Two changes to the Learning Pack

Archived development update discussion from past versions
Archived development updates.
Posts: 12490

Post by Nicholas »

I'd like to take some time to talk about two changes coming in Synthesia 10 (starting in the next development preview) that affect what it means to unlock the desktop version of Synthesia. But first:

  • If you are already a Learning Pack user, none of this impacts you!
  • If you use Synthesia on iPad (or Android), none of this impacts you!

With that out of the way, let's talk about what's happening and why this will hopefully make a lot of things better.

"Add the Learning Pack" will become "Unlock Synthesia"

The "Learning Pack" has always been kind of a weird idea that is hard to communicate. "Here, you get some features for free... others aren't, but they're spread out all over the place." Lots of email comes in asking where the thing they just purchased actually is. More perplexing are the emails asking why they can't find all their new Learning Pack songs. What's more, lot's of development effort is spent conditionally disabling little bits of the interface, adding tiny padlock icons, and testing they work depending on whether you've got the Learning Pack or not.

A year ago, the iPad version gave me a chance at a fresh start to rethink the unlock model. Instead of being able to play any song and unlocking features, it switched: you could only play a handful of demo songs (with all the features) and then unlock "Play any Song" to allow the rest of the built-in stuff and adding your own. This has gone remarkably well. The only confusion I've ever seen is from users that are also familiar with the desktop version's unlock model. They've had to learn two contrary systems, which has led to more questions. Worse: the shared Synthesia code base has to handle the iPad and desktop unlock schemes simultaneously, which requires even more careful development and testing whenever new features are added.

Taking all of those things into consideration, I'd like to unify the unlock model across the board. This is a good time to clarify the language on the iPad, too:
  • Desktop: "Add More Features" → "Unlock Synthesia"
  • iPad: "Unlock All Songs" → "Unlock Synthesia"
And the summary of benefits:
  • Much easier to communicate. Everyone is familiar with the Try/Buy paradigm.
  • No more confusion between desktop/tablet unlock methods. Fewer email questions means faster development.
  • Unifying the unlock behavior means faster development and testing.
Your existing Learning Pack keys will continue to work. The only difference is that instead of unlocking some features, you'll be unlocking basically everything. The desktop will work just like the iPad version: there will be a handful of songs available so you can test keyboard settings out and get a taste to see if you want the full version.

In the meantime, we understand some users still like the idea of playing any MIDI song without paying anything. The older version is still available and will continue to work with custom songs forever. You can download Synthesia 9 for both Windows and Mac from the "Older Versions" section on the download page.

(When switching back to version 9 from 10, there is a known issue that disables your MIDI output the first time you run 9 again. The workaround is to go to Settings and re-enable output for each of your MIDI devices.)

The second change is no longer going to happen. This remains for posterity.

New customers can choose how long they'd like free updates

I love the "free updates forever" model. It provides an incredible amount of value and it removes the need for periodic license-renewal chores. I've always tried making Synthesia exactly how I'd want to use the software myself. And I'm definitely a "free updates forever" kind of guy.

However, there is an interesting tension there: because so much value is included -- that is, the rest of all the work I'm going to spend on Synthesia in my entire life -- from a business standpoint it's challenging to keep the price low. By giving users a new choice, I get to provide a wider range of pricing that makes sense for more groups of people. I'll also finally get to price the "forever" option more where it belongs without alienating users that want to get in the door as low-cost as possible.

Here's the model I'm considering for the desktop version:

  • $29 for this version and minor updates (10.0, 10.1, 10.2, etc.)
  • $59 for this and all future versions

That lets me offer Synthesia at a super affordable price without giving away my life's effort at the same time.

Of course, every unlock key that exists today is already "free updates forever" and will stay that way. So if you already have one, this won't change anything for you. It's also important to understand one of the subtleties: this isn't anything at all like a subscription. The last version supported by your key will continue to work forever, too. You just won't be able to use newer versions than your key supports without getting a new key. For this to make sense, the download page will contain a list of all versions of Synthesia from 10, onward. The key retrieval system will also point you at the most recent version your particular key allows access to.
User avatar
Posts: 1822

Post by jimhenry »

Using "Unlock Synthesia" on all platforms definitely makes sense.

I think tiered pricing for updates makes sense. Should the price of "just this version" be closer to the iPad price? Will you permit upgrading licenses by paying the then current price difference? Or offer an "upgrade to just the current version" price to holders of "just this version" licenses? It seems like the updates forever license should include some greater music store credit. Maybe $X every Y months? Or a perpetual % discount?
Jim Henry
Author of the Miditzer, a free virtual theatre pipe organ
Posts: 39

Post by DanClark »


Given the value that Synthesia adds to students, that's a very reasonable pricing structure. From a business standpoint, it sounds like a very reasonable model overall. I have only issue...

I paid $29 to open up the features and get the library. Dirt cheap for the value added. Other people can do what they wish, but I'd like to donate the difference between that and the $59 rate ($30). How can I do that?


Posts: 12490

Post by Nicholas »

jimhenry wrote:Will you permit upgrading licenses by paying the then current price difference?
I considered this, but am trying as hard as I can to keep the message simple. If there was a separate upgrade matrix on that same page, it starts to feel messy and may scare people off. That there is a new choice at all is already a little more complexity, but "this one" vs. "this one + more" doesn't seem so bad. And for the benefit (pricing that makes sense for more people) it's an easy decision.
DanClark wrote:... but I'd like to donate the difference between that and the $59 rate ($30). How can I do that?
That is very generous of you! But no, from the earliest days before the Learning Pack was even a thing, I've always liked saying that early adopters are my favorite people and you deserve the lower price. These days Synthesia does a whole lot more than it used to, but I always have the image in my head of what things are going to be like 2-3 years from today. So, it makes me very happy to see that people find enough to believe in Synthesia despite it not doing all the things I know it eventually will, to still buy it. Thank you for your support!
Posts: 5

Post by Dusan »

Hi Nicholas,

"This version only" and "Free upgrades for a year" are very similar to ordinary user and I think most people will choose "This version only" to try synthesia out and if they like it they will upgrade to "Free updates for ever".

If you want to make it simple offer only 2 options:
$X - this version only
$Y - free updates for ever

But for sustainable development you should ideally have just one option:
$Z - This version and updates for a year.

My 2c
Posts: 12490

Post by Nicholas »

Dusan wrote:"This version only" and "Free upgrades for a year" are very similar to ordinary users...
Now that I've been mulling this over for a few weeks, I'm starting to feel the same way. Offering too many choices may become needlessly confusing and the two you mentioned are very similar.
Dusan wrote:But for sustainable development you should ideally have just one option...
The idea of sustainability is an interesting one. A long time ago I did some napkin math that involved the total size of the audience for Synthesia vs. the money required for me to work on the project for the rest of my career. In the context of "the Internet vs. one person", a low price and "free updates forever" don't really matter much. The numbers are skewed so far in one direction that you can make pretty much whatever business decisions you want.

Fast forward many years and the landscape is a little different. This probably isn't the right place for this announcement, but: the reason the upcoming Synthesia for Android release is moving along so smoothly in parallel with the Synthesia 10 work is because I finally took the plunge and added a second developer to the project! In a world where more than one person is working on Synthesia, my old napkin math goes out the window and sustainability is something I have to start thinking about. I suppose it's the price to pay for 2x (and eventually even) faster development.

I wonder if a happy medium isn't something like:

$29 - this version + minor updates
$59 - this version + ALL updates
Posts: 136

Post by PHIDIAS »

Nicholas wrote: $29 - this version + minor updates
$59 - this version + ALL updates
PHIDIAS wrote:
$35=>29 - this version + free updates for one year! :D
$79=>69 - this version + free updates forever!!! :lol:
User avatar
Posts: 1822

Post by jimhenry »

How about selling one version of Synthesia, program plus upgrades for a year. After 1 year have two upgrade options, upgrade to the current version and upgrades forever.
Jim Henry
Author of the Miditzer, a free virtual theatre pipe organ
Posts: 136

Post by PHIDIAS »

$19 (VERSION 0.9.0 + 1.0.0)
$29 (VERSION 0.9.0 + 1.0.0 + 1.1.0)