The impact of making a paid app free

A while back, I asked myself, “What’s the impact of making a paid app free? What do app developers gain from this?” A surprising number of apps do switch from paid to free, and there are a number of websites (like AppsGoneFree and AppGratis) which keep you up-to-date with paid apps that become free for a day, a week, or a longer period of time. After doing a bit of research online, I now understand a bit better why app developers might make this decision: they may gain much more than they used to earn while having it for sale. How is this possible? Find out here! When Infinity Blade was made free (after being sold for £0.69) for a week, it registered an incredible boost in revenue and downloads. This has been detailed by various bloggers, websites and newspapers. As Matthew Lynley noted in the The Wall Street Journal, this decision “brought the title up hundreds of spots in App Store rankings”. More than this, Apple featured it as a top app, in the top five of free downloads, so the results were stunning! Because the app features in app purchases for additional features, the app developers made more money when the app was free than a week before, when it was £0.69. The proof for this is here in this chart from AppData. It shows how Infinity Blade leapt up loads of App Store rankings. [caption id="attachment_2951" align="alignnone" width="579"]Infinity Blade AppData stats Infinity Blade AppData stats[/caption] Further than this, Infinity Blade has generated more money for its posher sister, Infinity Blade II, which costs £4.99. So the marketing strategy for Infinity Blade worked wonders for Infinity Blade II as well. You can check its impact on this AppData chart: [caption id="attachment_2952" align="alignnone" width="556"]Infinity Blade II AppData stats Infinity Blade II AppData stats[/caption] The impact on this second version of Infinity Blade isn’t as big as on the free app, but the downloads have increased hugely! And if this isn’t the enough to show how making a paid app free can work wonders, here is another story about the iPad app Pocket Zoo HD which became free for a day and promptly became the number one free education app and registered 6000 downloads! [caption id="attachment_2955" align="alignnone" width="364"]Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 13.50.12 Pocket Zoo HD stats[/caption] This is what happened when the normally $2.99 app became free for a day: When the developers were asked why they made it free, their answer was simple: “Free is a great way to acquire new users”. This approach delivered further results this year when they made the iPhone version of Pocket Zoo free for a day and received 13,000 downloads.
Needless to say, we saw a large lift in sales after the free promotion. That was our main goal with the free Pocket Zoo HD promo…to get new people using our app with the hope that the increase in engagement and visibility in the charts would lead to word of mouth which is one of the most effective ways to promote an app. There are risks involved with going from the paid to free and back to paid. Jumping from one chart to the other means that you need to start from scratch in terms of the rankings and downloads as the numbers from one chart don’t carry over to the other. This is why your free promotion needs a lot of promotion…and when your app goes back to paid you need to promote it even more but hopefully by then you’ll have a few thousand people helping you spread the word.
After learning about these app, I understand much more about the impact of making a paid app free for a limited period of time. If done correctly, it can be a fantastic marketing and sales strategy!
May 07, 2014