You’re building a chair.
But this isn’t a normal, buy-one-at-the-retail-store kind of chair. Your chair is going to be quality, made of the best materials you can afford, and take months to finish.
You work a little each day to design, measure, cut, sand, test, stain, let dry, and prepare the chair for sale. Once you’ve finished, you carefully load the chair into the car and drive off to your store.
At the store, you spend an hour positioning the chair near the front window; you want the lights to hit it just right, as to catch the eye of a passerby. You pull out a beautiful card stock price tag and write down “$200.” After checking everything for one last time, you flip the sign on your front door to OPEN and wait.
Two of my favorite games for iOS are Letterpress by Loren Brichter and Tiny Wings by Andreas Illiger.
Although the game mechanics are very different — Letterpress a word game, Tiny Wings a side-scrolling adventure — both of these applications are incredibly well designed and executed. Time and care was taken when creating each sound, animation, and graphic. I often use them as examples of exceptional quality when judging other games in the App Store.
Currently, each game takes different approach to pricing:
- Letterpress is free to download and play. However, it offers an in-app-purchase (IAP) for $1.99 to unlock new color themes and the ability to have more than two games going at a time. This is a one-time purchase and shouldn’t be confused with games like “Candy Crush,” where you’re prompted to repeatedly buy extra lives, powers, etc.
- Tiny Wings isn’t free and costs $0.99 to purchase. However, once you buy a copy, you get access to the full game.
Free for one app ($1.99 for full features), a dollar for the other. However, for as much as I love these games and admire their creators, I’ve had to outright argue with my friends about why each app is “worth” their price, and only barely managed to get my own fiancee to purchase them.
You wait several hours, but your chair has yet to sell. Several individuals comment on how much they appreciate “real” quality and love your craftsmanship, but they say the price is a little too expensive and they’ll wait for a sale.
Some customers ask why you’ve priced your chair so high. Didn’t you see the price of chairs at retail store down the road? Certainly the chairs there aren’t as well-made, but they’re only $50. And if (when) those chairs break, retail store sells repair kits for just $25! It’ll take a long time before the overall prices are close.
As the end of the day approaches, you go to your front door and flip the sign to CLOSED. Driving back home, you pass by retail store and see several individuals walk out carrying repair kits.
As of the date this article was published, the top ten “top grossing” iPhone applications are all free. The same is true for iPad-only applications as well.
But “free” applications making tons of money isn’t the problem. Rather, the issue occurs when prospective buyers instantly disregard any app that’s not free. This sort of action is often thoughtless and doesn’t consider the enormous amount of work, time, and resources a developer put into their piece of software.
Next time you search for an application in the App Store, don’t immediately dismiss those which aren’t free. Instead, take a few minutes to actually look at the description and screenshots. If you don’t like what you see, don’t buy it. Just don’t never give them a chance, otherwise you’ll be missing out on some of the most lovingly crafted software available today.
Thanks to Emily and Hannah for reading drafts of this.
—Wednesday, 2 October 2013