So, let's get the most important - and painful - information out to you first:
Chapter 6 will not be published in the Wormworld Saga App and there will be no update to the iOS-version of the app to fix the severe problems the app has under iOS7. Actually, the app is going to be pulled from the app stores today. The reason for this situation is pretty easy to sum up: the app does not generate as much money as is needed to maintain it.
But I want to go into a little bit more detail because the way things developed over time include some interesting insights for anyone who's trying to make money with a custom app.
As many of you might remember, the development of the Wormworld Saga App was financed through my first kickstarter campaign in early 2011. I gave 8000€ from the campaigns profit to the Spanish app developer/digital publisher Robot Media to create the app. We knew right from the beginning that this initial budget would only pay for the very first version of the app. All updates and chapter releases were expected to cause further costs and in order to cover those I entered a revenue share agreement with Robot Media.
The app turned out very nicely, even received a reward at an international digital publishing expo, and through the advertising on the Wormworld Saga website we were able to attract a steady stream of new users. However, I had to realize pretty early that my initial expectation about the amount of money the app would generate was completely unrealistic. The app made only a few hundred euros in the first three months and while there was some growth over time this trend generally continued. The app made a significant jump when it was featured on Google Play and attracted over 150 thousand new users over the course of one week. During that week, the app generated over 3000€ of revenue and I thought that this had to be the breakthrough. However, revenue plummeted directly after the feature and although the huge number of new users raised the revenue that came with each chapter release, the total amount was still below what I had hoped for when I based the project on the expected income from the app and quit my job. Over it's total runtime of 3 years, the app earned me about 7000€.
Now, I don't want to sound as if this is nothing. In fact it's good money. It means that I got nearly all the money back that I originally invested, which is cool. And today I would be totally happy with an app making a few thousand euros every year. Unfortunately, the app didn't only start to bring in money but it also started to cost more and more money.
The costs of the app - bandwidth costs, bug fixes, updates, chapter releases - are carried by Robot Media. For them, making the deal with me was a risky investment and while I was happy with a few thousand euros from the app every year, their much smaller share of the revenue put them in a tight spot. Actually I really have to be thankful that they kept the app going for as long as it went. The situation began to become a real problem when Apple released iOS7 which called for a lot of changes in the code of the app. And not only that. In order to submit an update for an iPad app now you have to provide retina quality graphic assets. All in all the new iOS would have forced Robot Media to invest several thousand euros worth of man hours to update the app. They don't have that money and neither do I.
I already can hear someone saying "why not ask the fans for help?" but I don't think that this would be a solution. As I wrote above, the general problem is that the app costs more money than it generates. In a combined effort we might be able to lift it over the current hurdle but operation systems are updated every few months and the effort to keep an app updated will only increase in the future. There's a saying about riding a dead horse...
What is the bottom line of all this?
I still love the app and it hurts me to not being able to maintain it. I think it's still the perfect way to experience the Wormworld Saga. I pretty early had to realize that the app wouldn't be able to carry my project and since then I've switched over to books and merchandize to keep the Wormworld Saga running. I would never have pulled the plug on the app if it hadn't been absolutely inevitable. I would happily keep it running even if it wouldn't bring in any money at all, but I can't run it when it actually costs me money to do so. My budget for the Wormworld Saga is tight. If there should come a time in the future when the Wormworld Saga actually earns me more money than my family needs for living, I will totally consider to revive the app.
Let's close this with some direct words to the customers of the Wormworld Saga App:
I really thank you for your contribution. By buying the collector's editions of the chapters inside the Wormworld Saga App, you supported the project and helped a big deal. I'm really sorry that the app doesn't work on more recent devices that run the latest version of iOS. The app will keep on running on older iOS versions though and you won't loose your in-app purchases. If you are interested in the special content of future chapters, I will continue to publish it in The Attic, the subscription based member's area on wormworldsaga.com.
I'm happy to answer any questions anyone might have in the comments here on the blog.