With no particular facts and figures to hand to back this up, I’m going to suggest that most commercial WordPress plugins and themes now employ one of the following funding models:
These are not mutually exclusive and there is an amount of mixing and matching that commonly happens. There are also other strategems, such as a lifetime licensing model — pay once and receive access to support and updates for the entire lifetime of the product.
One of the best examples of this, to my mind, is the Genesis theme framework and associated family of themes. I’ve often wondered how sustainable lifetime licensing is, though I guess it must be pretty sustainable because the crew behind Genesis have been doing it for a long time and their themes have an impressively long shelf life in my experience.
Others have commented on lifetime licensing and weighed its pros and cons long before now and I do feel that, in general, it’s something we see far less of in today’s WordPress space than we did a few years back.
What I’ve been wondering, in the run up to the much discussed roll out of Project Gutenberg, is if this seeming watershed moment in WordPress’s history (“it’s called Gutenberg, after another invention that revolutionized publishing”) will also provide a valid opportunity for those vendors that still offer lifetime licensing to end-of-life themes in particular – and shift to different pricing models.
Perhaps it won’t directly trigger anything of the sort and for those businesses that still offer this model maybe it is something that, for them, just works and a change isn’t desired in any case. Even if it does, given so few vendors still offer lifetime licensing in the scheme of things any ripples would be just that: ripples. Still, it will be interesting to watch for changes.