Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
Ah, the ultimate question for developers trying to maximize their profits on the Marketplace: “What should I charge for my app?” The question is simple. The answer is always far from simple. As a developer who spent intense and likely long hours making an idea come to life in the form of a Windows Phone app, honing it and tweaking it and then tweaking it once more, this decision is an agonizing one. Fear, uncertainty and doubt creep into your head… What if I overprice it? Even worse, what if I underprice it? How many apps will I have to sell/distribute to break even? Every single app situation is unique; there isn’t any single silver bullet that can solve your pricing questions. This post is meant to provide you with a set of tools to help you come to an answer to that incredibly important question.
$5.99 for that? Are they crazy? How many times have you found an app you wanted to purchase but balked at the price? Probably quite a few times. And here’s an even more interesting question: After balking at that price the developer is charging for that app you want, how often have you bought it anyway (even if you had to walk away first and then come back later to purchase it)? It’s a good question and says a lot about the psyche of the typical consumer with app shopping on the mind.
The most successful entrepreneurs selling apps and games on application Marketplaces (it really doesn’t matter which mobile platform we’re talking about here; Windows Phone, iOS, Android, Blackberry – it’s all the same for this context) have something in common. They know their market, their target customer and the purchasing behaviour of their customer. In other words, they intrinsically know the true value of their app to prospective purchasers.
So how do these successful app publishers know what price to charge their app? Well, frankly they do their homework. Think of it this way: if you were in the market to purchase a fast food franchise, I’m guessing you wouldn’t just hand over a suitcase full of cash to the franchisor and say “Here, now gimme my franchise!”. Of course you would research it first! Things like how much does the franchisor charge as a startup fee? What are the recurring franchisor fees? Are there minimum revenue targets required to keep the franchise? Is there an ideal (or at least good) location for my franchise? Is my location going to attract the clientele I am targeting? etc., etc., etc.
It’s essentially the same thing with pricing an app. Doing your homework (and not cheating or copying, mind you) goes a long way to driving the success of your app. For example:
The equation above is about as obvious as it gets. But your revenue goals may vary greatly from other publishers’ revenue goals. Are you looking to break even? Make a profit? Make a monster profit? Every decision comes at a price so be aware of the cost of your goals.
There are basically three revenue models in the Windows Phone Marketplace (at least, the way I see it).
Free is free. As in beer. Meaning you build the app, you publish the app and make it available to anyone and everyone with a Windows Phone for free with no real strings attached. In this model, price = 0, meaning your revenue is also 0. There are lots of reasons why you would want to build free apps, but I’ll leave it to you to think of some of them.
Freemium is free, with a catch. The catch could be implemented in a number of ways. The most obvious way is advertisement-supported. That means that you are giving away your app for free to anyone on the Windows Phone Marketplace who wants it, but you are generating your revenue from ads that exist on the app. There are tons of apps in the Marketplace that have adopted this model. The catch to you as a publisher, however, is that the revenue stream you get from this model will vary. The revenue you get from an app in this model depends not only on the number of downloads, but also how often the users will open the app. If users download the app and open it once, your revenue will be small. If your app is popular and often used, however, the app may actually far exceed the revenue you would get from a paid app. For more info on how freemium can work, there’s a really great blog post by the author of the Krashlander game that you might want to check out about how his app did.
Paid apps are exactly what you would expect. Users download your app and (eventually) pay for it and continue using it. If you price your app or game right, this model is a great one as you can almost forecast the revenue you get from your app in the Marketplace based on download trends and run rates. If you use the paid app model, however, please be aware of a few things:
As you can see, pricing your app correctly requires work on your end. Do your homework and it will likely pay off in spades for you. That said, you can still have a number of tricks up your sleeve to entice users to buy your app. I discuss some of them now:
Good luck! If you have other pricing strategies that you have found worked, feel free to comment!
This post was the second in a series of five posts on strategies for being successful on the Windows Phone Marketplace. The first post (publishing in the right geographies) is here. The second post (trial mode and the art of the upsell) is here. The fourth post (differentiation using Windows Phone-specific features like Live Tiles and Push Notifications) and fifth post (how to get promoted in the Windows Phone Marketplace) are upcoming on this blog.
See what five students at Carleton university learned developing their first Windows Phone game and apply what they learned to your next game.
Check out more tips from fellow students here
Could you briefly describe your application/game? Our game is a 3D, side-scrolling, platform game developed for the Windows Phone. Each level of the game is comprised of doors that when entered, lead to another door in the level, with the objective being to find the path to the exit door. As the levels progress, the game gets more challenging and obstacles are introduced such as locked doors, enemies and ‘death’ doors.
Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both? We used both XNA and Silverlight to develop our game. We chose XNA because it was a programming language we were familiar with. We developed the gameplay in XNA and used Silverlight to incorporate menus and user interfaces.
What was your banging your head against a wall moment? There were a few of them! The biggest one was that our game severely lagged when we ran it on a Windows Phone. Our code was optimized and our poly counts were extremely low, so we had a really hard time trying to solve this issue. We were trying to figure it out for weeks.
Did you ever solve that issue? Some other groups in our class were having similar problems so our professor, Ali Arya, looked into the problem. He figured out that if you disable some of the lighting effects it greatly improves the performance. Of course, we lost some of the visual quality of our game, but having a playable game was much more important.
If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?
I think if we were to build this app again from scratch, we would be more careful to test every aspect of our game before starting the next task. We rigged our model right away without testing it and ran into issues with the normals. If we had tested it first, we would have saved ourselves the time of rigging the model twice. We also didn’t have enough time to implement background music and sound effects, so we would make sure to implement those if we had to build this app again from scratch.
Any nice suprises? Yes! Incorporating touch and gesture detection was much easier than expected. There were a lot of helpful manuals and documentation online and when we made the switch from keyboard events on the computer to gesture events on the phone, it worked on our first try!
Did you leverage the touch screen? We made use of a few of the touch screen gestures. ‘Horizontal drag’ was used to get the character to move left and right, ‘flick’ was used to make the character jump, and ‘tap’ was used to get the character to go through a door.
Did you have a favourite feature? We particularly liked the application bar. We kept it visible throughout our game with a ‘home’ button that took the user back to the main menu of the game. It provided an easy way to incorporate an in-game menu and it helped our game to fit the style of other Windows Phone applications.
What is one thing you think you did really well in this application? We are really proud of how our game turned out. In our initial design of the game, we only planned to create six levels but we ended up making 15. We have really nice 2D and 3D graphics for each of the 5 worlds and our game is unique, entertaining, and addictive. The game is also extremely responsive to touch gestures, making it really easy and fun to play.
Are you publishing your application/game? Not at the moment. There are still some finishing touches we want to incorporate into the game before we put it in the marketplace. We are hoping to have it published within the next few months though.
Where can I learn more about your app/game? At our game website.
Who developed this application? Our team consists of five members working closely together to realize our vision. Yasmine Taha - Yasmine was the project manager as well as the Level Designer for the game to keep the team on track and come up with new levels which get progressively more challenging. Brittany Pinder - Brittany was the lead programmer and brought the game to life. Ayah Jardaneh - Ayah was responsible for all the 3D modelling and 2D graphics, to create unique concepts for each of the levels. Kyla Hidalgo - Designed and the developed the user interface for the game as well as the game assets Lindsay Coderre - Lindsay focused on rigging and animation to bring life to Kyla and her adversaries.
There isn’t time to learn everything yourself, so learn what worked and what didn’t for other students. Check out some interesting lessons learned both good and bad from other students in these blog posts where students talk about what they learned building for Windows Phone.
Windows Phone Games
Windows Phone Apps
Last weekend, Microsoft participated in CUSEC, where we talked to students about jobs at Microsoft, Imagine Cup, and developing for Windows Phone. Oscar Guerrero shares his thoughts on the event and some of the resources that were of interest to the students who attended.
As the recruiters carried back an encyclopaedia's worth of resumes, and our team compared notes on the great conversations we had about developing with Microsoft platforms, we couldn’t help but realize, CUSEC was a great event. Our thanks to the organizers for letting us participate. More importantly, thank you to the students who stopped by our booth to find out more about Imagine Cup and the Developer Movement. We were amazed by how passionate the students are, the brilliant work shown at DemoCamp, and the varied, interesting conversations we had.
Special thanks to those who tried and eventually succeeded at beating my personal record in Kinect Fruit Ninja!
We hope you left with a better picture of how much fun it is to work at Microsoft, how good the windows phone platform actually is, and how to get free stuff from us like Xbox, Kinect and Windows Phones. They are only a phone app away!
Here are the links we mentioned during our talks and tutorial:
To keep up with what’s happening for Students in Canada:
For more information and to register for Imagine Cup
For tools and information about developing for windows phone
Hope they are of use to you and we expect to see all of your phone apps soon on the Marketplace!
For those who are thinking of attending next year. It is definitely worth it.
Hopefully we will see you at CUSEC 2013!
Part 2 of this 5-part blog post series on success strategies in the Windows Phone Marketplace deals with a fairly unique component to the Windows Phone platform called Trial Mode. If you make use of trial mode in your paid apps and games (and you really, really should if you plan on putting a price on your app/game), then you are making it much more likely that users will download your app and in response to that, make the possibility of them paying for your app much higher as well.
If your aim is to publish a Windows Phone app or game and charge money for it in the Windows Phone Marketplace, then you really should get to know a nice feature of the platform called Trial Mode. Trial Mode allows you to publish your app that you charge users to make use of, but gives them a free trial mode of the app so that they can download it and make use of it to determine whether or not they want to purchase it. And the beautiful thing about Trial Mode is that it means you don’t have to create a second, stripped-down version of your paid app that you have to manage separately from your paid app – both your trial app and paid app are one and the same, with the trial determining how your app will behave.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to provide a free version of your paid app, consider these statistics that the Windows Phone Marketplace team has published describing the opportunity using trial mode in your apps represents:
Basically, what this means is that if you implement trial mode in your paid app/game, you will get an average of 70 times the downloads you would have gotten without trial mode and 10% of those trial mode downloaders will actually buy your app/game. That works out to 7 times the number of paid apps you will have earned than if you hadn’t used trial mode at all.
What do you want it to be? Seriously, that is the answer – we don’t limit the definition of “trial” to something we say it is. Basically, we offer an API to query the Marketplace to determine if the user of your app has paid for it or not and you decide the behaviour of your app if the user has not paid for it. In other words, the trial for your app is whatever you want it to be, including but not limited to scenarios like:
There are two scenarios that are covered really well in the MSDN knowledgebase. The first shows details on how to implement Trial Mode in a Silverlight app. The second shows how to implement Trial Mode in an XNA-based game.
If all you want to see is code, I have implemented trial mode in the following Silverlight sample here (a Visual Studio project in a zip file).
As you saw from the code examples above, trial mode is extremely versatile. Ultimately, it’s your choice as to how you implement a trial in your app or game. That said, there are a few tips that can make your trial more effective, both for your end goals of having the user buy your app in the end as well as maximize the trial experience for your app’s users so they see the value of the work you have published. Some of the things we have found are:
Remember, if your app is a paid app, you want to add a trial. Given that trials are common in the Windows Phone Marketplace, if you have a paid app with no trial, I can tell you that you are leaving a lot of money on the table as not many users will take the chance on your app. Just some food for thought.
This post was the second in a series of five posts on strategies for being successful on the Windows Phone Marketplace. The first post (publishing in the right geographies) is here. The third post (pricing strategies), fourth post (differentiation using Windows Phone-specific features like Live Tiles and Push Notifications) and fifth post (how to get promoted in the Windows Phone Marketplace) are upcoming on this blog.