Bohemian Coding’s new subscription sales techniques are a bit Sketchy

I’ve been using Sketch, the vector-based graphical editor and design tool, for about 3 years now. Like many people, I was hooked after the 1-month free trial. Sketch was easy to learn and produced exactly what I needed. It was well-worth the $99 lifetime license.

Recently, they changed to a subscription model. For $99, you’ll get updates to the app for 12 months. And if you don’t want to update, that’s fine! You can continue to use the app indefinitely — just at the current version you are at.

I am totally fine with this. I’m not happy about it as a user, but I understand that the company needs to grow and pay their team. It’s a great product and its creators should be compensated for it.

Where it gets sketchy is in how they get existing users to sign up for this subscription. I found this out after sharing a document with my developer who recently downloaded the app at my suggestion. “It will make things easier for both of us,” I told him. Certainly easier than exporting every mobile and desktop view for the app I had designed.

The next time I went to open my file, I was greeted with the following error:

So, Sketch wants me to pay $99 to open my own design file.

“This document was created with a newer version of Sketch”

No, it was created by me, with my older version of Sketch. It was opened by someone with a newer version of Sketch. So this error message is not just infuriating, it’s also factually incorrect.

I took to Twitter to seek clarification. Here’s their response:

No, Sketch. You’re not “sorry”. You deliberately designed this model to force your loyal users and early-adopters to pay you $99. That is super sketchy.

I purchased your app with a lifetime license. I would argue that prohibiting me from opening and editing files that are created from my lifetime-subscription app is in violation of this agreement.

I’m fine with Sketch maintaining their subscription model, and disallowing me to open Sketch files from newer versions. I intend to upgrade at some point. But preventing me from opening my own files that originated from my own app is an exercise in How Not to Treat Your Customers.

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