iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

June 8, 2009 -

While stories of striking App Store gold abound, a successful iPhone developer writes that the market is over-hyped and under-performing.

Using his STROMCODE blog as a platform, developer Rick Strom complains that even some best-selling apps generate very little return for their creators:

With two apps on the [Top 100] paid charts, one would assume I’m rolling in dough... 

The reality is much more startling.  In order [for Strom's Zen Jar app] to place #34 on the social networking charts, you need 30-35 downloads a day.  At the standard app store pricing of .99, and after Apple takes its cut, that means your app needs to bring in a little over $20 a day to chart at that position... 

 

So what does this all mean?  Well keep in mind there are over 36,000 apps in the app store.  If the apps on the category charts are doing those sorts of numbers, what do you think the rest of them are doing?

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.   The aren’t selling at all...

 

The app store isn’t a sane marketplace at all, any more than the lottery is...  


Comments

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Sounds like the same argument the XNA Community Games set were pushing a bit ago.

Thing is that a lot of developers seem to think that you can just push stuff into the channel and it'll make money, and that's simply not the case- you need to publicise your product as well. If Apple 'just' released the iPhone and didn't tell anyone, nobody would have one. But because they bought some TV ads and put devices in the hands of the press, it moved a load of units.

The New York Times and Prime-Time TV might be out of the reach of most iPhone (and indeed XNA) devcos, but then Gizmodo, all those smaller fan-run App review blogs, Google AdWords and Project Wonderful are not- and neither is building a website for your product or having an official myTwitBookTube account for it.

Being small and 'indie' doesn't exempt you from the rules of commerce.

/b

 

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Well, there's a simple explanation for this.  The iPhone, like many apple products, is faddish, overpriced, garbage.  'Oh, you have an apple product, how cute' mentality and whatnot. I went to the apple store a few weeks ago, and most of the people there (teen girls) were trying to figure out which iPod was cuter.  Meanwhile, you can get an MP3 player of the exact same size far cheaper at say, best buy, without paying for the inane apple logo and mentality. 

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

I have not looked at them in a while and thus they might have caught up, but in the past the other mp3 players have not stacked up well in terms of quality (i.e. the physical device and the parts in it), design of the UI, or OS integration.   Just because something is cheaper does not always mean it is as good.

While there is a certian fad nature to apply products, they would not have survived if ALL they had was image and brand to go off of.  I've been using macs for years and they always end up outlasting my PCs in terms of hardware stablity and usefullness.   That is why Apple keeps getting my buisness... the return on investment has always been better.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

I have not looked at them in a while and thus they might have caught up, but in the past the other mp3 players have not stacked up well in terms of quality (i.e. the physical device and the parts in it), design of the UI, or OS integration.   Just because something is cheaper does not always mean it is as good.

Well, start looking then.  Plenty of other companies have caught up to Apple, and even exceeded them in some cases.  Granted, Apple's top of the line models (iPod Touch or iPhone, for example) are still a bit ahead, but there are a lot of other great companies that can compete in the market for the lower priced devices.

Go to BestBuy.com sometime and look up the iPod Shuffle, for example.  The prices for the 1GB, 2GB and 4GB models are $49.99, $69.99 and $79.99 respectively.

Now look up some SanDisk players, particularly the Sansa Clip line.  Their 2GB model is $49.99 (same as the 1GB iPod Shuffle) and the 4GB model is $59.99 ($20 cheaper than the 4GB iPod Shuffle).  Additionally, the Sansa Clips are fully featured players with OLED screens and an FM radio built in.  The iPod Shuffle...well...shuffles.

That's what people are talking about when they say that their products are overhyped and overpriced.  In case of the 4GB models you're paying $20 (essentially a 33% markup) for a device with the same storage capacity, less battery power (10 hours compared to the Sansa's 15 hours), no screen, no radio and less functionality.  Problem is though, the hype machine keeps churning out people who will say that their products are better, even when they're clearly not.

Oh, and don't even get me started on how they charge you like $100 for one of those speaker docks, when I could get the same thing for half the price if it didn't require the special iPod connecter.  Same goes for the charger and transfer cables.  Sansa's just use vanilla mini-USB for charging and transfer, as do a lot of the other "non-Apple" MP3 players.

--- "Life's short and hard, like a body building elf." -- The Bloodhound Gang

--- "Life's short and hard, like a body building elf." -- The Bloodhound Gang

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Has sandisk cleaned up it's act any?  Last time I looked at their stuff it was too fragile to be worth while.  Cheap parts keep prices down but product crap players.  Though yay if they have improved their quality control.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

 I know Creative was in on the mp3 market also but I havent seen their stuff lately.  They released a device called Muvo that was basically a usb jump drive with a play button on it.  Was the first mp3 player I got for my mother because it was so simple to use.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Wow that is the exact reason I built my PC because Apples arent useful to me.

I'm sorry but though it hurts me to say I agree with Austin on this one.

Apple's are fads they aren't any better than a PC just less noticed by the rest of the world.  They are changing that and as they do you will see more hacks virus and instability.  This messed up belief that Apple is somehow the kinder gentler Microsoft is like thinking Google upholds their don't do evil motto its just plain silly.

As for the iPhone store;  I thought the concept of phone games died up with the neo geo or ngage or what ever that crap hybrid phone game system was.  I can't see the iPhone being the holy grail for phone games let alone seeing people shelling out 50 dollars for a game developed for the phone. Which says to me why as a developer would I want to spend months writing the software; weeks/months getting an artist to draw up and render all the crap; and then more time investing in a sound person to create the music and effects.  Just doesn't seem a worthwhile venture to me.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

While I moved away from roll-my-own PCs because they ended up being more work for little extra benifit.  In many ways it comes down to what you use the computer for.  In my case, Macs work well because I do not have to put work into the parts I don't care about which lets me focus on the things that I do.

Though it is interesting that you compare apples to build-your-own since that is an example of another social status thing.  The bulk of the time, people build thier own computers so they can have the geek cred of, well, having built thier own system.  When it comes to actual usage the differnce is often minimal.  So most people who do that put in more time and energy to have a 'cute' symbol and little else..... and they tend to forget that TOS is not just how much you pay for the initial hardware but how much of your time and energy you put into it.  Depending on how much one values their time, roll your owns can exeed apply costs easiliy, esp if you are not giving it any unique functionality.

Even the 'overpriced' thing of apple is not all that accurate.  Last time I looked their prices were pretty close to Dell for comparible hardware (comparible in quality,.. since you can get dirt cheap high-spec computers pretty easily if you do not care how long they last), and I don't recall anything on the market like the mini that was not larger and noiser (ever try to find a cheap HTPC? ever try to build one from scratch? the mini is a good bargin there)

As for apple behaving better then microsoft?  Don't really care.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

"The bulk of the time, people build thier own computers so they can have the geek cred of, well, having built thier own system."

Maybe for some, but I "roll my own" for about 1/4 the cost of what a comparable "off the shelf" machine would cost, and I get exactly what I want.  No bragging rights for me...it's simple cost-effectiveness.  Take special note of the word "comparable" though as you mention...a $400 Dell may seem like a value (and may do exactly what you need it to do...that's fine), but when you consider actual performance and quality you change the equation.  For the same money I can build one that will run circles around a Mac or PC from one of the majors...and will run a much larger library of software than any Mac (the Windows emu isn't really optimal for most apps, again IMHO).  I also don't have to deal with bloatware.  I take your point on the minis though...those aren't really a good thing to build from scratch (I've never even tried).

Macs are fine if that's what you're accustomed to and you have the budget.  I'm not one for letting my computer tell me how I need to do things, that's all.  I like to have options in how my systems are set up...options that I haven't seen Macs offer.  In my experience with Macs, they're just as prone to crashing as an XP machine; they're more prone than a well-configured XP machine in fact.  They're just not for me (which is the same sentiment, admittedly, as I have for Vista), and all of the clean-cut, preppy, passive-aggressive tv commercial characters on the planet aren't going to convince me that they're a good value for me (not referring to Mac owners here, just the arrogant, inaccurate advertising campaign that Apple is using).

Regarding iPhones, I'm not convinced that they're worth paying the cash for the phone AND higher plan rates to carry around something the size of a small sandwich in my pocket, when I have all the functionality that I need from my tiny little $30 Moto that rides comfortably in my front pocket.  I see it really as a "one-upping" fashion accessory, and I don't have a problem with that if it's what someone wants.  Some of the apps are cute, and I've heard of a few that actually seem to have good value, but nothing that I can't get on a PDA that costs me half as much AND I don't have to keep paying for.  The argument that the iPhone lets you do everything in one place is silly in my book...I haven't seen anyone really using it for anything more than for messaging, email, keeping contact info, maintaining their daily schedules, and making phone calls, with the occasional web surf...all of which my little W490 does just fine for my needs.  The cute apps are nice and all, but, as others have said, they're a fad, and it'll wear off as soon as the next Shiny Thingee(tm) comes along...

***Homicide-free video gaming since 1972!***

***Homicide-free video gaming since 1972!***

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

*nods* often gamers have a legit reason to build their own since pre-built machines do tend to be overpriced.  Even I built my gaming rig from parts.  However, I've stopped building my own for anything outside gaming. 

Sadly, once you get away from power gamers, you quickly encounter 'build it yourself' PCs that do not do anything special, took lots of extra effort, usually use budget parts because the 'numbers are so huge!', and are a maintance nightmare.

As for macs.  I actually went back to them a few years back from windows and linux, at least for some tasks.   I have gotten rather tired of both windows and linux and all their hand holding.  I rarely need to configure anything, I just want the damn OS to stay out of my way so I can get to my apps, which of the 3 OSX tends to do the best.  Tinkering was fun as a hobby but once it started getting in the way of getting actual work done I was less thrilled with it.

Though comparing my 3 Macs against my various Windows and XP machines.. I think between the Macs I have had maybe half a dozen crashes, actually they have all been on the same machine and all while playing EVE.    My linux machines kernel panic at least once every 3 or 4 months (with X deaths being a little more frequent) while windows... well.. windows is windows and it often has to be rebooted just to keep bahaving.

I have a harder time commenting on the iPhone since, while I know people who develop for it, I do not have one (nor a smartphone, nor a PDA)

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

So people only build their own computers for Geek Cred?  Damn, I thought I did it so I could play games on a badass computer without paying 8000 dollars.  Weird. 

Apple computers have never been very good.  The only decent use for them is graphic design, and even then, its still a mediocre computer.  As far as their ad campaign goes, it's just moronic.  The mac is represented by a mediocre actor (he was alright in Die Hard, everything else I've seen him in was unmitigated crap) wearing preppy or 'casual' clothing, while the PC is a man in a suit and tie.  What a great ad campaign.  Most of the comments made by the 'mac' are A) unverifiable or B) things that only occur because the mac is so seldom used (like the whole 'less viruses for the Mac line).

As for the iPhone, good call.  That thing is garbage.  Overpriced, you can't remove the battery yourself (who the fuck thought that was a good idea?  Steve Jobbs, trying to nickel and dime people maybe?), small hard drives, and a plethora of expensive payment plans just so you can USE the goddamn phone.  Then, if you want to get some of the more useful apps, you have to pay more!  I know people who have to pay 300 or more a month for their iPhones, while I belong the same company (ATT/Cingular) and pay 90$ a month and have more apps!  Most of the apps for the iPhone seem to be triple the price they are on other phones too, and the whole phone seems to be designed to be less useful and more of a pain in the ass than any other phone I've seen.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

*sigh* I am a little weary of the 'macs have fewer viruss because they are rare' myth.

Windows and OSX have differnt security models.  Microsoft added lots of 'helpful' functionality (demanded by marketing) to allow powerful network content to run without bothering the user.  While they have patched it up over the years, that functionality made windows inherently difficult to lock down since it was so heavily integrated into how the OS functions.  Microsoft made some very bad early decisions in putting together windows based off marketing requirements rather then what the OS team said was a good idea and they have been paying for it ever since.

While it is true that there is less focus on writing viruses for the mac, they are also much harder TO write, which changes the equation.  This is also why people got so pissy when Microsoft stealth added that .NET junk to Firefox since it exposed IE style 'rich net' features to Firefox when it was those features that made IE so insecure in the first place.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Sorry charlie, but the market penetration is exactly why Macs have fewer viruses.

They are not hard to write on the Mac, at all. Yes, most will require user intervention, but remember, so do many of the Windows ones, including ones that were the fastest spreading ever at the time.

I do security work (my code is in the latest release of a major AV), and have commercial products on both systems, so I do understand the differences. If you can convince someone to run something, the Mac is no more secure than Windows, and is less secure than Vista because of a fun bug that's probably been in since OS X 10.1; I reported this bug to Apple and got the brush off since they don't understand blended threats.

 

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

I disagree, and also come from a security background (at the OS level at that).

While true that most bugs require you to run something, windows tends to make the process more obscured (or even worse, those so noisy that you just start hitting OK over and over), windows still has more problems with auto-runing code then OSX.

Windows still have worse esalaction problems too, so runing things as a non-root user have an esier time elevating themselves.

And part of the problem is social engeineering... windows either asks you too much (and you start ignoring the warnings) or does not ask enough (too permissive).  OSX balances the notifications MUCH better then even Vista.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Elevation is moot for most things effective malware needs to do. Running at user level is fine for being part of a botnet or stealing the user's information. Elevation makes it easier to hide and harder to clean, but if the machine owner isn't looking, you can hide in plain sight. Plus, the bug I found allows things to hide inside valid applications without any warning from the OS.

Here's an experiment for you to try: As a non-admin user, install a previous version of firefox. You get prompted. Firefox sees an update available, installs it. No prompt, other than the application prompt. Now, what prevents something taking advantage of a vulnerable plugin from doing a malicious update without notification? Vista will notify if you do the same thing. (Cupertino, start your copiers!)

I'm still waiting for something to have a useable MAC implementation. I was hoping Leopard was going to be it, but Apple only did a half assed job, and Vista as you say, has too many warnings making people liable to turn it off. I don't trust Apple's security view after I gave them everything short of a sample program for their flaw and it was reclassified as "Enhancement". They had to get dragged kicking and screaming into the carpet bombing flaw as well.

 

 

 

 

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

 My favorite article was one published on ars where a hacker showed that hacking Safari was the easiest and quickest browser out there (then of course IE and then Firefox don't remember if Opera made the list).

As for the building my own computer; I build mine, my families, and my friends because I can build a gaming rig for half the cost that Dell, Gateway, or Alienware wants to slap on them.  If I could find a company that would actually build me one without skimping on the components a lot of people don't look at (Memory, type and speed; Motherboard, using built in audio or an actual audio card etc) I might consider it but doubt it.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

When you get rid of the good ones and only leave the crap, is it no surprise?

When Jack Thompson runs his mouth, does anyone really care what he has to say anymore?

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

 Shaking baby app was the only good one? really?

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Yeah this seems to be the case.

People are much more willing to part with $0.99 than they are for anything more than that. Then compounding the situation is that the majority of iPhone apps are $0.99. This makes it harder to get noticed.

I think the main problem here is the iPod and what it did to downloadable content. Most people who have an iPhone owned an iPod before hand. They got used to everything costing $0.99. Now they are unwilling to pay for anything that costs more than that even if it is worth far more.

Kind of sucks. A Lot.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Not surprising.

This reminds me of the old Schneier on Security post Rare Risk and Overreactions which talks about how people see rare risks and take them as normal in their reactions.

I think you get the same thing with rare success. A few app developers got oodles of cash, they are the ones people hear about, so they feel that these cases are the norm rather then the exception, thus the apple store builds a reputation as a rags to riches possibly. This type of thing is pretty heavily steeped in American culture.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

What do these folks expect?  An iphone app is like a game mod - it's not something anyone should expect to make money from.  It's something people do because it's fun to do - any profit to be made is an added bonus, but no-one's going to become a millionaire from it.

Why does everything have to be about money?  Can't some things be about doing stuff we like and making the world a better place?  That's why I mod games - I enjoy the work and people get more fun out of the games.  It's not about profit - it's about community.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Keep in mind, not just hobbists are trying to use the app store.  Professional developers (and some big names) are trying to work out how to make a living using this.  The common meme is that game companies need to keep with the times and go where the attention is, and right now downloadable cell-phone games are the 'future' everyone is scrambling to be part of.

Which is neither bad nor completely illogical.  Look how companies that did not keep up with the times or understand new trends ended up.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Do you consider XBLA, PSN or WiiWare to be the same thing as a game mod? Because those services are the same thing as the iphone app store. The only real difference is that the iPhone store has a much lower barrier to entry.

There is no reason people should not expect some kind of return on investment for their efforts. I would certainly hope most developers would be able to at least break even.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Consoles are not mod-friendly, so I'm not sure what your point is on that issue.  An iphone app is similar to a computer game mod.

Anyway, this guy's app is bringing in $20 per day - that's $7,200 per year for an app that probably took a few hours programming - if I were him I'd be ecstatic if I could make something in a few hours that would keep me fed indefinitely.

Sorry if I'm not empathetic enough, but it seems to me that some folks are never satisfied.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

> probably took a few hours programming

Any serious game (for the iPhone, XNA or even a "Mod") will take months to program (and they you have art and what have you).

--
A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. Benjamin Franklin

--
A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. Benjamin Franklin

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

Anyone taking 'months' to create an iphone app deserves to lose every penny he invested in the project.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

This statement proves that you have never looked at computer code in your life.

You have no idea what it means to program or create software. The only apps that one could build in a "few hours" would be things like Baby Shaker and Pull my Finger apps. The real apps and games do take several months of development and QA to finish. At least if you want a quality app.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

A few hours?

What are you picturing when it comes to iPhone apps? You do realize you have to actualliy program, produce art/sound, playtest, and other such things?

Yeah, one could probalby write an app in a few hours, but many of them have multiple man-months of development time behind them.

These are not 'mods'... mods are modifications to an existing program, usually just it's data files.  These are applications written from the ground up in an embedded enviorment.

Re: iPhone Dev: AppStore Games Not Selling

The iPhone is not "mod-friendly" either. So what is your point?

Judging by the rest of your comments, you have never even looked at the iPhone Dev kit. It is a full featured SDK for a closed system. There is nothing to it that resembles modding games in the slightest. Unless you consider developing games for consoles to be "modding" They also feature full SDKs and a clossed system.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Will Code Avarice's Paranautical Activity make its way back onto Steam?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Neo_DrKefkaThanks James. Means a lot.10/21/2014 - 7:24pm
prh99Nothing that hasn't been said.10/21/2014 - 6:52pm
Andrew EisenHaven't read it yet. I'm sharing this because I love the header image. http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/10/gamergate-should-stop-lying-to-itself.html10/21/2014 - 3:39pm
james_fudgeYou are one of us, you're a GPer, not a GGer :)10/21/2014 - 2:27pm
james_fudgeNeo_DrKefka: half of them don't know who that is, so no worries :)10/21/2014 - 2:27pm
Andrew EisenUpdate to the Paranautical Activity story. Dev leaves the studio. http://codeavarice.com/post/100592709238/mike-is-leaving-code-avarice10/21/2014 - 1:52pm
quiknkoldI'm sure you are, Andrew10/21/2014 - 1:44pm
Andrew EisenNintendo announced the Link amiibo is compatible with Hyrule Warriors. No idea how Nintendo expects anyone to give a toss if it don't tell us what it does. Then again, maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly.10/21/2014 - 1:25pm
Neo_DrKefkaSo Gamergate compared me to leftist Saul Alnsky....ME off all the people10/21/2014 - 1:16pm
IanCWell.... quite.10/21/2014 - 1:10pm
Andrew EisenWell of course. Girls don't buy figurines and guys don't buy figurines of girls. And no, the girls that buy figurines and the guys that buy figurines of girls don't count. The money belongs on the table, thank you very much!10/21/2014 - 12:43pm
IanCI have 3 of the Disney Infinity figures even though i don't have the game (Rapunzel from Tangled, and Anna & Elsa from Frozen, purely because its the only way to get figures from those two films)10/21/2014 - 12:23pm
Andrew EisenGlad you said "Pokemon." That's the first time I've seen anyone use that abbreviation.10/21/2014 - 12:14pm
MaskedPixelanteGot my demo key for ORAS, hope I get some awesome Pokemon to bring over.10/21/2014 - 12:08pm
E. Zachary KnightNot owning a WiiU helps too.10/21/2014 - 11:39am
E. Zachary KnightI have avoided Skylanders and Disney Infinity so far, so I don't see how Amiibos will get me in their grasp.10/21/2014 - 11:39am
Andrew EisenYes, GamerGate has a lot of fair-weather friends.10/21/2014 - 11:25am
Neo_DrKefkaI'm disheartened we have a group of people in Gamergate such as The Ralph Retort that is using Gamergate to prop themselves up but they are acting just like those they are fighting against. Only gaming site coming out of gamergate that worthy is TechRaptr10/21/2014 - 11:17am
Andrew EisenNot I. I'm not interested in desktop tchotchkes. Don't know what they do in Captain Toad (a game I'll actually be picking up) but I'm not impressed by what they do in Smash Bros.10/21/2014 - 11:10am
quiknkoldso in a change of subject to something much lighter, who here is getting the Amiibos? I have 4 preordered.10/21/2014 - 7:02am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician