The team over at Soulmen made an announcement today that I expect they were more than a little hesitant to make:
Today, we are switching Ulysses to a subscription model. The short story is this (tl;dr): Our users expect a continuously evolving high quality product — and subscription is the only way we can truly deliver on that expectation.
This whole post is full of gems, so I highly recommend you go read it, but one line really jumped out to me, and I think puts the whole subscription pricing argument nicely into one sentence.
Interestingly enough, the way we pay for software hasn’t caught up to that rather drastic change in development yet.
This is absolutely true! We demand that most of our software be under constant development, but we are equally into the idea of paying for software up front and never paying again. This is indeed an antiquated way to charge for software, and as we have seen time and time again, it’s the only way many developers can manage to stay above water.
I expect apps that I pay more than a few dollars for to get updates every few weeks with bug fixes and meaningful feature updates. I expect those apps to get enhanced for the new versions of iOS, macOS, and Android that come out every year as well. I expect that if I have a support issue someone gets back to me in a short time frame. These are all expectations that are not always practical when your customers pay up front and never give you another cent even though you’re spending countless man hours developing the app. The best way to stay in the black is to charge your current customers on a regular basis over a longer period of time.
The big benefit of this subscription model is that it’s a two way street. Yes, I will end up paying more over time for a subscription to Ulysses than I would if I had just bought it once and used it for 10 years. That said, I’m not going to pay more for a little while. Ulysses used to be $50 on the Mac and $25 on iOS. The subscription is $40/year, or $30/year if you already own the apps. So for me, it will take me 2.5 years before I pay more for Ulysses as a subscription than I would have by just buying it up front.
But Ulysses has a job to do as well. In order to get me to keep using the app for over 2.5 years so that they do start to make more money on me they need to keep updating the app so I don’t start to look elsewhere for a competitor. They are now doubly invested in keeping me as a customer, as it’s now much more important that they get customers to stick around for the long haul.
I personally paid the $30 today to get my next year of Ulysses. I didn’t even think twice about it. Ulysses is the best app I’ve ever used on any platform, and I don’t want to see it go anywhere, so I’m happy to support them. I even gave them a 5 star review to try and make up for the inevitable 1 star brigade they’re about to endure. Here’s to paying a living wage to those who make world class software 🍻