to go with another pricing model on this platform, if the reward could be an early (chart) success. Even with the conservative “10% of iOS sales” expectations, even with the low prices we are going to see, a Mac port of a successful app quickly can turn ROI positive. With a huge upside potential.
That all said, this will make the next days really interesting.
It is one thing to go with low prices if you always worked with those, it is something else when you practically spent the last years training your customer on a certain price point for your Mac software product. Where $9.99 is considered low and quality niche products can easily go above $50 or $100. I heard some stories from classic Indie Mac Software developers who think their whole strategy will be to determine if they add the 30% Apple cut to their old price or if they should just keep their price levels.
The way I see it, Apple is about to open a big, fat convenient freeway into this territory. It will not help the classic developers to stand there with a “Don’t spoil our prices” sign, when the hordes of new devs are going to populate this new road. Of which a significant number has learned to ride the number game and live comfortably with those low price points.
Quality? Grade A!
That other sign I saw several time held up by the old territory residents says something sarcastic like “My screen is 10x bigger than your screen”.
When rapid change happens, it’s almost to be expected that a technical battleground develops. Some Mac devs try to push the notion that “ported iOS” apps are somehow inferior to native Mac apps (pardon, I meant to say “software”). But from a developer perspective, this is a very questionable claim. We are not talking about a cross-platform approach with ugly design elements, a meta compiler and three daisy-chained interpreters to get these apps to run. This is as native and as natural as it can get and Apple did a great job paving the way.
Now of course there are colliding paradigms and other hurdles to overcome. But seriously, four weeks or less to port the above mentioned apps, some of them year-long projects, and equip them with Mac specific features? That’s a) a really low cost tag and b) leaves enough space for the motivated developer to get it right. And when I asked my four peers where they spent most of their time, I got the same answer from each one of them: In making the app perfect for the Mac environment.
This is not only about making money or squeezing any efficiency dollar out of a porting job. This is what made Indie apps a roaring success and with it the whole iOS platform:
In priding themselves to have the best chopper, air hockey, remover & blocks puzzle game out there!
And the winners are?
Mac Users. Expect great software, constantly updated, low prices, simple one-click purchase, charts, reviews, all the good stuff.
Developers. The nimble ones.
And the biggest winner is Apple. Again.