Daringfireball has been linking to a number of opinion pieces about MacHeist lately, and it had me thinking. Opinions on MacHeist seem to fall into two camps: it’s a great deal for customers and a lousy deal for developers OR it’s a great deal for everyone. One obvious camp is unexplored: it’s a lousy deal for everyone except MacHeist.

In my opinion, there are three kinds of software that benefit from MacHeist: (1) stuff that would never have sold very many copies because it’s fundamentally a silly product, (2) stuff that’s actually surprisingly good but doesn’t get as many users as it should either because (i) the userbase doesn’t exist (e.g. not that many people really need it), or (ii) they’ve already bought something that obviates it, and (3) good, fairly successful software that’s about to receive a major upgrade.

Examples of the first kind (basically useless) include most of the stuff in every MacHeist bundle. E.g. iSale, Picturesque, SousChef.

Examples of the second kind (good but unknown or in a saturated market) this time around includes Acorn, Kinemac, Wiretap Studio, Espresso, and arguably World of Goo. (It’s also possible that Acorn and Kinemac are type 3, but I doubt it. Kinemac’s user forums have about ten posts in them, and Acorn seems to have been swamped by Pixelmator — and deservedly so.)

Examples of the third kind not in this bundle would be Cheetah 3D (which was in a bundle last year when the developer was hoping to have version 5 out within six months, although it’s still not out) and Unity Indie (which was in the same bundle just before v2 came out).

I don’t know enough about Phoneview and LittleSnapper to categorize them.

So the value proposition for customers is basically, look at the stuff in the list, figure out which ones you’d actually use and try to guess whether they’re about to receive costly upgrades. Then factor in the value of what you’re getting relative to the bundle price. Most customers probably vastly overestimate the use they’ll get out of the software in the bundle and buy a bunch of stuff that they never end up using. But, they feel good so no major harm done. And maybe they start using a package they’d never have found otherwise, so that’s cool.

The value proposition for developers is basically… am I getting anywhere with this product? If not, this is a win. If so, then do I think I can gain more exposure than I will (potentially) lose in license sales OR can I grab customers and make money off them with upgrades? If so, then this is a win. Otherwise I’m just screwing myself.

It seems to me that developers probably think longer and harder about this value proposition than customers do. At least they probably do now. Back when MacHeist first arrived on the scene, I think that the bundle was essentially a bad deal for (almost) everyone. By now, MacHeist is paying a scaling royalty (I believe) and developers know what the deal is and have made better decisions. So it’s only customers screwing themselves.

Caveat Emptor.