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.

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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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638685705 Carlos A García II

    Freemium would've been a good model here. Free videos with basic content while charging for premium content like the Big Lebowski theme they offer.

  • Frank Benson

    yeah. good luck with that.

  • MarkoK

    You can always try Muvizu as alternative to Xtranormal

  • Jgrierson

    I agree too. I won't be using it anymore, even if it is cheap. Cheap, is still not free. I loved using it, so it is a real shame. Surely they could maintain a free section of it like they had been.

  • Dougfinn

    Yep, I agree. I work in education, and this had great potential as a learning aid. I was going to try it, and if my students liked it, ask my admin for cash to do more advanced work. But I'll have to look for something else now. A big FAIL on their part - watch the user base evaporate.

  • Dougfinn

    Yep, I agree. I work in education, and this had great potential as a learning aid. I was going to try it, and if my students liked it, ask my admin for cash to do more advanced work. But I'll have to look for something else now. A big FAIL on their part - watch the use base evaporate.

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    I've never liked the robot-like voices. The inflections never worked well for me.

    Us dogs, we have keen hearing and all your Video people say that Good Audio is REEL important, so me thinks the audio (voices) need major improvement (esp. in the inflection area).

  • Pandabear

    It was fun while it lasted....Like the article says, look at all the other web services that exist for free to users on the internet. I think they made a mistake.

  • Joe Wagner

    Is it fair to see that they have a freemium model now where at least basic introductory features are still free and you only pay for points for the more advanced features? If not, this may me the route to go.

  • Richardbattlebaxter

    This was a #FAIL on their part. Like you said people do not want to all of a sudden start paying for services. They should have taken a look at how Hulu introduced Hulu Plus. They announced it months before it was to be enacted. This lessened the blow. They should have just ridden out the publicity wave to get as many people interested in it as possible then offered a limited free service which people would still use to play around with. That would keep people talking about the service and then maybe a deluxe or enhanced version that would offer more features. At the very least they should have one free scene to make a video. Or...allow people to create their first video and then when they want to publish it, charge them. But who spends a lot of their time online playing around with those things? Young folks who most likely won't pay... I'm upset but I'm waiting for a competitor to enter the market.