App Store: Profitability for Game Developers

| | August 4, 2015

Recent days, I’ve been spending significant time in discovering chances of profitability of AppStore for developers.

I have found many articles. Some of them are highly optimistic, while other are extremely skeptical. This article is extremely skeptical. It even claims to have backed its conclusions by objective sales numbers. This is another pesimistic article saying that games developed by single individuals get 20 downloads a day.

Can I kindly ask to clarify from business viewpoint whether average developers publishing games and software on AppStore can cover their living expenses, even, whether they can become profitable?

Is it achievable to generate revenues of 50.000 USD yearly on AppStore for a single developer?

I would like to stay as realistic as possible. Despite the question might look subjective, a good business man will be able to esitmate chances for profitability and prosperity within AppStore.

3 Responses to “App Store: Profitability for Game Developers”

  1. More than a half of the market games are really:

    • school projects
    • a result of investments into casual (freelance) programmers (teachers are paying for guitar sheet and chemical apps, animation studios are putting out cartoon toys for children – I ever seen a Nickelodeon themed netbook)

    And the most of other projects are developed as any other shareware (what the thing with the amateur game developers calling shareware a freemium? did they completely missed a good class on CS history?), that formalizes a normal workflow of “how much we’re paying to our outsourced programmers, we need that game TBD in a month or so”. So if you’re writing a casual shareware – sit down, start coding, and get ready to reap some minor profits.

    Or, say to yourself “I’m about to create a multiplatform game where user needs to throw * from * to hit * off the *”, think about it, and keep coding – having a warm feeling of doing something new || something of personal interest. But the end is very same, unless you’re suddenly able to take this project to your boss and ask him for letting you code games in a work hours, asking him also to fund the project (e.g. buying MacBooks for a home-brew team – one for a cat, one for a dog).

  2. Jonathan Connell on November 30, -0001 @ 12:00 AM

    I personally would run as far away as fast as possible from the AppStore.

    If you are aiming for iPad, iPhone, you need some really good marketing to get the initial market penetration. Without this, your App will fall into the oubliettes of the AppStore, which is much more difficult to navigate on a handheld than on a PC.

    You also need to think about your game development if you are aiming at portable platforms. You need ‘casual’ games; games with short game sessions (5-10 mins) that have good feedback and make the player want to continue.

    If this is what you are looking at, I would definately try to use something like Unity so you can aim for Android and iPhone with the same source (but it will cost more), and maybe make a PC version available; if your game is really good and people want to play it while going to work, they’ll buy it.

    If the question was about App Hubs in general (which I doubt) lots of Indie developers go for Steam, I remember reading a 2DBoy article (World of Goo) saying the guys at Steam were cool and they managed to negociate the percentages.

    Of course the beauty about using Unity is that you could also sell a PC version.

    In any case, I would search for project post-mortems from Indie developers that make AppStore games, and maybe even try and contact some.


  3. Is it achievable to generate revenues of 50.000 USD yearly on AppStore for a single developer?

    Of course it is, I can simply point to a single example of this being the case and it’s “achievable”. The thing is, in order for you to do it there are a lot of factors at play.

    Can you make games quickly/cheaply? With the race to the bottom in terms of purchasing price, if you eat up too much time and money on a single game you’re not likely to get any return on that investment

    Do you monetize properly? The freemium model is getting more and more popular, for example. If you’re not going freemium, you need to know how to price yourself in the market. You have to be fulfilling some kind of strong desire to place yourself above the $1 price point.

    Are the games you’re making high enough quality that people will want to tell their friends about them? Word of mouth is a very strong sales driver. If people aren’t saying “hey you should play this”, you’re not going to make any money.

    Is the content of the games appealing to the mass market? You can’t just target the 17-34 male demographic with the games you’re making if you want to go really wide with it.

    Can you advertise properly? This isn’t a case where “if you build it they will come”. You have to send out demo codes to the right people. Try to get reviewed. Try to get popular bloggers, etc. to recommend it. Be active in community groups (facebook, forums, youtube, etc.).

    Basically, the point that a lot of people in the comments are making is that it seems you’re asking for the impossible analysis. You’re giving a specific profitability number without talking about the product you’re making at all.

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