Blog Post: Free Apps Are Popular, But Are They Right?

It’s hard to argue with hard data that suggests apps with zero initial cost are more successful than paid apps. As articles, such as this piece from TechCrunch, argue, developer revenue and download metrics both suggest there is little value in asking users to pay up front for anything.

Tell that to Epic Games.

The maker of the Infinity Blade trilogy has not only made a killing off their hugely popular apps, the price of each subsequent version keeps going up. Doesn’t matter, as download numbers keep rising in addition to the company’s bank accounts.

At the same time, games like Candy Crush continue to beat expectations by asking customers to invest nothing except what they want after playing a few levels. If I’m being completely honest, I have invested more of my Apple credit in Candy Crush than Infinity Blade.

So is there such a thing as a “correct” model?

Just remember that the goal of every app is not to make money in today’s market. A restaurant like Chick-fil-A or Starbucks can release an app as part of their branding strategy and not necessarily make their money back. If the app helps drive customers to their locations, it is a success.

An upcoming movie release may choose to have a free game integrated into the marketing campaign to help generate excitement. It also helps keep the movie top of mind for when the DVD is released. In that vein, any revenue generated is secondary to push a tentpole movie into pop culture conversations.

Granted, if the goal of the developer is to have a profit generated just from the development of a single app, it is very hard to argue with freemium. Unless you have a proven brand people are willing to pay for like Infinity Blade, it can be difficult to ask users to pay without trying.

Yet, I see more and more apps hit the iOS and Android stores with that request. Will they be more successful than their free counterparts? If downloads are the goal, then there is no way for that to happen. Hooking some dedicated first-adopters with great UI/UX and concept and making a profit off them is for sure on the side of paid apps.

Don’t let articles such as this scare you away from your strategy. Build your users up with anticipation for your upcoming release and they will gladly reward you with their discretionary income. Great software will succeed no matter what price you set it at (with some obvious exceptions).

What has worked for you? Which pricing model do you see taking off in the next year or two?

Blog Post: Free Apps Are Popular, But Are They Right?


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