The App Store is a gamble – so what should you put your money on?


Do you know that the App Store has 350,000+ apps?  With more than 10 billion apps downloaded (how many zeros are in a billion again? Oh yah, 9). So 10,000,000,000 divided by 350,000 gets us 28,571 and some decimal points.  So if the downloads are divided equally among apps, your app would have made 28k, but that is obviously not the case. There is no way for us to find out how many downloads each app actually gets, unless they tell us. According to the people behind Angry Birds, their franchise reached 200 million downloads, their original game has somewhere over 100 million, while Angry Birds Rio has over 10 million.  Words with Friends, over 10 million; Fruit Ninja, over 6 million; Cut the Rope, over 6 million. According to Matt Rix’s blog, his Trainyard Express has over 2 million. While Outfit7 announced recently that their Talking friends reached the 100 million downloads.

But there are also apps that just sit there, unnoticed in the App Store. And the developer just waits, waits until someone discovers that it’s there, and hopefully downloads it and likes it.

So our company (a tiny studio with 2 bosses, 1 project manager, 1 designer, 3 programmers and 3 artists) released our first app two months ago (forgive me, but please let me plug a bit, it’s called Visual Travel Checklist (VTC), and it’s a travel essential application that helps you prepare and pack for your trips. VTC provides an intuitive user interface with vibrant icons as the TO-DOs and TO-BRINGs. Who says getting ready for a trip has to be bothersome and wordiness? No longer is the process of writing on notepad then crossing tasks and items out needed! VTC is a brand new way to prep and pack!). View in App Store.

From the development to the QA, to the submission to the App Store, I have this “let’s do this first app heck yeah” chant going on in my head. I will let my tweet speak for me:

Waiting for our app to be approved and be on the App Store, was like watching water boil. There was literally days when I would press F5 over and over again on my iTunes Connect page. And when it finally was approved and has this cute little green bullet that says “Ready for Sale”, I was like (more tweets):

I am an over enthusiastic fan girl, forgive me.

And then… what then? Then that’s it. Just because it’s on the App Store it doesn’t mean that people know that it’s in there. There are 350,000+ apps in there. Relax though, there are only around 600+ travel apps that start with the letter V (I counted). So how can you possibly stand out among that crowd? Well, since the release, my two bosses have been working hard marketing our app (review sites, promotional videos and all), and it should help us a little.

So here I am, waiting. The whole thing just feels so anti climatic.

Moving on, our company’s second app is a shooter game (code name: A.i.), sneak preview from our company’s Facebook page:

 

Well, there are 3000+ games on the App Store that starts with the letter A (I know, I know, I should be counting the total number of games on the App Store). So that means more competition, boo.

You may note that our two apps are very very different. That’s because we are a new studio, and our bosses thinks that we should try making all kinds of apps, and then see which succeeds. Yeah, remember what the title of this post, the App Store is a gamble (after that really long intro and plug, I’m finally getting to it). I am actually very lucky, in our company, anyone can come up with an app idea, and if the rest of us feel that it’s good, we’ll do it, we’ll make it. It can be a game, a lifestyle app, a utility app, anything, as long as it’s a good idea.

So what kind of idea should I come up with? What kind of app should we be putting our money on?

It is worth noting, that on Apple’s list of All Time Top Paid iPhone Apps, Doodle Jump, a game, is number 1, followed by Tap Tap Revenge 3, also a game, and then Pocket God , game, and then Angry Birds, obviously game. In fact, only AppBox Pro Alarm, is not a game on the Top 10 All Time Top Paid iPhone Apps. In the Free section however, the non game apps fare just fine. But we are in it to make money, so let’s just ignore the Free section for now, it’s not as if we can compete with Facebook anyway.

So are people willing to spend more on games than lifestyle apps, utility apps or travel apps (I didn’t count Social Networking apps, because they get a lot of downloads too, but they’re mostly free)?

But in terms of development, that travel app is cake compared to that hell of a shooter. Time is also of value here. We can make more apps in a year, if the development time for each one is shorter. But if we take more time, we might be able to make an app that has a bigger chance of kicking ass and charge more :) (like Infinity Blade- that kicks ass, and I don’t think anyone, so far, can compete with them). Jon Jordan from pocketgamer.biz estimated that Inifinity Blade sales reached at least 3 million dollars within three weeks, with more than 600k downloads at $5.99 per download.

Although it’s really hard to tell, because Talking apps by Outfit7 reached 100 million downloads, and their apps (have you guys tried them? Talking Tom Cat is absolutely adorable) basically what those apps do is, you say something, and then the animal will repeat it, in this chipmunk like voice. They have other functions too, like you can feed the cat milk, or play with it, but most of the additional functions are In App Purchases. In terms of development, it’s a simple app.  But maybe it sells because it’s a simple app. Just a cute (how can something with chipmunk voices not be cute?) little app, but it sells (In App Purchases anyway, most of their apps are actually free, or priced at a dollar).

And of course, there are the miracles that happen in the App Store. I think Andreas Illiger really hit the jackpot with Tiny Wings. It’s a very beautiful game and it’s fun, and people really like it (my officemates are addicted). Why, it can even compete with Angry Birds.

So, how would you know, really, what kind of app, what kind of game will do well in the App Store? Please comment :)

Sources:

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About Hsiao Wei Chen

Hsiao Wei Chen 24 years old, female from Taipei, Taiwan A web and gadget geek, poet, painter, writer, blogger, game and web developer, multimedia enthusiast, but more than anything else, a dreamer.

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