So I came across a new story today that says that if you use Director 12 to make a paid iOS app, you have to give 10% of your revenue above $20,000 to Adobe.
First of all: What? There’s a Director 12? I stopped using it around Director MX 2004 (version 10, I guess). But I used to be one of the top Director/Shockwave developers in the world. I literally wrote the book on using Director. So, nice marketing job telling people that Director 12 exists.
Second of all: What? You can create iOS apps with Director 12? Huh. Never thought that would happen. Well, I guess I could take some of my old games and re-release them as iOS apps. But…
Third: Really? You pay for the software, and then you have to pay Adobe a royalty on profits from the content you create? Who is going to do that? No other tool I know of has this kind of thing in place. And the main competition, native app creation, certainly doesn’t do it. Flash, the other competition doesn’t do it.
A tiny bit of interest I had in paying Adobe $299 to upgrade just went bye-bye.
Oh, and one other thing. Why isn’t Director included in Adobe Creative Cloud. I pay the monthly fee so I can get everything from Adobe. That should include Director.
I’ve been thinking a lot about value recently. How much value am I creating? In other words, am I making the world a better place?
Now not everyone can directly make the world a better place. For most of us it is more than enough to just find a way to earn a living that doesn’t hurt others, provide for yourself and family, and contribute to society by simply being a part of it and making our friends’ lives better by being a good person.
But ideally, I want to make a living and make the world better. In other words, get paid to create value.
Looking at my interests and my set of skills, the one thing that comes to mind is creating educational apps. And I have indeed done this from time-to-time. But maybe it is time to get serious about it.
One thing that really upsets me about educational apps is that they are mostly just tests. Want to learn how to multiply? Here are random questions. Get them right and you get a reward of some kind.
I hate this. Computers can do more than just test, they can teach.
But teaching is hard. Testing is easy. Most of the people interested in making these kinds of apps don’t have the expertise to make an app that teaches something. But they can make an app that simply tests.
So I started building a new app called “Learn to Multiply.” There are a lot of apps out there that test multiplication skills. But with mine I want to show students how to do it, step-by-step. Turns out that this is hard to do. And even harder to do well. It took a lot of complex code to create an app that could go through the steps of solving a multiplication problem. I can see why there isn’t such an app in the iOS app store — at least not one of the level of complexity that I’m talking about.
So I’m curious to see what will happen. I’d made it an iPad-only app, which frees up the design a little and I think the iPad is the right device for this. I’m on the fence about pricing. I wanted to make this first app free just to get some feedback. But I think I might get better feedback if I at least charge 99 cents and filter out those that don’t really care.
If this works, and the app gets just a little traction, I have plans to make a lot more educational apps. Maybe even work toward shifting my focus to this “startup” project. I think the real long-term viability is in establishing a brand in this space with a series of apps.
Hello and welcome to the world of iOS app development!
Shall I show you what we have behind revenue door number one? It’s paid apps! Develop and app and put it up for sale. Sell millions, or rather dozens, and make $50, I mean $0.99 per app.
What, not interested? OK, then on to door number two.
It’s advertising! Make your apps free and put ads in them. Now you’ve got thousands of people downloading your free app. Hey, and the revenue isn’t that bad either. Not mortgage payment size, but maybe car payment size.
Maybe, the real money is behind revenue door number three.
It’s in-app purchases! Give the app away and don’t bother with the ads. Then sell add-ons and features. People get to try out the game first, and then pay to get more if they like it.
So that’s what this post is about. I just submitted my first game with in-app purchases. It is a jigsaw puzzle game, an off-shoot of my Just Jigsaw Puzzles site. The game cuts a picture into pieces. There will be a sample of 15 images. Then there will be six different picture collections of 50 images for sale.
I’m excited to see how this goes. My gut feeling is that there are too many jigsaw games in the app store already. So I won’t get many downloads or in-app sales. But, if I get even a small number it will be encouraging.
Think about this too: each image collection is a theme: animals, space, landscapes, etc. What if I sell a lot of one collection, like the “animals” one? Then I can update the app with another set of animals. That’s exciting.
The other day I was filling out a form that had a blank for “profession.” Over the last 15 years I’ve varied my answer here because I sorta defy description. I sometimes put things like: programmer, software engineer, entrepreneur, Internet publisher, game developer, and probably a few others.
But this time, for the first time, I put “writer.”
Why the change? Well, my “My iPad” book came in a the top-selling computer book of 2011. I was in the top 3 for computer book authors. I make a substantial portion of my income from book royalties now. I’ve written two new editions of My iPad this year and a new book on Pages. That makes 20 books now since my first one in 1996. And I may be writing one more before the end of the year.
How did this happen? I’m supposed to be an entrepreneur and programmer. Being an entrepreneur is fun and allows me to live the lifestyle I want. And programming is something I love, and it is where I have my 10,000 hours of mastery (as in the book “Outliers”).
But there is also the part of me that discovered in the 6th grade that I was better than most of the rest of the kids at writing. I joined the high school newspaper, and then the college newspaper, eventually becoming the Editor. I went to grad school for journalism. I thought for a minute that I would go on to be a reporter for a newspaper. I didn’t because while I loved writing, I hated reporting.
And then this year I added “screenwriter” to my list of things as I penned a short film (hopefully coming to a film festival near you).
So part of me is thrilled that I can now introduce myself as a “writer.” And part of me wishes I would just program all day, creating small games and apps that I can self-publish as an entrepreneur.
The story begins in December, 2010. The Mac App store is about to launch, and I have some time on my hands. I decide to see if it is possible to create a valid Mac app using Flash. You can read about that here.
So the game gets in the Mac App store, and I price it at: free. A good way to test out the waters of the Mac App store. And it pays off with top-ten rankings and lots of downloads. Maybe even a few people got it for Mac and then decided to also buy Gold Strike for iOS. But it turns out not, at least according to my stats.
But there is a bug hidden deep in the game. On January 1, 2012 it shows itself: an old piece of security code that prevents the game from working after 2011.
I spring into action on that day, cutting a family vacation short and heading home to work on it. A simple fix and the game is re-submitted that day.
But it takes two weeks for Apple to get to reviewing it. All the time I get tons of complains and bad reviews, many insisting that I am up to no good for some reason. A side-effect of the bug is that it takes you to the Gold Strike web-based game, which is also free. But people see fit to think that I am trying to do something evil and that it is all part of some sort of villainous plan. I’ve got information up in the description of the game on the Mac App store, explaining the problem and that a fix is on the way, but people just ignore it.
Then I get a message from Apple that the update has been rejected because of a technicality. The title of the game window isn’t to their liking. It is the same title as the original game, but they reject it this time. And there is no way for me to alter it because of the weird way in which I am using Flash to create the app.
So they leave the old game up there — the one that no longer works at all — and do not approve the one that works but displays a window title they don’t like. The same window title in the old version of the game, at least before 2012 when it worked.
What they actually said to me is that the name of the game must match the name of the title in the app store. One was “Gold Strike” and the other “GoldStrike.app.” So I fixed that, making the app name “Gold Strike.app.” Cue ominous foreshadowing music.
I appealed the decision. The appeal was accepted and Gold Strike was back in the Mac App store, and everyone could update. A fix was in place. All is well in the kingdom.
But no. Turns out that when you try to update Gold Strike you get an error. Some sort of “hash mismatch” error. What?
Well, after some investigation, it turns out that when you update an app in the Mac App store, if the name of the application file changes, this error is what happens. To every single person trying to update. Turns out a lot of developers get caught by this. Search for “mac app store update hash mismatch.”
So my change from GoldStrike.app to Gold Strike.app is probably responsible. But I did this only to appease the Mac App store reviewer. And the reviewer, so concerned about my window title, didn’t say a word about this change.
If changing the name of your application file will cause this error, then you shouldn’t be allowed to change the name of your application file. Or, better yet, it shouldn’t cause this error!
So now I’m faced with people complaining about this “hash mismatch” issue. I’ve updated the description text on the app page in the store, I’ve put it right at the top of the page you get to if you click “support” on that page too. I’ve even added my own comment to the reviews to explain it.
But still, I get 1-star reviews because of this problem. And there’s nothing I can do about it. No way to respond to individual reviews in the Mac App (or iOS) store. So people leave the review, frustrated, and there is no way for me to help them.
One guy even had the nerve to change his review from 1 to 3 stars, claiming that it only gets 3 stars because I should have tested this first. But there is no way to test this, nor to know this would happen, unless I had happened to know about this hash mismatch bug from some random reading previously.
Oh, and of course I am stuck with the name Gold Strike.app now. If I were to change it back to GoldStrike.app, the whole thing would happen all over again.
So, the game is free. It is supposed to be a fun thing I’m doing to give away one of my best games to Mac users. But the recent result is a lot of bad negative energy. This has become a distraction for me. So I’m seriously thinking about taking the game off of the Mac App store permanently. Probably will, by the time you read this.