You know Apple’s Vision Pro is expensive. But did you think about the cost of apps? If you were expecting iPhone App Store prices for Apple’s mixed reality apps, you could be in for an expensive disappointment. A new report suggests that the development costs and risks of making apps for Apple’s AR/VR headset could make them considerably more expensive than mobile apps, with prices closer to desktop apps or PS5 games.
That’s according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, whose latest newsletter says that “the pricey and niche nature of the device means that developers may not quickly flock to it”. Gurman expects three-tier app market for the device: the first tier will be unaltered iPhone and iPad apps that run in Vision Pro much like they do on M-series Macs; the second will be converted iPad apps given a visionOS skin; and the third will be brand new apps made specifically for the headset.
That third category is the riskiest and the most complex, and that means it’s likely to be the most expensive too.
How much will Vision Pro apps cost?
Unmodified apps will cost the same as before, because they’re not being rewritten for visionOS. However, modified or new apps will require a lot of work, and of course app developers deserve to be paid for what they do.
There are specific issues around the Vision Pro too. Because it doesn’t use controllers, developers can’t just take apps they’ve written for some of the other best VR headsets and port them across. And the very high price of the Vision Pro means the app market is going to be relatively small – especially compared to the iPhone or iPad – and stay that way for years, so developers can’t expect to make their money from selling millions of apps at a low profit margin.
How much will those apps cost? We don’t know. But Gurman for one says that “I wouldn’t be surprised if $20 is the new $1 for most Vision Pro apps. And we could see many of them costing between $50 and $250, especially in the graphic design or productivity categories. Games on the Vision Pro may even be priced closer to their console equivalents, somewhere in the range of $40 to $60, compared with much lower levels on the iPhone and iPad.”
That’s understandable, but as a consumer it’s frustrating: having just invested in PSVR 2, I’m well aware that with VR apps and games you typically have to spend more for less, so for example the £59 Sony’s charging for Horizon: Call of the Mountain delivers considerably less playtime than the £35 you’ll currently pay for Horizon: Forbidden West on PS5. And because it isn’t on disc, there’s no second-hand market to cut the cost.
I hope that with Vision Pro developers and studios can find the balance between making a living and keeping apps affordable. It's going to be a tough balance to strike.