In this day and age, customization is king. People love products that they can craft into an extension of their personality, and technology is no exception. Laptops and phones come in a variety of colors, not to mention the laundry list of preferences that can be adjusted once the technology is powered on. In many ways, the software experience has evolved along with this trend.
A common complaint from businesses is that customers often want something for nothing. Of course, this directly clashes with the old adage that the customer is always right, since not charging for a product or service would quickly drive any company out of business. IDE software development especially is an expensive process that requires the hard work of many people. However, in the journey to create a customizable experience, one could argue that software companies have tipped over to the side of nickel-and-diming. Enter microtransactions.
PAY (MORE) TO PLAY (MORE)
Microtransactions are a phenomenon often seen in the video game sphere, mostly in free-to-play games. The game itself is free, but there will be an in-game store where users can buy things like power-ups or in-game currency using real money. These things do not cost much, perhaps a dollar or two, but those purchases can add up quickly. Popular mobile games like “Candy Crush” use this model. A more recent phenomenon is microtransactions in fully priced games, and many members of the gaming community are not happy.
However, game developers keep adding microtransactions because the system works: They make a lot of money off of them (the writer of this review claims to have spent approximately $700 on cosmetic items in “Dota 2”). According to Sergey Galyonkin, who runs a website that datamines Steam, gamers don’t actually mind the existence of microtransactions; they just don’t like being misled. In fact, according to a Gamespot survey, 77 percent of respondents enjoy the ability to customize their gaming experience. The advantage of microtransactions is that they are optional. Some games do employ a pay-to-win model, such as Blizzard’s online card game “Hearthstone,” where buying card packs and expansions greatly increases your chances of success. And as of May 2017, “Hearthstone” boasted 70 million players.
ALL WORK, NO PLAY
A parallel to microtransactions is the rise of APIs in the business sphere. An API is a piece of code that performs a certain function by taking the user input to an engine, letting the engine do its thing and then returning the output to the user.
For instance, if you love GIFs, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of apps like Facebook and Tinder include the ability to search for GIFs and embed them into your chats. The API is the code that allows you to search for GIFs on a site like Giphy and add them to your chat without ever leaving the app you’re using. Apps can buy this API from Giphy and have that exact function without doing the hard work of coding it themselves.
Much like microtransactions, APIs are becoming more and more prevalent. Large companies are creating and selling APIs to make it easier for people to integrate their software with other platforms. Salesforce, for example, reportedly makes 50 percent of its revenue by selling APIs, and Expedia’s APIs generate 90 percent of its revenue. Startups that create nothing but APIs are popping up more and more frequently, allowing for the creation of apps and software that are faster, cheaper and more customizable.
FREE TO PLAY OR FREE TO PAY?
Another model that is similar to microtransactions and APIs is a modified free-to-play model where a certain number of features are available in a free version of the software, while more robust features are behind a paywall. Spotify is a great example of this. Anyone can use the free service supported by ads, but if you pay for Spotify Premium, ads are removed and you can download music to your devices to be enjoyed offline.
To dig into this further, this is a common feature of task management software such as Trello and Wunderlist. Of the top 10 task management platforms on our site by G2 Score, 8 have free versions and only two (Hightail and Omnifocus) do not. Interestingly, reviewers rated the quality of support for all 10 products very similarly, even though many of the products with free versions have improved support available with a paid subscription.
G2 Crowd results data as of Sept. 13, 2017
It’s also worth noting that the majority of the reviewers of task management software work for a small business, as of September 13. This makes sense because money is often tight for small businesses and free tools are often created for individuals or very small teams.
G2 Crowd results data as of Sept. 15, 2017
Despite the fact that not all free task management platforms have the same features (for instance, many include task reminders in their paid version, except for Wunderlist, Any.do, Kanbanchi and Avaza), overall satisfaction with these products is very similar. All 10 products have over 4 stars.
While microtransactions in video games are much maligned, and the announcement that a highly anticipated game will include them often leads to a storm of internet think pieces, microtransactions are here to stay. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the money from microtransactions comes from a very small portion of the population, and the entire point is that they provide optional content meant to customize the experience.
However, in business, this customized content is often an incredibly helpful and cost-effective way to tailor your software to fit your specific needs.
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