The Microsoft Store is the main place where Windows 10 users can buy, download, and install apps and games for the operating system. While it is possible to sideload apps and games as well, most come from the official Store.

I post a weekly series about new apps and games on Betanews and have seen my fair share of application and game releases.

Microsoft had to deal with numerous issues that plagued Store users and legitimate publishers in the past. Issues included a large number of fake application releases that used icons and other imagery of well known applications, issues with ratings, issues with fake premium PC game listings, and technical issues that affected downloads and installations.

The issues lead to a series of articles here on the site and others asking Microsoft to fix the Store and the underlying platform. Microsoft did react; it removed fake apps and the situation seems to be under control now; this does not mean that Microsoft Store is free of issues, far from it actually.

The "making the app expensive trick"

One trick that I encountered numerous times involves making the application very expensive on the Store.

The trick has a couple variants that publishers use:

  1. Make the app expensive but offer huge discounts (up to free) at the same time for a limited period or indefinitely.
  2. Make the app free initially and expensive later on.
  3. Make the app expensive, offer a discount, and throw ads and in-app purchases at users.

Variant 1 is used to attract more users and more sales. Some developers discount their app so that it is free initially. Doing so attracts users who will install the application; they may leave reviews, and if the app is okay, the app will get a good base of reviews and ratings.

The price may be switched eventually after some time. Some apps garnered hundreds or thousands of ratings and reviews when they were offered for free; users who notice the application afterward when it is available for a price may see the reviews and may see the reviews as a positive signal to purchase the app; after all, all these users seem to have bought the app as well.

A recent example of variant 3 is the app Background Eraser PhotoLayers - Superimpose. The asking price is $199 but it is free for the next five days.

What it does for the price? It provides tools to cut pictures and make the background of pictures transparent. Considering that you get nearly two years of Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC from Adobe for the price, its price is debatable.

Users who install the application on their devices, it is free after all right now, may be in for a shock as it is full of advertisement and includes in-app purchase offers to unlock the application's full functionality. Not really something that you'd expect from a $199 application.

Microsoft Store lists quite a few apps that are high-priced for what they do but discounted heavily.

Player for DVD's is available for 5.99 instead of 44.99, Blu-Ray S for 49.99 instead of 99.99, Ultra DVD Player for 5.99 instead of 29.99, 8-Zip for 0.99 instead of 14.99, and PDF Fill & Sign for 2.99 instead of 29.99. Player for DVD's is even highlighted on the Apps startpage in Store.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that any of these apps game the system.

Don't get me wrong. Microsoft Store certainly has some legitimate apps that are discounted for a period of time but there is certainly also an increase in published apps that have an asking price that is too high for what they do and use the discount system in one way or another to get more sales or users.

How could Microsoft address this?

Should Microsoft address this or is it just how the free market plays out? Developers should have the right to price their items anyway they want, and if the discount system allows it, offer discounts as well.

Users may have a bad user experience on the other hand. They may buy an overpriced app just because it is discounted, or may run into in-app purchases or ads depending on how the app is set up.

One option that Microsoft has is to make it clearer on the shop page if applications contain ads and which in-app purchases are available. While you do see that an app has in-app purchases, you don't really know for what and how much you'd pay for that.