Xtranormal has been getting a lot of good press lately, and was even featured in a recent YouTube blog post about free and easy ways to create your own holiday video greetings. But if that blog post were written today, it would come with a bit, fat warning for readers that Xtranormal is no longer free. The company has announced a new pricing structure that puts most of their formerly-free services behind a pay wall.
It's a bit of interesting timing, since the company is riding a wave of good publicity. NPR's report says Xtranormal is over 2 million users strong now, having jumped up from its total in June of 500,000--likely propelled by the popularity of Tiny Watch Productions' iPhone vs HTC Evo video (warning: bad language in that clip). Actually, this might be the perfect time to announce a pricing structure, with the company's name in the headlines and new users surging.
The pay scale is a points-based system, with users able to purchase blocks of 1200 points for a mere $10. Different background scenery, characters, and other add-ons will each have their own set price in points ranging from 75 to 150. It'll also cost you 100 points just to publish your video--which is required if you actually want anyone else to see it.
Now, all things considered, that's not very expensive. But one thing that users don't like is when a free service suddenly stops being free. Xtranormal claims to have polled users and received plenty of positive feedback, but I can't help but wonder if the polled users were just in a good mood that day. Maybe I'm just a cynic, but I can't think of too many web-based services that went from free to paid that didn't face some measure of backlash for it.
Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and YouTube cost $9.99 a month... or Facebook. There would be a riot. Now, I'm not comparing Xtranormal's cartoon-builder to Facebook's social network. They're completely different services and completely different companies. But my point is that users get very attached to their favorite services, often to the point of taking them for granted. And people tend to react badly when a previously-free product gets slapped with a price tag.
Will the users leave the service once they're required to pay? Will there be enough new paying users to offset any of those who do leave? We'll have to wait and see.
The announcement is also interesting to me personally because Mark and I have recently been discussing a possible series of articles testing out services like Xtranormal. If only we'd been a week earlier in our discussions, I could have tested it for free. As it stands now, I'll have to pry the company credit card from Mark's cold, dead hands. But the test drive of Xtranormal will go on. It's still a much cheaper and faster alternative to drawing your own cartoons by hand, and the service will still appeal to many prospective users. So if you're curious about Xtranormal, stay tuned for that review--which... I'm sure most of you will be willing to do now that it's no longer free for you to try it yourself.