Bundlewars, The Liveblog.

So, it seems that I’ve annoyed John Casasanta, director of MacHeist, with my discussion about bundles and taking part in the bundle at TheMacBundles.com.

I just got the following in my inbox:

James and Jon:

I’ve just posted my rebuttal to your blog posts in the MacHeist forums:


For what it’s worth, I’ve been a user of DragThing for years, James, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted it included in MacHeist 3. You chose not to participate and now you’re making several false statements about us and other bundle promoters.

So, to reiterate what I wrote in my post, it’s completely your right to partake in whatever bundle you wish… or to not partake in any. BUT… it’s your RESPONSIBILITY to not make false statements. I’m seriously hoping that you’re now rethinking the false, damaging statements that you’ve made and that you’ll post a retraction. The statements I made in my post are FACTUAL.

I love how you’re all on your high-horse about fairness, farmers market and crap, yet you ALL have ZERO ISSUE with posting outright lies. Ethics and morality, people…

John Casasanta

His referenced post on the MacHeist forums states:

I still have to take serious issue with outright false statements like:

“Instead of most of the profits going to a third-party company with a background in marketing…”

“…instead of getting way less than a dollar per copy, or – even worse – only getting a flat fee regardless of the number of copies sold…”

“So if it sells, say, a couple of thousand copies in total, that’s a much better return than we might see from many tens of thousands of sales of some other bundles.”

“Those people usually reap the bulk of the profits from the sale, passing only a small percentage of the sale price on to the developers of the software.”

Overwhelmingly, the profits go to charity. The developers got the bulk of the earnings. We paid our staff. And the principals earned a fair amount, considering the effort we put into things.

So if Mr. DragThing and Sir Default Folder choose this “fair” bundle over ours or MUPromo, that’s totally their right. They simply shouldn’t go around spreading complete and utter bullshit, though.

All of our “slick, fancy, Madison Ave. marketing” does, indeed count for something… this new bundle still has the bonus app offer for when 2,000 bundles are sold, and I suspect that this offer will last the duration of the bundle. So I’ve heard that the devs are getting like $5 per bundle sold or something. Assume that they’ll sell around 1,000 bundles or so (I’m basing this estimate on what I heard the last MacBundleBox sold at like 800 or something) and that means that each dev will make around $5,000 from this promo.

Compare that with MacHeist 3, where each dev, at minimum, made what most people would consider a really good year’s salary for two weeks of a bit of an extra support load. And that’s saying a lot in this crappy economy.

If devs want the “FAIREST BUNDLE EVAR” then they can just continue selling a “bundle of 1” at 100% price.

Adapt or die…

So, aside from the fact that I wasn’t singling out MacHeist specifically, I feel I have to respond. Here’s what I just emailed back to him.

That’s very interesting John. I’ll give you two concrete examples:

I was offered a fixed fee of $1200 (later increased to $2000) by Stephen Christopher in February to include PCalc as a bonus app in MacHeist 3. You will probably argue that it wasn’t intended as a “full” member of the bundle, but from my perspective, you wanted to give away an unlimited number of copies of my application for a fixed fee.

Calling it a “marketing opportunity” doesn’t change the fact that you are paying a tiny amount to a developer to boost the popularity of your bundle significantly. That is exactly the kind of behaviour that I objected to in my post, and was what drove me to participate in this bundle as they seemed to be genuinely trying to do something different.

Phill Ryu offered me $2 per copy for DragThing last year for MacHeist 2 in February 2008, again as a bonus app, which I did decline. You didn’t ask me about including DragThing this year, so I don’t know exactly how much you were planning to offer this time around. But you say I chose not to participate this year which is – in your own words – “an outright lie”, as I was never asked anything about including DragThing in MacHeist 3.

I have been offered similarly low – and lower – amounts from other bundles to take part. Did any of the participants in MacHeist 3 get around $5 per copy sold as every single developer is from this bundle? Are all the participants getting the same amount? That, in my book, is a pretty good definition of fair.

You say “adapt or die” in your post. That is exactly my fear. If developers – and by that I mean ALL developers – can’t sell their software at a fair price that will support them in the long term, then they *will* start to die out. If eight or ten developers made a decent wage out of Mac Heist 3 – and I take your word for that – and, let’s say, another eight or ten do the same from MacUpdate, then what happens to the other thousands of developers out there who are trying to sell their software, but nobody is buying it because they are waiting to see if it turns up in another bundle?

I don’t think this bundle is perfect either, not by a long shot, but I believe it comes from a goal to support developers first and that’s why I took part.

I can only speak for the experiences I have had.


The conversation has subsequently moved to the MacHeist forums – you can find the thread here. Rather than copy everything in three places, I’m off to the lions’ den… See you there?

Author: James Thomson

Indie iOS / Mac developer, maker of PCalc and DragThing. Occasional writer, conference speaker, and podcast pundit.

3 thoughts on “Bundlewars, The Liveblog.”

  1. I was offered a similar amount to what you were offered for PCalc to include my application Sticky Notes (http://www.randomsequence.com/software/sticky-notes/) as a bonus app in MacHeist 3.

    I don’t develop Sticky Notes full time, and I don’t spend any time or money on marketing or promotion. Sticky Notes doesn’t make much more than that in a year, so I went for it. I spent an extra day on support around the time my app was available, that’s about it. Full price sales have been consistently higher each month following MacHeist.

    Point is, the bundles, flat rate or not, aren’t bad for all developers.

    1. Jonhnie, I agree. I do develop PCalc full time, alongside my other apps – indeed I’ve spent the best part of a year working on the iPhone version which is doing very well. So it was a little insulting to be honest to be offered $1200. Absolutely, it would be a good opportunity for somebody in your situation.

      Caleb, I also agree – marketing does add value, and it’s certainly true that MacHeist is a brand lots of people are aware of. I don’t doubt the next one will do even better. But I don’t think it’s good for the developer community as a whole.

  2. I’ve gained a lot of respect for Phil this last time around, but John always seems to be out of touch. This echos of his spat with Marco Arment, and just listening to his rant makes me think less of him.

    The MacHeist forums are always an interesting experience to see the community they have built. The expectations and such of the users it creates on the entire ecosystem. I don’t think MacHeist is ‘evil,’ but it’s not benign.

    I wish the gimmick of the charity would go away. It is a big red herring. Then I suppose it provides some misdirection from the actual arguments about the merits of things like MacHeist. I think marketing creates value, I think MacHeist does create value, but like many others I’m not sure if the pros outweigh the cons, and if it’s something sustainable.

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