Is Apple's iTunes App Store broken, a combination of developers racing to the bottom and users getting conditioned -- and feeling entitled -- to pay less than what an app is worth? Or, are some developers not yet savvy enough in terms of planning and marketing to take advantage of the App Store business model?
Since we covered Ramp Champ this morning, it's timely to cover both the thoughts of the developer, Gedeon Maheux, and a response from Tumblr and Instapaper developer Marco Arment that are currently surrounding it.
The crux of Maheux's post, Losing iReligion, is that the App Store is broken, that it's too hard to gain visibility, and that if you miss the immediate exposure-on-landing of hitting a top list or featured spot, you're doomed to obscurity.
In order for a developer to continue to produce, they must make money. It's a pretty simple concept and one that tends to get lost in the excitement to write for the iPhone. It's difficult for me to justify spending 20-50 hours designing and creating new 99¢ levels for Ramp Champ when I could be spending that time on paid client work instead. I would much rather be coming up with the sequel to Space Swarm than drawing my 200th version of a magnifying glass icon. But I'd also like to have some assurances from Apple about reducing the length of the App Store approval process, having the ability to respond to factually incorrect iTunes reviews, not be limited to 100 beta testers, or that large, prominent developers won't always get preferential treatment. In short, I'd like to know things will be fixed and I don't mean merely posting a page of marketing text in iTunes Connect.
Arment, argues that there are The two App Stores. The first is superficial, geared to Top Lists and $0.99 apps that are basically disposable by both users and their developers alike. These make quick money and then disappear. The second are the profound apps, which flourish only from user word-of-mouth and online coverage, and while they don't get the initial boom, they have a longer tail before it comes to bust. He further argues that it's when developers mistake one App Store for the others, and miss-target their efforts, that frustration occurs.
The Iconfactory's apps are able to compete strongly when people choose apps based on research, reviews, or feature comparisons. But that's not how App Store A's customers operate. Whether Ramp Champ is a better game than Skee-Ball is irrelevant to them because they'll never take the time to find out.
Anyone interested in development and why we get the apps we do (and the ones we don't) should take the time to read both posts (linked above). Then come back and let us know what you think. Are there two App Stores? Which one do you shop at? And why?