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The MacHeist Effect

Well, the end of another MacHeist season has drawn to a close. This was our first one, but the third one, held once a year at roughly the same time each year.

What Is MacHeist?

MacHeist is the brain child of John Casasanta (himself an independent software developer) , Phill Ryu and Scott Meinzer. There are many articles about the 'history' of MacHeist, and have a look at their About Page for some details on these three guys known as the Directorate and the Staff who work alongside them. I'm here to write about the after effects of what they do.

The essential MacHeist idea is to entertain the Mac community (referred to as 'Agents') with great online puzzles and games, get them software licenses for completing these (referred to as 'Loot'), building up a huge amount of publicity, all pointing toward a stunning software bundle deal at the end of it all. The publicity this year included a 'reveal show' streamed out live featuring Veronica Belmont, Lisa Bettany and Chris Pirillo (technology correspondent for CNN), extensive use of Twitter (including 2 'Tweetblasts') and offering extra apps for successful referrals to the bundle purchase.

The bundle this year had a retail value of and astounding $1000 or so, with a crazy price tag of $39. Then, 25% of all takings are given to a list of 10 charities, with the purchaser able to choose their portion's destination, either one sole charity from the 10, or equally between all of them. Agents involved from the start ('The Giving Tree' in late December) could get a total of over 60 apps through taking part and buying the bundle, all for the one payment.

After Effects.

So what ripples are left in the Mac software pond after all this is over? The MacHeist community is huge (over 300,000 members) and 88,000 or so bundles were sold this year. Obviously, developers are supplying huge numbers of licenses for the money they receive, but they are brought to the attention of many more users, and sales of other products they have usually benefit significantly. The users taking part get to try complete pieces of software without short or otherwise limited trial restrictions, and get extra assistance from a very active forum community in MacHeist. The 'Loot' licenses are often only for a MacHeist version (may get updated a few times), but all bundle licenses are the same as those bought direct from the developer's website.

Some developers are dealing with many many thousands of new users, without the amount of revenue that would accrue from that number of sales normally. That sounds a little negative at first, but would anywhere near that number of users have bought the software otherwise? No, not at all! The user base has been significantly changed, and the word of mouth recommendations that will come later when people ask the MacHeisters 'what do you use for this job' will be significant too. Against that you have the serious increase in support the developers have to deliver just after the Heist, and some detractors would claim a devaluing of the software too, although we don't buy that argument, having bought Pixelmator after recommendation from someone who got it in MacHeist 2. We didn't think it had devalued it at all.

All this puts lots of productive software in the hands of people, many of whom are productive with their machines. I also think the cash injection into these indie developers has to help their software move forward, and with an extended user base, hopefully with far more constructive feedback to help the direction too. Given the number of developers returning to MacHeist from one year to the next, they must feel this works for them too.

What does this mean to WebKarnage?

I have been thinking about how this changes things for us here. We are now the proud owners of several pieces of awesome software that we not only would have shied away from in terms of cost, but some we simply weren't aware of. Kinemac is one such piece of software. Brilliant 3D animation with a price tag of $300. This will definitely get used during the year. BoinxTV is another.

Espresso is possibly the most directly related piece of software the bundle contained. This is MacRabbit's new web developer's and web designer's complete text editing and coding tool. It includes the FTP client side of things, as well as live previewing. We have been spending some time with this app, and feel is certainly shows potential, but isn't quite what we expect for a version 1.0.1 which it is at at time of writing. Too many obvious issues unresolved as yet, possibly the release being hurried to coincide with the MacHeist bundle release. V 1.0 was only released one day before the bundle reveal after all! Many on the MacHeist forums were hopeful of Espresso's inclusion in the bundle (I was one) so there should be quite an increase in Espresso users from this. But due to the hurried nature of it, I hope it doesn't provoke a kind of negative impression being spread out that has long term effects on MacRabbit's reputation.

All in all, I think this has added to the possibilities we have available to work with in quite a positive way. As it stands we remain working mainly with RapidWeaver, Taco HTML, CSSEdit and Cyberduck directly for web site files, Pixelmator, Picturesque and Image Well for images plus BannerZest Pro, Art Text and more for other additional work, but Acorn has some nice features (web export) Process for project management (across the network, it particularly useful), Espresso, Kinemac and BoinxTV as mentioned earlier and more. These are now apps we will seriously consider future paid updates for, that we would never have owned otherwise. This is the whole idea of MacHeist in action.

We wait to see the effects on several developers, but for us it's been great, and we look forward to MacHeist 4 with anticipation.

Karn @ WebKarnage.
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