Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.


I’ve been reading with some interest John Gruber’s comments about MacHeist and MacZot, as well as Gus Mueller’s take on the situation.

JG’s analysis is, I think, spot on. MacHeist and MacZot are basically mechanisms for fleecing independent developers. I have no idea why anyone would agree to sell their app for a week for a fixed price rather than a percentage, especially when the organisers of the promotion are taking a percentage cut. It seems like bad business to me, especially when the developers will have to deal with the additional support that all of those users create.

And as for the argument that MacHeist and MacZot are in any way similar to a proper distributor, let me tell you: our Japanese distributor does way more work, including:

  • Manufacturing CDs/DVDs, printing (and writing) manuals and boxes.
  • Getting the products onto shop shelves.
  • Localisation (we co-operate with them on this; there’s some work on both ends).
  • Japanese technical support.
  • Beta testing.
  • Testing things at the ADC Compatibility Labs facility in Japan (there isn’t one in Europe, remember).
  • Advertising including regular full-page ads on the front and back covers of major Japanese Mac magazines.
  • Various other marketing and promotional activities in Japan.

And they don’t ask for the kind of share of the profits that MacHeist are reportedly taking!

It’s patently ridiculous to argue that there is any benefit here to the apps’ developers. For the most part they aren’t going to get significant upgrade sales, and for many of the apps it isn’t even as if they need significant extra publicity in the marketplace.

There are some similarly silly arguments about how $5,000 is a lot of money for a single week’s sales. It actually isn’t, particularly when you consider that this isn’t ordinary sales; it’s a promotion. If it works properly, it should result in a lot of sales over a short period, and might actually cause a “sales drought” for a period thereafter (when you do these kinds of things, you, of course, hope to attract business that you wouldn’t otherwise have got… but many of these apps are already very competitively priced so I don’t see that happening here).

Someone even tried to compare it to conventional advertising, remarking “When was the last time you were paid to place an ad?” and commenting that:

“The people against MacHeist and similar things have never tried to buy exposure or ads or build a brand using traditional methods. MacHeist is not a new concept by any means, its [sic] just new to the Mac dev community who have, apparently, be [sic] squirreled away from the big bad world of real business.”

Hmmm. Well I’ll correct one thing straight up. I’m against MacHeist and MacZot, and I have bought ads—in fact, I recently spent thousands of dollars on an ad. campaign. I’m also involved with proper distributors who stick things in boxes on shelves, so I’m indirectly paying for “proper” advertising there too.

Anyway, the idea that MacHeist or MacZot are an ad. campaign is simply nonsense. When was the last time Jaguar ran an advertising campaign where they gave their cars away at an 80% discount to everyone who asked? <sarcasm>What’s that? They haven’t. Oh. I wonder why, I mean, it’s such an effective idea, right? And someone will even pay them $5,000 to do it for a week! That’s cheap advertising, right? I mean, it costs tens of thousands at least for a full-page advert in a broadsheet.</sarcasm>

If you believe that kind of tripe, you really don’t have a clue about business (ironically the person who wrote it finished their remarks by calling someone else’s business strategy “cr#p”). Advertising is advertising and promotions are promotions. MacHeist and MacZot are promotions, and—for the developers involved—assuming JG’s figures are right, bad ones.