I think there is a difference between Setapp as an ongoing model and other bundles.
Brett Terpstra wrote about his thoughts why he had chosen to join Setapp with Marked back in 2016, when Setapp was about to launch - Setapp: Sustainable recurring revenue for Mac developers - BrettTerpstra.com
His motives were written as the headline of his post: “sustainable recurring revenue for Mac developers”.
It’s going to be an invite-only app store, with carefully selected apps representing only the best in their niche. Developers get paid based on a formula that uses the price of the app and the total users for the month to calculate a monthly payout.
He then explained Setapps advantages over the Mac App Store:
Apple has featured Marked a couple of times, and it’s rankings have remained reasonable over time. However, it’s never likely to turn up in a search that doesn’t include “Markdown,” so discoverability for new customers hasn’t been optimal. My apps on Setapp, by way of its hand-picked selection of paid -only apps, will innately have better discoverability, even if search were to turn out to be less than satisfactory.
As of today, he is still on Setapp with his apps.
As a former Setapp customer, I totally get what he is talking about. And with recent price increases, Setapp is not that bargain of the past (depending on your use cases). When I cancelled my Setapp subscription, I bought the apps I did not want to live without from the developers. I really do believe that Setapp is sustainable and interesting for developers.
You get licenses for prices that are crazy at times. Dirt cheap you could say. Why? Well… The reasons are similar: discoverability, get your potential customers’ attention. And when they talk to their friends and colleagues as they keep using their apps, the developers might sell many more licenses to them in the months and years to come.
Sometimes, those licenses are being sold in a bundle in a time window shortly before a new version is released, sometimes it is a bargain for years to come.
Throw an app at somebody hoping that it will stick. That seems to work quite often. It definitely has worked with me: there are several apps I bought via bundle - and I have bought several releases from the developer over the years after that.
Does it always work that way? Absolutely not. But it can work. And sponsorships of podcasts and other advertisements are not free, either. A severely discounted license comes at a cost for a developer, but the alternatives are not free, either.
It is a pity, but the failure of the Mac App Store shows that sometimes even Apple does not get it right: the good old bundles still are out there. And they will not go anywhere. And MacPaw has shown with Setapp that you can learn from Apple and that you can do an App Store even better than Apple as long as you have good ideas.