Quest: Pigasus VR— Sometimes Apps are Actually Worth Paying For
Pick an application genre and a platform and you’ll find a war being waged. A battle for monetization. Consumers have been trained not to pay cash for anything. In fact, buyers of applications can become almost hostile when a developer asks for even a pittance purchase of their product — happy to trade features, functionality, their privacy or other commodity for product. But not all the soldiers out there have been conscripted for the “free to use” skirmish — and that is a Good Thing(tm). Updated 2020–12–24.
Hanging Hat Studios, LLC is “an independent app development studio that produces apps for the mobile and mobile VR market”.
Pigasus VR recently deployed to the insanely popular Oculus Quest platform after doing a popular tenure on other Oculus platforms Go and GearVR. Unlike the other 14 video-playback-centric apps on the Oculus Store, Pigasus VR doesn’t have the seductive FREE under it; it reads $5.99.
This juxtaposition is all too familiar in the mobile industry.
Upon release, it was almost instantly panned on popular Oculus sub r/OculusQuest by someone that couldn’t believe someone could CHARGE for this player.
I have always been in favor of paying for quality software — and as a fan of one of the “Free” alternatives (Skybox — no longer free by the way; it is a whopping $15) — I wanted to see for myself if $6 could produce a better experience.
I had twenty minutes to try it out before I had to head to work — so I paid, installed and fired it up. My first stop? The SAMBA shares on my local network.
And .. boom. Failed to connect. See, my shares are password protected; and Skybox offered me a login dialog box for access — which is what I expected. I could not access any of my file shares.
Note: SAMBA access is now handled through a user interface in a similar manner to Skybox. No more weird text files, etc.
Undeterred, I went on with my testing. Next up was accessing my Plex file server (as a DLNA server). This worked rather flawlessly. Now I could assess the rest of the application’s feature set.
I DID run into issues playing a file with DTS audio, though.
Despite the flaws, I found the product’s user interface and experience very good and was willing to jump through some hoops to get everything working.
I posted my finding (including the shortcomings) and found out that this product has a rather devoted following and they helpfully pointed out solutions to my issues.
I countered by saying that as a premium paid experience we really shouldn’t have to perform steps like creating text files on your Quest to get something like SAMBA shares working.
At this point, other users would have likely returned the product and simply used a free one … and that might have been where it all ended.
The Developer Reaches Out
After posting my revised findings (I worked out SAMBA and DTS issues), the developer himself responded with a very long explanation of the decisions that were made in the implementation of SAMBA shares.
His explanations were thoughtful and made sense; even if I didn’t totally agree with the choice of implementation.
Had I posted about Skybox VR or Oculus Video? I am not so sure I would have received a response at all.
… Let alone the extensive one I DID get.
Why pay? Dev’s thoughts …
Many of the fans of Pigasus offered their reasons for why they felt people should pay for this over free alternatives. Some of these included:
- Developer responsiveness to customers (obvious to me as well)
- Better performance, more optimized (meaning better battery life)
- Media support superiority (360 images, MPO images, Google Photosperes, etc).
- SMBv2 and v3 support
- Better external subtitle support
- Ability to fix the screen for viewing laying down or alternative viewing situations
- Some new stuff recently added includes 90hz support for Quest 2, refresh rate now matches videos for best playback, SMB3.1.1 support, ISO playback … and more.
I reached back out to the developer with a simple question: if you were asked directly — “Why should I pay for this when <other app here> is free?” what would be your compelling argument?
Even his response was worth paying for.
I don’t want to give a sales pitch about how Pigasus is better than sliced bread or how it beats so and so player at something. I don’t like giving direct feature comparisons with other media player apps as I find that disingenuous and not to mention biased. At the end of the day, only you, the user can decided for yourself, as everyone’s needs are different in a media player. But I do think that if you gave Pigasus a try you’ll find that there will be something there that will meet (if not exceed) your media consumption needs nicely. Don’t just take my word for it but judge by the voices of the many existing happy Pigasus users. And if you find you prefer another media player after trying Pigasus, remember that Oculus has a fantastic refund policy so it is almost risk free to give Pigasus a try :)
How Do Free Apps Make Money, Anyway?
This has been explained in far better articles than mine. This looks good here, so maybe review that. Lots of good stuff in there. But let me point something out here:
Let’s sum up the key free app monetization strategies:
- Ads: native ads, interstitial ads, video ads, image ads, incentive ads and banner ads
- Email marketing
- In-app purchases
- Free value-added selling
- Physical purchases and goods
- Member revenue and referral marketing (from CPA to CPI)
If a free app isn’t using one of these methods of monetization … then how are they getting paid?
As someone rather concerned about privacy — I am always wondering who is “paying for my drinks” (with apologies to Jack Nicholson of course).
Should I Pay Or Should I Go (Free)?
In the case of Pigasus — the developer’s own advice sounds perfect. Try it out for yourself and make the call.
I would highly recommend a trip to the FAQ first — as it could save you some time and frustration.
In today’s day and age of technical hand-holding and instant gratification, it seems almost crazy to ask someone to go … READ … before using a product. Arguably, if you’re charging a “luxury” price the barrier to entry should be nil.
However, when you’re dealing with issues of licensing (Dolby Audio) and such, this sort of necessity probably can’t be helped.
I would encourage the developer to remove as many of those barriers as possible — starting with the SAMBA support authentication (note: this was done — thank you!). I love the way they are doing it (in hindsight), but for those that aren’t technically sound … an in-app means of doing so really should be implemented.
For me? I like to vote with my wallet. When I’m paying for a product, I feel like I have a vested interest in the product’s future. I’m more likely to submit bug tickets, offer feature enhancement ideas and recommend it to friends and family. I feel that the paying customers are driving the developer’s inspiration and that there will be a lot less chance of shady monetization being shoveled in later.
Do you love Pigasus? Have an alternative opinion? Please drop it in the comments below!