Ulysses Subscription Model

50% off…Kind of.

I don’t blame Ulysses for switching to a subscription model. Nor do I blame them for dropping support the previous non-subscription version past the next OS updates (iOS 12 and later). They, like a lot of other developers, are trying to make a living writing an app and no one is forced to upgrade their OS if the non-subscription version of Ulysses is that critical to their workflow.

Where Ulysses messed up was in how they handled existing customers and their announcement of the switch to subscription. I see three critical errors in their announcement:

  1. They said that existing users would get 50% off the monthly price, but failed to mention that it was only if you purchased the yearly plan. This led to confusion.
  2. Their app listed the $29.99 yearly price for existing users as 50% off, implying it was 50% off the yearly price, which it wasn’t. Users called them out on it and they updated their app and their FAQ to reflect it is only 25%.
  3. They had at least two different accounts answering questions (Ulysses and Marcus Fehn), with varying levels of professionalism. They need to have one account/person fielding the complaints and everyone on the team ignoring the twitter storm currently underway. They also need to adopt the phrase “I’m sorry you feel that way but this is the business model we have chosen going forward” because they’ve obviously not heard the phrase “don’t feed the trolls”.

There are always going to be people who will hate a subscription app and they will complain mightily. There are also people who won’t like it and will move to another app. Finally there will be people who will pay the subscription price because the app is worth it to them. Having literally just bought the app days before the switch (August 6 to be exact), the Ulysses hasn’t become a critical part of my workflow (I’m writing this in Sublime Text), so I will probably not be subscribing. That’s my choice and if other people don’t like the switch, they shouldn’t subscribe and just move on.

Some additional thoughts:

  1. No, Ulysses didn’t sell you a hammer (or a car, or what ever) and then come back and break it because you didn’t want to pay a subscription price. They just issued a new hammer that will be guaranteed to work on the newest nails. You’re hammer will continue to work with the existing (and next gen) nails. This is just such an awful analogy
  2. No, users are not “walking into restaurants” and ignoring the prices on the menu (another awful analogy). Users are asking for a “fair price” which is different then what Ulysses thinks is a fair price.
  3. If you really want to blame someone for all of this, blame Apple. They have refused to offer an easy way to offer upgrade pricing. App developers are in a bind between offering support and making a living.