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Cellphones Programming The Almighty Buck Apple

The Realities of Selling On Apple's App Store 223

Posted by kdawson
from the languishing-on-the-midlist dept.
Owen Goss writes "Everyone is familiar with the story of the iPhone developer who spends two weeks of spare time making a game that goes on to make them hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reality is that with the App Store now hosting over 25,000 apps, the competition is fierce. While it's true that a few select apps are making developers rich, the reality is that most apps don't make a lot of money. In a blog post I take a hard look at the first 24 days of sales data for the first game, Dapple, from Streaming Colour Studios. The post reflects what is likely the norm for developers just getting into the iPhone development game."
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The Realities of Selling On Apple's App Store

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  • by Norsefire (1494323) * on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:21AM (#27132017) Journal
    I got my iPhone a little while after the 3G was released and I haven't found any of the appstore applications to be all that interesting. The only third party application from the appstore I use on a regular basis is Flashlight (which is free). The applications I use semi-regularly are SFNetNews, Palringo and Units (also all free). I can't recall a paid app that I bothered to use for more than a week. On the other hand I use Winterboard, Terminal (and the CLI apps that go with it such as OpenSSH), AdBlock and Reminder quite regularly (granted AdBlock and Reminder are passive applications); all from Cydia. Perhaps if the restrictions on what Appstore applications could do were loosened appstore developers could create really useful applications. Imagine the profit that could be made from an application that provided much needed functionality, such as a "mark all mail as read" button.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:27AM (#27132679) Homepage

      No the most telling thing about the Iphone store is that the app iFart has sold an insane amount.

      Cater to the lowest common denominator and you got a goldmine. Cater to those that have a brain and you end up poor.

      If you can figure out how to text real farts to other people no matter what phone they have, you have found a way to be far richer than bill gates.

      • by ciaohound (118419)

        text real farts to other people

        There was a peripheral years ago that could synthesize smells. It didn't catch on. So there's no de facto standard for transmitting farts, and I'm unaware of any efforts to create an industry standard either. This is one dream that will remain the stuff of science fiction, I guess.

      • by Swift2001 (874553)

        Gee, when apple was censoring the iphone apps, all the slashdot people couldn't stand the censorship! So they released the farts, and a lot of people bought an app. Now they're part of a "problem." I guarantee that there will be an iFart on open source phones. People are silly sometimes.

        I like the AP app, the NYTimes app, TV.com for complete episodes of CBS/CNet/etc. I have the Kindle reader app. Face it, there's a lot more going on there.

        What's likely true is that the app store needs its own "iApp".

        On the

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Cater to those that have a brain and you end up poor.

        Just because some lousy apps make large amounts of money doesn't mean the reverse is true. I don't think the developers of "Things", "Omnifocus" or "Gas Cubby" are on their way to the poorhouse. And those are clearly intelligent and well-designed apps.

        It's almost sickening how people expect developing applications for the iPhone to be a "get rich quick" plan, and equally sickening that any developer who doesn't get rich quick is paraded as evidence that the App Store is fundamentally flawed, or that people

    • by jabithew (1340853)

      The only paid app I use is TubeDeluxe, because it is ridiculously useful. I can see its use declining rapidly outside London though. /astroturf

    • by Stele (9443) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:11AM (#27134085) Homepage

      Not necessarily. My photo editing app, Photo fx [apple.com] (video here [youtube.com]), has been selling over 1000 a day since it was released in January. But it's really just a streamlined version of our high-end Dfx filter software which runs on Avid editing systems, Final Cut Pro, and Photoshop, etc. The iPhone version even uses the exact same optimized C++ code.

      Moral of the story - make something people want (and do a credible job at it) and you'll do pretty well.

      On the other hand, you are also at the often arbitrary whim of Apple reviewers. My other app, Crack [youtube.com], was rejected because it "simulates failure" of the iPhone screen. Very frustrating.

      • We put out Pharce [itunes.com] (an app to let you create mocking or cute videos from pictures on your iPhone) a few weeks ago. (Video here [pharceapp.com]). We sent out a press release, and got about 140 downloads a day for several days after the press release went out.

        This slowly dwindled to 40, then to 20, then lower. We expected that people sending the videos to one another would lead to notable growth over time, but that appears not to be the case. (The app lets you email the video or post it on YouTube from the phone).

        I am work

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:26AM (#27132033)

    What I am more interested in, is how many sales he gets after being "brutally honest" and then being posted on slashdot for doing so.

    • by Shag (3737) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:18AM (#27132627) Homepage

      I thought it was:

      2. ???
      3. Profit!

      But maybe it's

      2. Whine about life on Slashdot.
      3. Profit!

      Anyway, I too look forward to hearing how many Slashdotters will buy something solely because it's linked from here. :)

    • by AlpineR (32307)

      I agree that blogging about one's own business attempt must have been in part motivated by the chance to drum up more business. And I agree that getting that blog linked on Slashdot is a big boost to the effort. But the story and the data really are interesting (especially the timeline and speed of piracy). So I'll chalk this one up as news and complain about the next such article as a slashvertisement.

      Also, I'd like to see this guy's app mentioned on The Colbert Report, the Today Show, and in the New Yo

  • Piracy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Computershack (1143409) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:29AM (#27132043)
    5 hours after the first sale, it appeared on the warez sites. Man that's got to suck. It's a shame the thieving cunts don't realise that with most of the App Store stuff they pirate that it's usually only a one man band behind it.
    • by Norsefire (1494323) * on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:35AM (#27132075) Journal
      There was an interesting article on TorrentFreak a while back; How Piracy Can Boost iPhone App Sales [torrentfreak.com], may be worth a read.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:40AM (#27132443)

        Reading an article on how piracy boost sales on torrentfreak.com is like reading about the Bush legacy on foxnews.com.

        • by rgviza (1303161)

          LOL so true. That's like reading an article on Slashdot about how stealing music leads to more music sales.

          Patently absurd...

          -Viz

        • by billcopc (196330)

          You're absolutely correct.

          In both cases, it is up to the reader to weigh the facts and make up their own mind. TorrentFreak is an openly pro-piracy site, or more accurately anti-copyright abuse.

          Do you expect TorrentFreak to say "Oh, we're all wrong and stupid. Call Blair and Sarkozy so they can violate our tight pirate asses".

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:44AM (#27132135) Homepage Journal

      that it showed up on pirate sites within five hours. Essentially it shows that the price of software is not a major reason behind piracy. Pirating a five dollar game? I wonder if there is a threshold for pirates? I suspect some do it for the fun of it, the "fame" of being first to do it. Still it blows my mind that people would pirate an iPhone app, let alone a cheap one.

      The real problem I see is that he lost among the clutter. There is simply so much shit on the apple store that it is easy to get bored or worse, annoyed, looking through it all. As such if its new it comes up on the list first and that is about the only time outside of reviews like the author noted that an app will get noticed.

      Throw in the fact that Apple over sells the game aspect of these units when most people don't associate costs with games on their phones let alone value for anything on the phone short of ring tones (riaa love child I think) or songs. I know on my touch I use a conversion utility, a calculator, a NYTimes reader, and the Apple email program the most; don't get me started on their shitty mail app.

      Outside of an ad campaign I don't see how you can stay in the limelight unless you buy reviews on sites, let alone get stories posted to Slashdot. I am not begrudging the author of the game or the submitter, it was truly an interesting read into how it all goes down

      • by growse (928427) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:12AM (#27132291) Homepage
        It's worth pointing out the difference between someone throwing it on a torrent site and having a significant number of people downloading it. If I make an app and sell it for $1, sure, someone will probably stick it on the piratebay. But I'd argue that the percentage of the overall usebase that will pirate it from that rather than pay $1 to have it installed easily will be quite low.

        Don't think it alters your overall point, but I just wanted to make the point that there's a difference between mass-piracy (which may well be because your original product is too expensive) and one bored guy taking something and sticking it on a torrent site.
        • I just wanted to make the point that there's a difference between mass-piracy (which may well be because your original product is too expensive)

          Yah, because !free = too expensive.

          There's always going to be people who can't afford something. In the past, sellers, as part of the free market, have had the freedom to set their own price to maximise profits and the commercial viability of their product. Not any more, thanks to piracy!

          Now, consumers can decide what they think is fair for the seller to have, regar

          • by growse (928427)
            Without wishing to get dragged into an argument about why people pirate, I think it's obvious that there are three types of people who pirate - those who can afford the product and would have otherwise bought it, those who can afford it and wouldn't have otherwise bought the product, and those who can't afford it.

            For the $1 iPhone app, the people the developer is concerned with are those who can afford the $1 and would have bought it if piracy wasn't an option for them. I'm arguing that, in this specific
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by DingerX (847589)
              I think it's obvious that your typology has very little meaning.

              Yes, you can divide them that way, but it won't explain anything. The fact the very first sale was likely a pirate sale (I say likely, because an enterprising pirate would find someone on the inside to jack that file straight off the server) doesn't have anything to do with being able to afford it, but rather that _being the first to supply a pirate copy_ has value.

              You can divide the group into purchased and "woulda-coulda", but the value of
              • by nelsonal (549144)
                I think his grouping was useful. I pirate some stuff, and buy other very similar media when the cost is well below the extra time and effort required to pirate it (generally pirating isn't free either). For a $5 crappy cell phone game, I'd be very hesitant to buy it (with no demo, especially) for a $1 game that I've enjoyed either demo or an add supported game, it's not worth tracking the torrent down, finding one with seeds, and moving the file to my phone. I've pirated lots of things, that I'd never pa
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jabithew (1340853)

            There's always going to be people who can't afford something. In the past, sellers, as part of the free market, have had the freedom to set their own price to maximise profits and the commercial viability of their product. Not any more, thanks to piracy!

            In a free market, a company has a lot of competitors and its prices are set by its costs, not its profits. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to consider how free various markets are (compare US and UK telecoms, e.g.)

            Now, consumers can decide what they think is fair for the seller to have, regardless of the seller's wishes, needs, or financial health. While we're at it, we might as well make it legal (or at least morally A-OK) to run out of a retail joint with a physical object, leaving only the manufacturing costs behind.

            "Profit" is a cost of manufacture; as Adam Smith so astutely pointed out, what we call 'profit' should rightly be called 'cost of capital', as it is normally either returned to shareholders who stumped up the capital, re-invested in staying competitive or some combination of the two. I

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Paying the manufacturing cost is not simple

              Not to arrogant, self-justifying pirates. To them, paying cost price is extremely simple. Just ignore costs of actually creating the original work, ignore any "profit costs", and there you have it! Free is a perfectly fair price for any digital work!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by WNight (23683)

            Yah, because !free = too expensive.

            Yah, because !free = too expensive.

            No, seriously. It's not just the upfront cost, the $1 or $100 even, it's pulling out the credit card (not an issue for app store, but elsewhere), the EULAs, the non-returnability that makes you pissed when you bought the wrong thing, the time spent fighting its DRM, the time wasted in the future not able to fix the bugs on your own. Then consider than you have to try a few apps to find the one you really want.

            Free apps don't have most of those hassles. They're all in the D

        • by yabos (719499)
          I've read on the Apple developer forums about 1 $0.99 app that had 60% of the copies pirated. This is relatively easy to do when jail broken from what I've read and it's not an insignificant amount. The thing about these pirates is that it seems they install a lot of the newest programs that come on the app store after someone cracks it. The rate of installation of cracked apps often surpasses legitimately bought copies.
      • by houghi (78078)

        If it is a true pirate site, e.g. you can actualy download it (not a torrent) then most likely it is about either advertisement hits or installing unwanted software on your machine or both.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drooling-dog (189103)

        Essentially it shows that the price of software is not a major reason behind piracy.

        Sometimes - maybe most of the time - not even the desire to use the software is a major reason behind piracy. The people doing most of the downloading are simply hoarding, and most of the stuff that they grab ends up in a stack of DVDs along with hundreds of gigabytes of other stuff that will never see the light of day.

        This kind of piracy is economically irrelevant. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

        • by legojenn (462946)

          Well it stimulates the computer stores with their sales of DVDs and burners. Also, the ISPs make some bucks, so it's not all bad. Plus, everyone needs a go-to-guy for 'free' software.

      • I wonder if there is a threshold for pirates?

        By the very definition of pirate: no. They have hording disorder. They download stuff they'll never use (that's why it isn't illegal, because they would have never paid for it in the first place, gawsh, don't you read slashdot!)

      • by ClassMyAss (976281) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:56AM (#27135789) Homepage

        Still it blows my mind that people would pirate an iPhone app, let alone a cheap one.

        Not that you're not right withthat sentiment, but just wanted to point out: five dollars is real expensive as far as iPhone games go, especially simple puzzle ones. The high price tag is probably the primary reason that he's not selling many of these things; I know plenty of devs that successfully sell simple games at the $1 level, and they are able to sell tons of them as long as the product is good (20 or 30 thousand is not unheard of, even if you're not a huge success). A couple hundred purchases means that you made some serious mistakes either in pricing or promotion.

        The moment you charge anything for an app, you slash the number of "purchasers" to about 1/10 to 1/100 of what it would have been if it were free; if you go above $1, you're whittling that down much further unless your game has a whole lot of publicity or a brand name to prop sales up. Apart from Galcon, I can't think of many indie games that became even remotely popular for more than maybe $3 a pop.

        I think the optimal price for almost every game on the iPhone (that is, every one without a franchise) is probably $1, but I'd really need to see more data to be sure of that.

      • By running advertisements, some of the pirate sites are making more money than most of the applications they pirate. Their objective is to pirate *every* application at the app store. It happens so quickly after the release of a new app that one must assume that the process is now automated.
    • by mochan_s (536939)

      5 hours after the first sale, it appeared on the warez sites. Man that's got to suck. It's a shame the thieving cunts don't realise that with most of the App Store stuff they pirate that it's usually only a one man band behind it.

      As the title summary says, "everyone is familiar with the story of the iPhone developer who spends two weeks of spare time making a game that goes on to make them hundreds of thousands of dollars."

      The developer writes software to make money, the pirate pirates for whatever reason

    • by dangitman (862676)
      Big fucking deal. How many people run jailbroken iPhones or could be bothered to pirate software that usually sells for less than a few bucks? Especially with all the headaches that come with doing so. Not very fucking many, I would imagine. As a developer, would you want that kind of cunt as a customer, anyway? They are probably more trouble than they are worth.
  • 1. The pirates will like your game.
    2. Going first page on a website or list, has a direct effect on sales.
    3. Dev's buy/play other dev's games/tools. Dev's are cool people to dev for.

  • by MrMista_B (891430) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:35AM (#27132083)

    What, a company makes YET ANOTHER crappy color matching game, and people are ASTONISHED they don't get rich?

    What are they honestly expecting? If all you're going to do is repeat, for the nth time, yet another basic, basic, simple crappy puzzle game, you ARE NOT going to make much cash, or get much recognition.

    Why is that a story? Just because it's an 'Apple's App Store' thing?

    Release a crappy color matching puzzle game onto the web at large, and they'll probably do worse.

    Gets right down to the most basic of basics: if you're not going to put the effort in, don't expect to get rewarded.

    In terms of the story - make yet another crappy duplicate of yet another crappy puzzle game, become yet another crappy also-ran.

    • by vrai (521708) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:16AM (#27132315)

      While the parent poster has clearly had too much coffee, the overall point made is valid. There are so many colour/pattern matching games available it's no surprise that this one failed to make an impact. It must be disappointing for the author, but he has to be honest with himself as to whether the game is actually any good and if there's any space in market for it at the chosen price point.

      Obviously it would have been better if these questions had been asked and researched before spending six months and thirty-two grand on development; but what's done is done.

      • by TuaAmin13 (1359435) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:38AM (#27132427)
        I would be forced to agree as well. To sell well in the app store you have to first find what it doesn't have a lot of, and then make it better.

        I know the guy who wrote Countdown, and he said that on release there was only 1 other app that did anything close, which had been submitted to the app store just days before his. My friend did it better, so his app sells more than the other guy's.

        Contrasting this to games, which are a dime a dozen on the app store. While Dapple does appear to be better, what makes it warrant a $5 price, other than your development costs? What makes me, as the consumer, want to spend $4.99? I could buy 5 $0.99 games and play those for an hour or two each rather than buy a game for $4.99 and get 6 hours out of it.

        The Dapple Lite idea is great, especially if you market it as either a free demo or a $0.99 app and offer an upgrade path (I'm not an iphone dev so I'm not sure what restrictions there are for doing stuff like that)

        Disclaimer: I don't have an iTouch or iPhone; just know a dozen guys who do.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:53AM (#27132797)

        I must add that after writing my own Crappy color matching game for the iPhone over 2 weekends, the costs of the application seems extremely high. At this rate the contractor he hired must have been Halliburton.

      • by Rocketship Underpant (804162) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @09:09AM (#27133317)

        Agreed. I love my new iPod Touch and I'm desperate to find some good games for it, but so far, only Zen Bound has been worth more than 5 minutes of my time. Honestly folks, colour-matching games are not "good". Games you can play for free online through Flash applets are not worth paying for. The iPhone platform needs DS-calibre games.

        What we really need is a new version of Civilization, Master of Orion, or Sim City (and not the aging Sim City 2000 port that is currently available).

        • by Acer500 (846698)
          I have never owned an iPhone, but the UI does seem like it would work with a RTS game :)

          No idea how hard it could be to develop for the iPhone, though.
    • Match 1000 boobies to 1000 faces app.

      I doubt apple would approve of this app.

      Easy to code, but an effort to put together the media.

  • Costs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:35AM (#27132085)

    Dapple took me about 6 months to make and had a budget of roughly $32,000 USD

    6 months? 32,000?

    What happened to people making games like this in their spare time for fun and maybe getting ad revenue on their website. What kind of a person earning a living (ie. exlcuding rich children, who as far as I can tell make up a substantial portion of the iPhone userbase btw) would pay for this type of entertainment?

    • Re:Costs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698) * <tmh@nodomain.org> on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @07:33AM (#27132707) Homepage

      Seems a bit unlikely, but he says he paid contractors to do it.. that tells me he's not a programmer - a phone based puzzle game doesn't require multiple developers (and I'd love to know how they stretched development time to 6 months). So the project is paying at least two people, one of whom isn't actually doing any coding - effectively deadweight - and it goes on for far too long... and they wonder why it fails to make a profit. This isn't unique to the appstore, the world of business is full of ideas that failed in the same way. Hell, I've worked on a few...

      • by proxima (165692)

        Seems a bit unlikely, but he says he paid contractors to do it.. that tells me he's not a programmer - a phone based puzzle game doesn't require multiple developers (and I'd love to know how they stretched development time to 6 months)

        Except TFA indicates that he is a programmer:

        [...]paying myself a very small salary (akin to what I made as a junior front-end programmer when I first started in the industry).

        Having not seen the game, I can only speculate on what contractors might have done. Perhaps a nice-l

    • by jcnnghm (538570)

      Why is it OK for everyone to expect programmers to work for free, but not graphic artists? Programming is tedious, hard work, that few people are able to do at all, and even fewer are able to do well. Expecting to be paid for performing work that other people find useful is the rule, not the exception.

    • Rich kids make up the user base of a phone that costs the same or less than pretty much every other phone on the market? A $199 phone qualifies somebody as rich. I have two iPhones...I'm rich bitches!
  • Color me shocked (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vivaoporto (1064484) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:43AM (#27132119)

    The reality is that with the App Store now hosting over 25,000 apps, the competition is fierce. While it's true that a few select apps are making developers rich, the reality is that most apps don't make a lot of money.

    And how is that different from what happens IRL (or, as the cool cats are calling it now, AFK)? You enter a market, develop a product and compete with hundreds or thousands of similar offers. A couple will succeed, some will get by and most will flunk and disappear in its own mediocrity (averageness, ordinariness as a consequence of being average and not outstanding).

    That is not the "[r]ealities of Selling On Apple's App Store", that's the reality of selling. People will copy your idea and sell. People will copy your product look and feel. The toughest ones will survive, the rest won't, but maybe will make enough money to keep the viability of their business choice. Or not. At all.

  • by theolein (316044) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @05:56AM (#27132205) Journal

    The iPhone software market, like it or hate it, is like any other market. There is competition and only a few are successful. It's no different to the Windows software market or the Mac software market in this this.

  • I don't have an iPhone, but from the description and reviews, Dapple looks like a dinky little fun time-killer app. There are loads of such games, at least on other mobile platforms, and looks like on iPhone too, quite a few of them great fun, and many very cheap. Meanwhile for PC I just bought Sid Meier's Civilization III Complete on Steam for £2.99 (about $4.20) - a great edition of one of the greatest games of it's type ever. So I'd say the guy's $5 valuation is way out of whack. Dinky little

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PeeShootr (949875)
      I couldn't agree more! When you see really amazing games on the iPhone like Zen Bound for $5, how can this developer expect to get $5 for a silly color matching game? If there weren't a ton of others like this for free or $0.99 I could understand, but that is not the case! The dev needs a dose of reality and then needs to drop the price.
    • You are making the mistake of valuing something compared to something else (not unexpected from the slashdot community...very logical after all). The real value in a Steam game or an iPhone App, or a Best Buy cable, or a Brand-X Widget, is what the consumer will pay. This mistake of saying "product A costs 3x as much as product B but is only 2x as good" is the root of every Mac vs. PC argument on the planet (usually by the overly logical PC guy who can't see past his overly logical logic of why anybody wo
  • turfing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:29AM (#27132393) Homepage Journal

    I refer to my post yesterday [slashdot.org].

    Seems it's more than a day, it's a week. This is paid-for-bashing at its worst.

    Seriously:

    In a blog post I take a hard look at the first 24 days of sales data for the first game, Dapple, from Streaming Colour Studios

    You take a "hard look" at one game. And a game, to boot. You might have noticed that the "games" category is by far the largest, thus the fiercest market.

    A friend of mine is an iPhone game developer. He's got three games and four or so small apps in the app store. He's not a millionaire, but from what I hear there's a steady stream of good income. That's seven times the data points of TFA, and still I wouldn't dare to claim that as "the norm".

  • surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:32AM (#27132401) Homepage Journal

    While it's true that a few select apps are making developers rich, the reality is that most apps don't make a lot of money.

    What a surprise. Not so different from the real world, is it? Where every now and then, some idea goes big and makes someone rich, and for every one such lucky guy, there's a thousand whose ideas never work out.

    What's even the story here? "Some products sell real well, most sell average"? Why not take it further? "Bell curve distribution confirmed for the 4,000th time!"? :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KevinIsOwn (618900)

      "Some products sell real well, most sell average"? Why not take it further? "Bell curve distribution confirmed for the 4,000th time!"? :-)

      Sounds more like a power law than a gaussian. In other words, a few games are making most of the money, and then there's a lot of games making the rest of the money (long tail)

  • by garote (682822) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:40AM (#27132435) Homepage

    The important thing to take away from this writeup is the fact that, after the author gave a presentation about his game in front of a crowd, he instantly made a handful of sales.

    Anyone relying on (or griping about) their position in the App Store listings as an unfair arbiter of their sales needs to account for that simple phenomenon. There is a world outside the app store; a world that must be reached.

    Compare it to other media forms: What sells movies? The position of their name on the marquee? No. TV trailers, signage, radio spots, web ads, product tie-ins...

    What sells books? Their relative position on the shelf? Not usually. Interviews, book tours, reviews, a good name...

    Without real advertising, iPhone devs are beholden to blind chance when they post their app in the store. The only reason a handful of them have become rich is because they are/were pioneers exploring a shiny new UI and form factor. These rags-to-riches stories will fade away, and the usual approach, of advertising in and around established channels, will reassert itself.

    Also keep in mind that this is a PLATFORM, and it will move and expand, leaving obsolescence in its wake. Like any good platform game, you need to run and jump to keep up.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      The important thing to remember is this.

      If you make something people will not MAGICALLY come to your door. you have to market it. Secondly, if you are dumb and paid out a large amount of cash to have a game designed and are disappointed that you did not make all that money back instantly (first 60 days is considered instantly) then you know absolutely nothing about business.

      The guys problem is that he knows nothing about business at all. And he is looking to blame everything else for his own failure to

    • Well, there's a difference between effective marketing, and pity sales because you just gave a speech, and the wealthy (by world standards) members of the audience threw you five bucks as an attaboy.

      There is a world outside the app store

      Well, sorta. It's still all iPhone users, though, which is a world in itself.

    • by tknd (979052)

      Without real advertising, iPhone devs are beholden to blind chance when they post their app in the store.

      Wrong answer. Without a good marketing plan, even if the best ideas will fail. This is the primary reason why any sane business plan must have a marketing strategy. The basic way it works is this: you can built the best product to ever exist, but as long as it only exists in cave separated from the rest of the world, it will never sell.

      Want to learn more? Take a marketing class. And for the record, advertising is just a small portion of marketing activities.

  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @06:41AM (#27132449) Homepage Journal

    Wow, a color matching game. How incredibly groundbreaking. And it's only selling for five times the minimum application price. Sorry, but the value isn't there for a game of this simplicity. I've got two games under development, both immensely more complex than this, that I will sell for at most half the price.

    So my appraisal:
    1) Clone of a clone of a clone of the color matching / bubble popping games that can be written in less than a week. No surprise people aren't jumping up and down with excitement, or going out and buying iPhones so they can play this game.

    2) Price is way, way too high for this game.

    I do thank the author for his concise summary of sales though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by N1AK (864906)

      Wow, a color matching game. How incredibly groundbreaking. And it's only selling for five times the minimum application price. Sorry, but the value isn't there for a game of this simplicity. I've got two games under development, both immensely more complex than this, that I will sell for at most half the price.

      Although I wish you good luck with your two games, I don't think so directly correlating complexity and success is wise. Plenty of junk applications sell very well, and I'd argue that was more about p

      • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

        by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @08:28AM (#27133005)

        The more complex the app, the more time and money it takes to bring it to market; which means the more money you need to make to break even, let alone start to make a profit. This is always going to tempt you to overvalue your app and turn potential buyers away because it's too expensive; which in turn adds to your woes. By comparison a simple, novel app which is quick to develop can turn a profit much quicker, at a cheaper price tag, which may bring in additional casual buyers.

        All creative people have the problem of being too close to the subject to see it the way others do. If you've had the idea for something, spend weeks mulling over the details, working out how to bring it to life, then months of hard work actually turning it into something you have an emotional attachment to it. People who come across the final product don't have that attachment; all they have is another product on a shelf trying to attract their wallets. What you may see as novel, buyers may see as yet another clone with the twist so subtle that they don't see it, to don't give it a try to get a chance to see it. What you may find fun and addictive may bore people because it lacks something you can't see because you're too attached to it. Others can have a quick game of something and dismiss it as "meh", while you spent months of work on it. This is something all creative people have to accept as just part of the job. One man's trash is another man's treasure. You have to hook people REALLY fast to get them to stay with your product long enough to even start to appreciate it. If the screenshots look like a clone of an old idea with the twist not explained in a way that grabs them it'll often be skipped over.....specially if you charge too much for it.

        I wonder how many developers only plan on making one game and sticking their entire career on it. The music and movie industry seem hell bent on legalizing that model with extensions to copyright laws. I'd imagine that most developers would release a game, then start working on another; unless their creativity does not match their coding abilities and they only have one good idea in them and have just released it....and wondering why the masses ain't bringing down the App Store servers with sales requests. I'd imagine (like any other creative career) that it's a cumulative sales of many titles which makes their living. Games you made 3 years ago may still sell a few copies a month in addition to the 3 or 4 others released since. Does an author stop getting paid royalties on a book after they release a new book? Of course not, it may not be a best seller but they still get paid for each sale.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dunkelfalke (91624)

      i don't know about iphone, but such a game comes free with windows mobile :-b

  • The original article is slashdotted. Here's a cached copy [74.125.47.132].

  • The RA doesn't seem to be accessible.
  • Here's a thought: most iPhone/iPodTouch apps are too cheap. How much performance do buyers seriously expect for a buck? and do developers really expect someone to pay even a buck for such lousy performance?

    A recent /. story addressed the "killer app" BulletFlight. Currently it is selling for $11.99 - rather high, relatively speaking, for an iPhone app. The author is planning to raise the price into the hundreds of dollars, reflecting both the price of equivalent top-grade PC applications, the standard price

  • The apple store is a great example of the free market at work.

    The daily whines here at slashdot don't change that.

    Fierce competition is the sign of a WORKING market, not one that's broken.

    Compare the 30% cut you give apple to the 80% cut you'll give a distributor and store in the real world.

    I have yet to see a single useful app developed for the "open" G1 that isn't available on the iPhone because some API's are "closed".

    • by _Swank (118097)

      CallerID by WhitePages? [whitepages.com]
      StreamFurious [streamfurious.com] or any number of other streaming programs that can run *in the background*?

    • The apple store is a great example of the free market at work.

      The Apple Store is not a free market... it's Apple's Market. It more closely resembles a centrally planned oligopoly.

      A closer approximation to a "free" market in handheld mobile sales would be Windows Mobile/Symbian/Palm, where ISVs can and do sell their applications at whatever price point they want through as many multiple channels as they want. They have been doing this for over a decade now, with very mixed results. Many sales come through si

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @10:00AM (#27133915)

    Not sure why this is a shocker to anyone, lets look at the list:

    1. Some random guy sees iPhone mania on TV.
    2. Pays some developers to write a game to jump on the bandwagon.
    3. No research is done to see what market segment he should target, no need, iPhone apps are selling like wildfire, just make something and throw it up there!
    4. Person fails to noticing that the wagon has been full for months.
    5. ???
    6. App fails to sell because it isn't special in any way. Competes with several free apps that are arguably more thoughtful.
    7. Guy spamvertises his app on slashdot in an attempt to get picked up and get more sales and cries about his lost money.
    8. Slashdot points out, rather quickly I might add, that he's an idiot.

    If you notice, the one thing thats missing from that list when compared to your typical slashdot list is the 'Profit!' line.

  • Everyone is familiar with the story of the iPhone developer who spends two weeks of spare time making a game that goes on to make them hundreds of thousands of dollars

    What? Say again? I'm definitely not familiar with that (or with any "get rich fast" story you might hear somewhere)

  • Great post by Jeff Tunnel: Hey Whiners, the iPhone Market Owes You Nothing [makeitbigingames.com]
  • One, Learn Origami with Origami Mastery, has done OK, staying stable at about 30 copies a day for the first two weeks, then dropping down to about 5-10 per day, many on foreign sites. This was my first app, and so I had no expectations. I was disappointed it didn't sell a billion copies, but I didn't really expect it to, as it had lots of competition. I sell it for 99cents here: http://www.origamimastery.com/ [origamimastery.com] However, the second app really disappointed me. I thought I had a eureka moment, because while
  • what can i do for this guy? Even now i cant have a look at his game. Would he have programmed for a mobile platform (symbian, palm, j2me/midp) with a large userbase, i could have a look at it. Sadly apple decided to have no java. Somebody who invests $32000 into something that limited in scope should be very sure about what he is doing.

  • by afabbro (33948) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @11:53AM (#27135733) Homepage

    The biggest lesson learned in all of this is to not spend $32,000 developing an iPhone game.

    Dapple took me about 6 months to make and had a budget of roughly $32,000 USD. That budget includes: paying my contractors, business expenses incurred during the 6 months of development, and paying myself a very small salary (akin to what I made as a junior front-end programmer when I first started in the industry).

    That's nuts. What did he think - he's launching an entire business around an iPhone color-matching game??? What is this "paying myself a small salary" nonsense? What "business expenses"?

    For this sort of thing, you do most of the dev work yourself or you partner with someone. You keep your day job and the only "business expenses" you should have are a domain somewhere.

    His costs are insane for this kind of project. They should be a tenth of what he incurred. Even at that, he'd have to sell 1,000 units or so to break even. And saying "to break even" speaks volumes about his business naivete. It's not about breaking even. You could have taken that $32,000, put it in the bank at 5%, and made $800 in six months. Instead, you made less than that and now you don't have the $32,000 any more.. He's not comparing opportunity costs.

    Honestly, I would not invest much hard money in such a venture - perhaps if I was doing iPhone dev during the day, I'd work on something on the side at night, or if I had a friend/partner who wanted to team up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mmandt (1441661)
      My Dad taught me as a youngster: "If you can say you learned something, then you came out ahead."

      This guy took $32,000, built a product, launched it, and marketed it. He probably learned as much from this as he would in some class room. Not only did he learn something, but he is sharing what he learned. Its not easy to announce to the world that you were clueless, chased some hype, and took a bit of a beating.

      Sticking $32,000 in the bank is a shameful alternative to growing some balls and jumping out int

    • by NickDngr (561211) *

      You could have taken that $32,000, put it in the bank at 5%, and made $800 in six months. Instead, you made less than that and now you don't have the $32,000 any more.. He's not comparing opportunity costs.

      What bank do you go to that is paying 5% right now?

      • by Acer500 (846698)
        He could have bought gold (which would have been far better than 5%).

        Treasury bonds, which are supposedly safe investments, give a reasonable interest rate in US dollars if I understand correctly (I probably don't, I never had 32.000 dollars in my life :P )
    • by yabos (719499) on Tuesday March 10, 2009 @02:12PM (#27138053)
      A lot of iPhone devs are charging $120+/hr for development. He says he did contract some work out but he is a programmer so it's hard to say whether this was the huge cost or not. Even still this game at least looks really really simple to make on the face of it. If you had the artwork done already you could put this together in a matter of a few weeks if you focused on it and don't just do it in your spare time.

      I do wonder if this guy even knew Objective-C before starting this project. If he spent 6 months full time on this I could see that possibly he was first learning Objective-C and then working on the application. If he spent 6 months full time on this without any day job to get in the way I have to wonder what the hell he was doing all day long.

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