Hey there, Nokia. It's me, a small indie developer who wants to support your phones. Really, I do.
First of all, let's talk about the phones. I wanted to be more focused on Ovi Store, and I will be. Just a few short words on the phones and the platforms. (Or skip the rant.)
The Phones and The Platforms.
I love N900. I don't own it, because I'm cash-strapped a bit, but it's almost the thing that I want to own. I would've preferred it if you just upgraded N810 to have a phone, and if you didn't mess with the UI, but still, N900 is closest to the ideal Linux phone one could have. Choosing Debian package management system was a great move on your part, Nokia.
Yet you gave up on Maemo. You wanted to move on to Meego, you wanted to move away from GTK to pick up Qt which you purchased and switched license from GPL to LGPL. All noble choices. But this means you gave up on tons of work you had done on Maemo. This has just spread confusion among users, including me: will you stick to Meego or abandon it as well? Looks like you picked the latter one.
With regard to Symbian, I am a bit more confused. There's too much choice with your phones. I have no idea how to develop apps for Symbian, nor am I really interested in it; there's no way I could test on all the phones, and some of them are really slow. Not really good target for my game apps, right? (And Java phones are totally out of the game, since there's no way in hell I'll be writing games in Java.)
The Ovi Store and its presentation fails
Okay. Who am I? I am a small developer, primarily a programmer. I'm a terrible designer, based on people's comments when I design user interface. I also suck at "extracting money" out of unsuspecting victi… Uhm, I mean, "users".
But there's just a small thing that prevents me from looking seriously at distributing apps on Ovi Store. This is total lack of confidence with regard to commercial success of paid apps. I don't intend to develop games that feature ads. I want my users to pay once, upfront and go away happily with their new game. Your Ovi store does nothing to present paid apps to new visitors on the site.
When looking at the Ovi Store, it feels like you're deliberately trying to promote free apps. Is this in hope of your customers being extremely happy that you are offering them free stuff? If you look closely at the first screenshot I'm including in the article, you can notice that you are offering them a trailer. Yay! I can get a trailer for free off an app store. Wait, what? A trailer on an app store? And it's featured?
Not only that, but the homepage — entitled "Featured" — presents only free apps. Believe it or not, I have noticed this many months ago, when first seriously investigating viability of porting the app to Nokia platforms (or at least Maemo). Every time I look at the homepage, it "features" only free apps.
It feels like you are treating developers like they are not your customers. It feels like you only appreciate developers that are happy to fork over money for access to Ovi Store as a distribution channel only to offer free apps.
If I develop a paid app, I expect to have a fair chance to be featured on the homepage. You're even featuring free version of Angry Birds Rio, not the paid one.
So, let's say I am an end-user. An uncommonly enthusiastic end-user, very willing to fork over some money to a developer — and Nokia, don't forget, you as well! I want to do that because I want "good" apps. I don't want trailers, and I don't want limited versions of games. I don't want "FREE Sweet Love MSG 2 Share" (also featured on the main page — is anyone vetting the apps that appear as featured at all?) — I want a fun and entertaining game.
As you can see, I am an uncommon user — I want to search for stuff instead of being served stuff.
So I want Games. I click on Games – luckily it's very well exposed.
Oh, come on! This is ridiculous, Nokia. Again I am served free apps only. At least I have a choice between Top Free, Best Sellers and New.
But it's gray, faded out, small and unnoticeable!
So I have all these big icons of free games, which I see I don't want, and I'm tempted to close the window already, but only then I miraculously notice that I could, perhaps, switch to Best Sellers. Let's see what that does!
Oh! Lord! I am saved! I can finally see stuff that people are willing to fork over money for!
To be honest, I still have no idea if I would fork over money for any of those games I see there. Or perhaps… Tetris Revolution by Electronic Arts sounds nice. Why isn't that thing featured?
So Nokia, consider that this is how a developer thinks. And I suck at marketing. But I don't really see that you are making it easy for users to discover great paid apps or games, and hence you are not making it easy for developers to sell apps.
By now the project is too far along. It's written in Objective-C, and is optimized solely for iPhone resolution. We're still thinking of creating a version targeting your phones, but it's by no means a priority.
Ovi looks like a great store. You have a great market base. You have a nice deal with operators (having them charge for apps means better exposure than having people pay for apps via credit card).
But what were you thinking when you gave enormous exposure to free apps, and so little to paid apps? Are you surprised that developers are chased away, and that sales are (probably) low? I think they are, despite the success of free apps.
Do I have any, at all, hope of gaining exposure for my paid app even if I join the still relatively small marketplace? If Angry Birds with their massive exposure on other platforms and in mass media are not a top seller… what can a newcomer like me expect?
I really hope that you intend to address the issues at hand. Deal with Microsoft can only help in a sense that they might do a better job at marketing paid apps than you. I would however prefer an independent and strong Nokia, with a good model for charging apps directly from user's operator. Frankly, I don't want a Silverlight-and-C#-based platform, and I want to deal with you.
But you are dropping platforms like rain is dropping from the sky (and unfinished platforms at that!) You are marketing apps poorly. You are avoiding questions on what great paid app successes there are and redirecting me. Too bad I can't dig out the entire history off Twitter, only a single post, but I was directed to some marketing pages where free apps were again praised more than paid apps.
I want to be a partner and sell apps on Ovi Store. But I see no reason to invest loads of time to write a paid app when you care more about free apps.