$211 million is the amount of money that Iron Man 3 took in its opening weekend according to boxofficemojo.com. When Halo 4 came out for the Xbox last year it took $220 million in sales in the first 24 hours. Look at that number again. It’s massive. People who purchase console games have an expectation that games for consoles cost money. Real money, like £50 new money. Now, I appreciate that there’s a lot of people who work a lot of hours to create a game like Halo, but then again, indy game studios and home alone developers spend a lot of effort and a lot of hours on their apps, so why are they selling themselves so cheaply?

This post is in response to a blog post by Dave Addey who I met when we were both speaking at the Handheld Conference in Cardiff last year. He’s a lovely guy and has made some great apps for iOS - he knows a thing or two about app production and app revenue. In that post he raises some valid points but some of which are alien to me as a user and developer for Windows Phone and Windows 8.

The risk of app purchase

Dave starts off by highlighting the risk of purchase to a consumer and proposes that this could be solved by offering a trial period for consumers. That is part of our platform and always has been. Publishers of apps on the Windows platforms have options:

Trial Functionality

As a user of Windows products, I expect to be able to try and app before I buy it. That is functionality which been in the store since the first app went in. I really wouldn't purchase an app that doesn't offer a free trial. There are two options for the developer when it comes to offering trial versions on Windows. The first requires no coding and is the reason that I’m always staggered and confused when a paid for app doesn’t  offer a trial. When you upload your app to the store, there’s a dropdown box in the submission form that asks if you want to have a trial period, it looks like this:

The trial period is managed by Windows so there is no additional work for the developer, and the consumer has a consistent and reliable experience across the platform. Brilliant.

There is the option for a developer to programmatically limit the features of an app if they wish to. So maybe an app will work forever but (for instance) a document cannot be saved. There’s a Twitter client that doesn’t allow you to upload an image unless you’ve purchased the app - clever use of feature limitation.

If there are two apps that provide the same function both of which are paid for apps, if only one of those offers a trail period, then that’s the app that’s going to get downloaded – this is the way our platform works. If the consumer is satisfied then when the trial period is up and the consumer knows and trusts the app, they will quite likely purchase and the round trip to the store is a seamless and easy experience. Here's an example of FatAttitude's Bus Checker:

Windows 8

Windows Phone

If you’re still not convinced, then how about the numbers that show how paid apps with built-in trials are downloaded 70 times more than paid apps without that feature. Add trial versions, we Windows users expect them.

Ongoing revenue

Dave raises this as an issue and I agree with him but unfortunately there’s no magic bullet on our platform either. However, there are better revenue options. Updates to software have been common since the software industry began. Updates to apps do need to be made, especially if its bug fixes or anything that could fall into the category of servicing and those I consider should be free upgrades. However, when features are added, this being new functionality I feel it should be charged for. However, the developer needs to convince users of this and in my opinion that’s what developers should start to do. I would be surprised if consumers wouldn’t support this, they’ve been doing the same for their operating systems and desktop programs for years anyway.

Better revenue share and flexible business models

On Windows 8, as soon as your app has made over $25,000 then the revenue changes and the developer takes 80% of the revenue – that’s a better split than any other platform. This $25k is made up from app sales and also in-app purchases that go through Microsoft’s commerce engine for the lifetime of the app. If a developer has their own commerce engine and offers their app as a free download, then the developer takes home 100% of the app’s revenue. This creates opportunities for charity donation apps to exist on the Microsoft platform – they won’t be taxed for 30% of their donations which could happen on other platforms. Let me know if you have any questions on Twitter @andspo or check through the links below for full documentation.

Resources for further reading: