My Experiment With Free
Filterstorm started big. It was a free app at the time of iPad launch, and thanks to an early staff favorites feature, it hit number 11 on the free apps sales chart. The reason I launched it as a free app wasn’t business savvy (though in hindsight I’m glad I did), it was simply that I had developed Filterstorm without access to an iPad and I didn’t trust it to run properly — and at first it didn’t.
Inkist’s launch was a very different story. I set the price where I wanted it to stay, and simply released it hoping again that word of mouth would spread it. Of course, it turns out there are fewer mouths to spread the word when people have to pay $9.99 to get the app. I did have a big banner feature which helped, but not enough.
It seemed I needed something more. My first thought was a demo version, something that expired after 30 days you could get from the Inkist website. I like going through the app store, though, and demo versions don’t work for that. So I decided to go in a different route, by which I mean “shamelessly copy from Autodesk’s strategy with Sketchbook”.
Sketchbook Express is a free version of Sketchbook which flattens the images when they’re saved (there are probably other limitations, but that’s the only one I’m aware of). That seems to me to be a good way to do things, give people a good taste of the abilities of the program but with enough limitation that people will want to upgrade.
I thought about doing the same limitation as Sketchbook Express, but having a flattened image on save would hurt people who start working on an image in Inkist Lite and want to finish it when they upgrade to Inkist. Instead I simply set a limit of 3 layers available to the user. This makes it a powerful enough app that people can get real use from it, and many may want to stick with the lite version, but limited enough that more serious users will all want to upgrade to the full version.
I think there is a danger that I’ve made the limitations too loose and most people will be happy with Inkist Lite, but as Filterstorm is the vast majority of my income, this is a risk I can afford to take. If I’ve played it right, hopefully I’ll see the word spread and sales of the full version will go up, too.