This is actually a delayed announcement – we launched Tokens 2 on September 1st. The thrill from the launch is still present though. It's been a nice journey and a very new experience for me and the team. It was our most successful launch in terms of publicity but not that perfect in terms of revenue.
First, let me explain what on earth did we launch at all:
Tokens 2 is a Mac app that lets app developers generate promo codes blazingly fast, track the redemption status, and share convenient tokn.co links with their users. Anyone who's even shared a promo code to their iOS/macOS/watchOS app knows what I'm talking about here.
In the old days, one would need to sign in to App Store Connect, click it around for 1 minute, wait for another minute because ASC is a well-known snail, then share something like "SDFKL23KS23S" with the user and hope they figure out how to redeem it, which is not a trivial task, too. They'd need to go to the App Store, scroll all the way through the front page, find a Redeem button, and only then paste the code there.
What does it look like with Tokens? A single click on the tokn.co page. We create a neat landing page for every promo code you generate, so your users don't have to solve riddles.
We didn't come up with this idea ourselves. Tokens was invented in the far 2012 by Irish developers now making a podcast app. At some point, they sold it to another Irish developer. Last December, he sold it to us. The chain of Irishness was interrupted this time, though. We're from Berlin.
We bought it for a pretty humble amount, $3,000. Or not that humble because it wasn't generating any revenue at this time of purchase. We believed we could rejuvenate the desperately outdated app, complement it with a mobile companion, revamp the business model (which was a one-off purchase while having a recurrent maintenance cost), and re-launch leveraging its pretty good image.
And to some part it worked! Actually, maybe it's even good I'm writing it with the delay because now I can already analyze how the launch went, not only spread the usual launch-day fanfare.
Since the community of those who develop apps and sell them on the App Store is pretty small and is densely concentrated on Twitter, it was possible for me to approach the majority of them to beta, collect feedback, etc personally. I.e. by DMing them. "Do things that don't scale," at least at first.
To make sure we'd get buzz on the launch, I offered developers to participate in a little initiative called #TokensGiveaway. They would need to give away a few copies of their apps on Twitter and tag it with #TokensGiveaway, so users could easily browse all giveaways. We'd cross-promote it on our channels, thus devs would get a little bit of awareness for their apps, help us to spread the word about the launch, and also get a thank you discount on the Tokens annual subscription.
Around 30 indie developers of amazing apps and games agreed to take part! In total, users could get over $10,000 worth of apps (including our other apps such as Mate, Artpaper, and Breaks For Eyes) during #TokensGiveaway.
For the first time ever, we got reviewed on 9to5mac, retweeted by moguls like John Gruber, mentioned in a few other prominent newsletters and blogs for Apple developers. In terms of support from the community and publicity, it was our most successful launch, without a doubt.
Did it translate into euros (or dollars) though? Not quite.
It was the first time we stepped away from the one-time purchase model we've been exploiting for years with Mate, Artpaper, Reji, etc. Given the small size of our total addressable market, we had to make Tokens's new pricing fair for the users and efficient for us, so we can justify the development and maintenance.
We decided to charge per amount of apps devs would generate promo codes for. E.g. if you want to generate codes for 5 apps, you'd pay BASE_PRICE * 5. BASE_PRICE is $3.99 per month, or $39.99 per year. Whereas we were constantly talking with beta users and prospective users about the product,
UX, design, etc, we barely discussed pricing. We designed pricing with the help of our advisor who's also using Tokens now but he has just two apps which sets him back $8 per month, which isn't that bad. But some devs have 10–20 apps. Imagine paying $50 per month for a small tool. While I'm totally in love with Tokens both as its creator and everyday user, I'm sober about its value. It's not a cure for cancer, though.
Long story short, a countless number of people said they loved the app but couldn't subscribe because it was too expensive when we shipped it on September 1st. 8 months of hard work, all the anticipation from the community and the media coverage we got didn't translate into $$$ we'd expected. It wasn't downright terrible – a few dozens of devs subscribed though, most with just 1–2 apps, of course.
I'm happy that people were vocal about it. They told us about it directly, so we have a chance to fix it now. And we're doing it. We're re-designing the pricing model and aim to release it in a few weeks.
Work doesn't end on the launch day. It just begins there!
I've written a deep-dive (the deepest dive I've ever written, actually) for our blog, too, which features WAY more details: https://blog.gikken.co/we-released-tokens-2/
We launched Talking Tokens in order to raise awareness about Tokens 2, the app we're currently working hard on.
Some very high-profile people from the iOS/Mac developer community have been using the original Tokens. We've decided to convert their long-term relationship with the product into captivating interviews.
The first issue is about Ryan Jones – the creator of two award-winning, crazily popular apps – Flighty and Weather Line.
The second issue features Frank Rausch – the creator of the best iOS client for Wikipedia – V for Wikipedia:
More are coming soon!
Tokens used to be a very prominent app in the Apple developer community. Fair enough because it disrupted the way developers generated promo codes for their iOS and Mac apps back in its golden year, 2012.
Regrettably, it became abandonware in recent years. Some developers still heavily rely on the app, but the majority just can't because Tokens, for example, doesn't support promo codes for in-app purchases.
We were among the supporters who are still using the app. As an avid user, I wanted the app to improve, so I was always sharing my ideas and feedback with Tokens' previous owner, Denis Hennessy. At some point, I asked if an iOS app was on the roadmap in any foreseeable future. He said, 'Probably,' to what I replied, 'How about we make it for you and split revenue?' That's when Denis offered us to buy the app out altogether.
Even though is seemed like a risky venture, we decided to go for it. My first thought was, 'Even if we don't make money with it, it will be a good chance to connect with many stellar developers in the community and increase awareness about our company.'
The plan is to redesign the app and add so-badly-lacking functions. There are a few we've outlined so far: IAP promo codes support and an iOS app. And a dozen of small improvements, of course. We will call it Tokens 2 and release as a separate app, so old users can decide if they want to subscribe to the new, fully-rethought app or stay with the old one (which is totally fine if it works for them).
It still seems like a risky venture to us. There's no right for a mistake. The market is so small that we need to get it right from the first time. Otherwise, we'll just flush the credibility Tokens has been earning for 8 years down the toilet.
If you're an Apple developer and it sounds like something you would use, subscribe for updates on our Coming Soon page:
We'll be covering our revival work in details on our blog (link below), Twitter, and here on Indie Hackers.
State-of-the-art promo codes are a nightmare for both developers and users. We make it faster for developers to generate codes. And easier for users to redeem them.