To Michael Simon (@morlium)
My name is Jason from Real Casual Games, makers of Forecast Bar. I wanted to thank you so much for the kind words you have written about Forecast Bar. You summed up exactly what we were trying to create — an iPhone app for your for Mac. I also wanted to take some time to explain the decisions we made around the in-app purchasing, and why the Mac App Store policies influenced our decision, and what that means for developers worldwide.
Our weather provider, Forecast.io, is known to be the best and most accurate, however, it comes at a price. Each and every request to them costs money. The traditional refresh rate of every Forecast.io app on the market is 1 hour, which we matched. After knowing that, we priced the app such that given “expected” usage we could still turn a profit. Quickly, users such as yourself desired faster updates, and we were forced with a choice: subscription, or one-time payments.
Apple imposes a number of restrictions on developers which make this problem particularly challenging:
- Auto-renewing subscriptions are not available for data access apps.
- Developers must offer their app to be downloaded on all of a users’ devices.
- Developers must offer their app for family sharing, where every device of every user can download the app.
When you combine these factors, our choice was to create our own subscription system from scratch (a very time consuming process), or to offer a one-time payment. As indie developers, our choice was clear there: one-time purchases are dramatically simpler to implement, and customers prefer them. The real challenge is in figuring out how to price them.
In order to determine a price, we have to model a number of very unknown factors:
- How often Forecast Bar will be running (on laptops, this is <24h)
- How many computers will it be running on per purchase
- After how long will people abandon the app
Coupling these things together puts developers relying on external data services in a horrible predicament. We must price so we are protected against unbounded losses, but also to arrive at a price palatable to users. Apple doesn’t allow us to price based on usage, so we have to have a one-size fits all price.
The prices you see in Forecast Bar reflect our best guess of the factors above, while still leaving room for some potential profit margin. I write this in hopes you can make your audience aware that Apple severely limits the flexibility of developers, and forces us to either price cheaply and hope for the best, or price appropriately given the conditions and face the wrath of price-conscious users.
Thanks for your time, and thanks again for helping us spread the word about Forecast Bar. As developers, we love what we do, and we love knowing users around the world are getting value and joy from our work. I hope this helps understand our (and subsequently all developers) point of view around Mac App Store policies and their impact on pricing.
Real Casual Games, Developer