Some Apps Making More Outside the Mac App Store
After Apple removed the code snippet manager Dash from the Mac App Store, its developers found that they actually made more money afterward, but that was likely due to the increased media coverage. In a less biased test, Rogue Amoeba also decided to stop selling its audio recording app Piezo on the Mac App Store due to Apple’s onerous restrictions. Even though the Mac App Store accounted for about half of Piezo’s sales before being removed, Rogue Amoeba found that nearly all customers shifted to direct sales — in other words, the Mac App Store wasn’t contributing much to product discovery. Plus, thanks to direct sale transaction fees of just a few percent, versus Apple’s 30 percent, Rogue Amoeba made almost $5 more per copy of Piezo and more overall revenues after pulling it from the Mac App Store. Although results would undoubtedly vary from case to case, Rogue Amoeba's experience shows that the Mac App Store may not be worthwhile for many developers.
I'm surprised at how often writers opine that Apple's 30% cut in the Apple Store is excessive. It's very hard to sell anything with the cost of the sale below 30%. The normal take for retail sales is 50%, and most companies are spending extra advertising bucks on top of that.
The examples that Josh offers here are atypical, as he explains. It's misleading to draw conclusions from them. Finding new customers is hard, in or out of the App Store. I prefer to buy outside the App store, but I will only buy from companies that I've patronized for a decade, or that have high recommendations from TidBITS, and similar sources. A small developer has almost no chance of reaching me, and convincing me to take a risk on his or her software, outside of the App Store.
It really comes down to numbers. With standard payment services like Stripe or PayPal, developers pay less than 3% transaction fees. Yes, they have to run the cart themselves, but that's not going to consume 27% of each transaction. So all the Mac App Store provides is customer acquisition (while forcing developers to jump through annoying hoops that have driven many away on their own).
These examples suggest that, although plenty of people will buy through the Mac App Store if it's an option, the number of customers may be only marginally higher than if the company wasn't in the Mac App Store at all. And if being in the Mac App Store results in lower revenues overall, that's also a concern.
Dash may be atypical, but Piezo doesn't seem to be.
Even ten years in it seems like app developers are still navigating the best uses for the App Store. I don't see how a developer has any incentive to improve an app after the initial sale is made, unless they simply deprecate a current version and require new versions with a new iOS release. Omni did that with Omni Outliner, which is not compelling enough for me to want to drop another $30 on it. Leister Productions did a much more compelling combination of upgrades when they abandoned their first "Reunion Touch" apps (separate versions for iPhone and iPad), and released a combined version that also played nicely with Dropbox and their desktop application. But they charge just $10 for it. I think discovery is a boost for small developers, and improvement is the drag for better known developers.
As for the Mac App Store specifically, I avoid it when possible. The big hurdle is the turtle's pace for updates. A few developers seem to get a fast track for releases, perhaps because they have become adept at navigating the submission hoops. But, one result seems to be de facto "forks" between direct release and App Store versions. Since there are restrictions on certain features, both ways, the products end up diverging.