Letting a successful app fail

Main Thread 2 min read

Since 2009 I have developed PocketBracket - an app for March Madness. At its height, PocketBracket has been #1 in Sports Apps, #27 in Top Paid Apps, and available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Today I decided, just weeks away from the tournament, to let PocketBracket fail. I will not release a version for the 2014 season.

So why let a successful app fail? The short answer, it's not worth it anymore. The longer answer tells more of the story.

Apps are hard

People think apps are easy. Everyone has an idea for an app. The rest is easy, right? Just put it in the App Store.

I assure you, creating and maintaining a successful idea is not easy. That's if you have a successful idea. Most app ideas are shit or have already been done.

After the idea comes development, release, marketing, maintenance, and support. On top of that, PocketBracket is a time-sensitive, data-intensive app.

PocketBracket must also navigate legal waters. Nearly everything is trademarked. Using one results in an immediate Cease and Desist order.

The reality is, PocketBracket is always just an Apple rejection, 1-star review, or bug away from failure.

Declining sales

March Madness is undoubtedly a multimillion dollar industry. Yet, I've learned that doesn't necessarily trickle down to the App Store.

The space has become more crowded over the years. Every season brings more new apps and copycats. More slices to cut from the same small pie. PocketBracket also competes with big names like ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo!

The season is short-lived with sales only lasting two weeks. While #1 in our space, PocketBracket sales have never taken off. PocketBracket seems to have reached the end of the long tail.

Solo mission

In the beginning, PocketBracket had a team. Now it's just me. While it'd be great for more to bear the hardships, I'd rather share the success. After all, what's anything if it's not shared?

Season after season, the late nights and long weekends have taken their toll. During the season it requires my full attention. If I don't spend time on PocketBracket, it doesn't get done.

I've reached a point where I'm putting more into PocketBracket than I'm getting in return. I lack the support necessary to keep going.

Admitting failure

This sounds like giving up. I'll admit, it feels like it. But it's a calculated decision. One balancing risk and reward. It's time to let PocketBracket fail and move on.

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