Sitting in my email inbox is a message from Apple. It states, “Don’t let your iOS Developer Program expire.” In other words, Apple wants another $99 from me. Why should I give it to them, when they already take a 30% cut from my sales? I’m quite tech savvy. I could build my own store for selling games and digital content. Do I really need Apple? Do I really want to endure another year of frustration with Apple’s walled garden? I decided to take a closer look at the advantages of working with Apple.
Nice retail experience — Before Apple, it wasn’t easy for content creators to sell content online. Basically, Apple has gotten people back in the habit of paying for digital content. Before that, the Internet was like the wild west. With MP3 piracy hurting the music business, weak advertisement dollars not supporting Flash game developers and free news websites killing the magazine biz, content creation was in a downward spiral. Apple helped to straighten things out with the iTunes App store. Now it’s quite common for people to buy digital copies of books, magazines and games.
e-commerce — Maintaining your own online store can be a headache. There are issues with security, sales tax, maintenance, upgrades and other technical hurdles. On top of all that, it has to look pretty. I could make this happen, but someone would still get a cut of the sales. Credit card orders need to be processed and that costs money. Previously, I used Google Checkout. It was really good, but it was a 2.9% + 30¢ on each sale.
Affiliates — I can chop off 5% from Apple’s percentage with sales generated through affiliate links. By using LinkShare, Apple is paying me to refer traffic to my own apps. I can also pick up some extra money by earning commissions on other sales during such transactions.
Marketing — Moving The Unofficial GameSalad Textbook to an iTunes App Store exclusive seems to have been a good decision. Being featured in the “What’s Hot” section is great exposure! I think it has improved sales. The launch day surge is a nice feeling. My apps can reach millions of people. Of course, if an app doesn’t have a strong launch, the marketing effect is mitigated. With hundreds of thousands of apps, special attention from Apple is rare.
Support — Apple takes care of backing up the digital files. With iCloud, I don’t have to worry about my customers losing their apps. They can simply download it again — for free! Previously, this was a problem with my digital downloads. Also, I used to have problems with blocked emails, lost passwords and delivering upgrades. Apple takes care of all of that for me. I can focus on making great content and Apple assists in keeping my customers happy.
DRM — While not perfect, the apps have decent digital rights management. This helps to ensures that content can only run on authorized Apple devices. I think Apple’s walled garden creates a better environment for developers. This goes back to the “nice retail experience”. Consumers generally do not like DRM, but people seem to have accepted Apple’s way of protecting content. It’s not just enough to setup an online shop. That content has to be protected or piracy increases dramatically. Lost sales is something else that has to be factored into the equation.