It’s not uncommon in the video game business for 1% of the customers spend the most amount of money and support your costs of the remaining 99%. The popular gaming company Zynga (Mafia Wars, Farmville) sells its games mostly though Facebook. People that have worked there reported the fact that a large group of their customers spend $500 a year buying food for their virtual cows, horses and bodyguard weapons. One customer spent $75,000 in a year. They call these customers the “whales”. I am not fond of that label but it does tell the story. We wondered if we had whales (or maybe large geese) that wouldn’t mind spending higher amounts on these apps provided they offered additional value.
In 2010 we had just finished adding a large number of search attributes to the iBird search engine (27). The standard at the time for iBird Plus was 15 attributes. Another argument started at MWG about putting all these features into iBird Plus or creating a new app called iBird Pro and selling it for $29.99. Again I followed my gut. Now we had 9 versions of iBird for the iPhone. Think that is enough? A few months later all hell broke out.
iBird Pro became our best selling app and totally showed us that people would pay for quality and features that were useful. Unfortunately because app buyers get upgrades for free they have developed an attitude of entitlement. We heard from many Plus buyers in email and our forum who felt that the features of iBird Pro should have been offered to iBird Plus owners as a free update. Some really angry people came out of the woodwork, some even threatened to start a class action suit, claiming we were milking our loyal customers, had no scruples, yada yada.
We felt that these criticisms were unfair. But we still wanted to keep our customers happy. So we came up with a compromise; we created an in-app purchase for iBird Plus that for $10 added all the features of iBird Pro and this made our customers very happy.
No Rest for the Wicked–Then Came iPad
Just when you think you have finally got yourself a good solid product line and can take a rest, think again. You see this business is called software for a reason — soft means it can change and change is what apps are all about. In the beginning of 2010 Apple released the fabulous iPad, the first table computer to really catch the fancy of the public. We knew there was an opportunity for iBird and so we worked furiously with our developer to create a version of iBird that took advantage of all the cool features of the iPad. Its larger screen size meant we could have a much more advanced interface, and its faster processor meant we could ask more out of the program. Being optimized for the iPad meant we could have three columns in the landscape mode, which gave the search engine much more power. You can see the results of a search attribute immediately with no need to go back to another screen like you do on the iPhone. We used higher resolution illustrations and photos in the iPad apps and so we gave them the nomenclature HD for High Definition to help people tell them apart from the iPhone apps. Wanting to give more choices to our customers we created three versions: iBird Lite HD, iBird Yard Plus HD and iBird PRO HD. So now we had 12 versions of iBird, 9 for the iPhone and 3 for the iPad. Even we had trouble keeping them straight in our heads.
Tune in tomorrow to hear about iBird UK.