Apple now offers developers 900 price points, but not the upgrade pricing many of them wanted
In December, Apple announced developers would soon “gain new flexibility to manage pricing” on the App Store. That time has now come. Among new options available to app and game creators are more flexible pricing, enhanced global pricing, regional customization, new pricing conventions, and on-request price-points so high they make your nose bleed.
But what does this mean for you and for the people creating the apps? Mostly, that things are about to get messy. And, partly, that after all these years, Apple’s still fiddling with App Store pricing, and yet won’t give app creators and users one thing they’ve long cried out for: upgrade pricing.
For years, software companies retained existing loyal users by letting them buy new major releases of an app at a discounted upgrade price. It’s a model that worked. Apple thought otherwise. Its rules gave app developers two sub-optimal choices. The first: provide updates forever, for free – unsustainable, and yet something many users have now been trained to expect. The second: make each major revision of a product an entirely separate new app – and then muck about with sale pricing for the first few weeks, to avoid annoying existing customers.
More recently, some app creators have figured out ways to gate functionality behind one-off IAPs, or have users keep features when subscriptions end, thereby approximating how traditional upgrade pricing operated. This can be convoluted for creators and confusing for users. Naturally, Apple would rather everyone buy subscriptions instead, since that can fund apps indefinitely (and makes more money for Apple.) But most people hate subscriptions, and so even though they’re becoming more common, it takes a brave developer to head down that route.
Looking at Apple’s new rules, it’s hard to know what the point of them is. The lowest price for an app is now $0.29, which furthers the depressing race to the bottom that kicked off within months of the App Store’s arrival – although arguably that was forced on Apple back in 2021. But allowing X.90 and X.95 pricing feels like pointless tinkering. And although defining a base price in US dollars and automating pricing everywhere else could simplify admin for app creators, it’ll make for some weird price tags elsewhere that might even put people off.
Still, at least the higher price points – now up to a wallet-thumping $10,000 – are only available on request. So no wags will be able to replicate the notorious I Am Rich and retire on a few hundred sales. That’s something.