Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where are the Indie iOS developers you ask?

I've been an "Indie" developer since before it was a word.  Back when I started my company in 1997 it was "Shareware".

The company, Headlight Software, grew from a Windows program, GetRight, to a small team of my brother Pete, friend Shawn, and later my wife.  In 2008 we jumped to the App Store, and were among the first app developers.  FTP On The Go came out about a month after the store opened.

That was one of the big things we did right.  It wasn't a fad type app, but a pretty good niche business/website tool.  FTP clients have been around for 20 or 30 years, so aren't going anywhere.  For a good long time there weren't really any competitors either.  There can't be many apps that came out in the first month of the App Store that are still being developed.

Sales Data (FTP On The Go)

Here is a graph of the total App Store sales revenue since when FTP came out August 3, 2008.  I'm a few days early, but call it 6 years of sales data.

When the iPad first came out, we did a new FTP On The Go PRO version which is the big pink section starting in 2010; and at the tail end in 2013 the orange and purples are the Discounted Upgrade versions we did when changing to iOS 7.

As you can see, the party really ended the middle of 2012.

Sales Data (All Our Apps)

We did other apps, and had other more minor successes, but the business basically mirrors the sales of FTP.

The big peak in early 2010 was Knife Dancing's crazy ride to the #1 free game--it got into the 100 top grossing as well, back long enough ago, if you can imagine it, that there were only 1 or 2 other free apps in the top grossing charts at the time!

Unfortunately, there's another important line in that chart above.  That red line right across the chart.  That line has the label "Profitable".

Yeah, Fuck.  

You'll see that since early 2012 the income has been below that line (yes, it was below that line in the beginning too; GetRight has been on a similar trajectory--its declining revenues where higher back then.)  The business had built up a cushion in the bank, but nothing lasts forever.  We fought like crazy, and worked our asses off.  But nothing.  We had to cut salaries last year.  Finally, earlier this year I had to cut hours and we knew it was coming to an end.  

We all landed on our feet; but that means Headlight stuff only gets done on a weekend or occasional evening after a long day at work.

It has been a good long run, 17 years in business and counting.  Sales are still not $0.  At the current rate, it could have supported just me a bit longer (at a pretty low income, a fraction of what I'm making at a regular job as an iOS programmer) but the writing is on the wall.  I found something new rather than waiting 6 months or a year when things could be much more desperate.

Its crazy that even working somewhere else full time, and doing Headlight work in my spare hours, it is still likely one of the bigger Indie developers--which is a sad sign for all app developers.

That's where Indie app developers are.  Getting jobs.

And a year ago, but I bet this math is still close if not even worse.

Update1: Cool, you read this far, thanks!  Now the real question, will you help one of many struggling indie developers and go and spend $10 on an app?

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