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back to article Merry Christmas? Not for app devs: That gold rush is officially OVER

This Christmas was nothing but bad news for developers hoping to cash in on fast-selling tablets, if download and activation stats from the festive season are to be believed. Retailers and manufacturers have yet to say how many devices they unloaded on touch-happy seasonal shoppers, but app authors should be worried. A record …

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Anonymous Coward

I hate

Any app that comes with 'in app' purchases, has dubious permissions or is ad supported.

Maybe developers should think again.

The public are getting wiser.

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Happy

Re: I hate

I had a surprise yesterday when I installed a Unicode Map app on my android phone...

When it prompted the app permissions it said the app required no special permissions.

Now that's one developer who's got the concept of what permissions are!

Also it's been the only one that's actually asked for none.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate

Maybe developers should work for free? Seriously bet you hate paying for apps too - so you actually want free apps, with no in app purchases and no ads.

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FAIL

Re: I hate

I hate putting in weeks of work off my own back for no return. I also hate people who think they're entitled to free apps, especially since most gamers think nothing of handing over £60+ for the latest sequel with better graphics of whatever it is they've been playing for the last five years.

I don't like the fact that I have to put ads in my games, but with a conversion rate of less than 1% free trial to paid, mobile gamers have only themselves to blame.

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Re: I hate

Sadly the public AREN'T getting wiser. Look at the top grossing list on the app store:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/collection/topgrossing

There are a few pay apps and a few apps which are front end to subscription services, but the majority of those apps & games are "free". So how do they make so much money?

Because most of them are glorified skinner boxes designed to hook people into some repetitive action/reward cycle and then make it increasingly difficult to get the reward without paying. They also encourage people to buy coins or gems or studs or some other in-game currency so people disassociate the real life spending from the in game spending.

These "games" (particularly the multitude of skinned 'ville games) are quite simply a blight. Many of them are clearly targeting kids. It would be great if people were getting wise but clearly they are not. I doubt Google or Apple gives two hoots either since they get a 30% cut.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate

"Maybe developers should work for free? Seriously bet you hate paying for apps too - so you actually want free apps, with no in app purchases and no ads."

ERR, Yes! Stupid question!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate

"These "games" (particularly the multitude of skinned 'ville games) are quite simply a blight. Many of them are clearly targeting kids. It would be great if people were getting wise but clearly they are not. I doubt Google or Apple gives two hoots either since they get a 30% cut."

You blood sucking programmers and providers (Apple/Google) can't be trusted, is what I read from that statement!

Nothing new there. Capitalists are not known for doing the right thing now are they?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate

I was being sarcastic - you missed it.

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Re: I hate

RyokuMas - not a personal attack here but what makes you think your work is actually worth any money?

I'd guess you are like many other app developers reinventing the sledge to drag behind the missus. It may be new to you and you may have worked hard at it but that doesn't give you a right to a living for it.

You put adds in your games you are going to put of 99% of your potential clients as if the adverts are any good they will distract from your work and give the user a fucking awful experience which is one reason they dont upgrade. And with millions of free games out there you only have yourself to blame.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate

Seriously?

You're going to compare a $60 dollar game that took an entire team of people probably man-years to create, market, press into DVDs (or not) and distribute against an "App" which amounts to not much more than a glorified, customized browser (typically written by one person) that mostly just uses webservices against OTHER company's servers that don't get compensated other than via their ads?

And you want to charge what amounts to a significant ratio of what a $60 game costs?

Give me a freakin' break.

You're probably just upset that your gravy-train is coming to an end and relatively quickly from the looks of it.

Disclosure: I don't own a smart (sic) phone and probably never will and have yet to download a single app for the 2 tablets that I own.

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Re: I hate

"I don't like the fact that I have to put ads in my games, but with a conversion rate of less than 1% free trial to paid, mobile gamers have only themselves to blame."

As an occasional 'app' developer with some 20+ years of independent desktop/internet software development, I view that statement as a little more than arrogant.

Don't take this too personally, but why should any developer believe they have some sort of intrinsic right to an income just because they produce unsolicited and thus speculative software for an already over-saturated market?

Sorry, but for me, your reasoning is just plain wrong.

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Happy

Re: I hate

@Tom7 - you're absolutely right.

I subscribe to the Jeff Minter school of thought, as best described in the llamatron readme file, specifically the "This is how is was"/"This is how it is" sections. I would love nothing more than to let my games be judged purely on the merit of how good they are.

However, as you rightly point out, there are millions of free games out there, which creates a race to the bottom (unless you're very lucky and create the next Angry Birds/Minecraft etc). A couple of years back, a mate and I released out first mobile games - both had no ads, and mine had a free trial (first half a dozen levels) with a paid full version, while my mate's was paid version only. Downloads of both were (and still are) pretty poor - however, my game's total downloads were more than double his. Our next wave of games were free with ads - each of these have download totals between 20 and 100 time those of the ad-free titles.

From this I draw the following conclusions:

1) Unless you're very lucky, already have a huge following, or have the marketing ability/budget to force the issue, nobody is willing to pay for anything up front.

2) If not obtrusive, most people have no problem with ads.

Additionally, discussions with other game developers have shown that 1% is a fairly standard conversion rate from free to paid versions.

I certainly don't condone plastering ads all over the show (in my games, they only show when in attract mode or paused, never during gameplay), just like I don't condone pay-to-win via IAP. But unfortunately, while I use free SDKs and development tools where I can, it's not possible to avoid software licences completely - and getting hold of test devices can be even more difficult! The money to cover these has to come from somewhere, and the current attitude of "I want everything for free" (as portrayed by both my download figures and comments along the lines of "why should I pay") have pushed me towards using ads. If it were a £60quid AAA title - or even a fiver - I'd understand. But less that a quid? You can't even get a lottery ticket for that any more!

At the end of the day, I'm still learning and trying different things, including ways of generating return from my games. Hopefully the next one will be my Angry Birds...

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Stop

Re: I hate

@AC 12:29

"You're going to compare a $60 dollar game that took an entire team of people probably man-years to create, market, press into DVDs (or not) and distribute against an "App" which amounts to not much more than a glorified, customized browser (typically written by one person) that mostly just uses webservices against OTHER company's servers that don't get compensated other than via their ads?"

No. I'm going to compare a £60 game against a game that in my case one person (me) has poured several months of the own time and effort outside their day job into, creating program code, graphics, sound effects, music and game content using various software development tools - some of which require ongoing licence fees - and testing on whatever devices I can get my hands on.

Unlike the ongoing saga of sequels with better graphics for profit that AAA titles seem to be all about these days, indie games are usually a labour of love for their creators paid for with their own time and money. Certainly a completely different ball game to your service-consuming or fart app.

As for my so-called gravy train, to date I have probably spent about ten times the money I have made on licences, devices and marketing/promotion costs. This is why I want to make a return on my work - to cover these costs and allow me to continue doing something I love.

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Pint

Re: I hate

Any app that comes with 'in app' purchases, has dubious permissions or is ad supported.

Maybe developers should think again.

The public are getting wiser.

When I update an app and it wants the new permission of Google Play Billing Service, I don't update the app.

Like a lot of people there are apps that I do not update because I don't like the new permissions.

OTOH, I pay for more and more apps now if for no other reason that I don't mind kicking in only $3 to support the developer of a quality app.

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Re: I hate

Bit surprised it didn't want to access your location, most map apps do - unless Android doesn't consider location as a permission.

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Facepalm

Re: I hate

"OTOH, I pay for more and more apps now if for no other reason that I don't mind kicking in only $3 to support the developer of a quality app."

Exactly. If it's a useful app and doesn't ask for access to the world I have no problem paying cash. The worst offenders are typically the most trivial. For my work phone (WP8) I've run across "flashlight" apps that only turn on the LED, to me that's worth a buck if I can avoid all the other junk including MS's developer crap but at least one of these still want access to things like phone and owner identity, network data, camera, microphone, data libraries, accelerometer and directional sensors. Seriously, an LED flashlight? I'll give it the motion sensor since it has a shake to activate but it's not voice activated or network activated. I'm fairly confident my data libraries aren't going to turn it on and I don't know what it plans to do with the camera. It seems like they just used everything available - but hey it's the pay version so there are no ads.

Likewise I've found some non-free RPN calculator apps that have the same requirements but some of those I can understand if they let you store or upload functions but what's with needing the mic, camera and compass on a calculator? Sorry, no sale. I wish I could search apps and sort them by permissions/requirements.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate, I am AC at 08:07

I love it when I hear the bleating of app developers who complain they can't break even unless they throw ads at you or sell your personal details on.

If the app was any good I'd pay for it, you would get my money, my appreciation and thanks for making it.

If you develop crap, expect crap in return but don't expect me to subsidise your work by having ads thrown at me or my detail sucked up and sold on.

It is especially abhorrent when in app purchases are aimed at children.

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Re: I hate

"I don't like the fact that I have to put ads in my games, but with a conversion rate of less than 1% free trial to paid, mobile gamers have only themselves to blame."

Maybe it's a reflection on the quality of your games.

Or maybe it's a result of the "race to the bottom" where devs give more and more in the free version such that most people won't "upgrade" to the paid version because there's just more of the same rather than something new ,in which case, only you devs have yourselves to blame.

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Re: I hate

Absolutely. the first thing I do is check the required permissions, if I think any of those permissions are in any way strange I don't touch the app, no matter how desirable it might seem, and pretty much any app that requires my contacts list or access to my phone calls is a no no. I impress this message on all my family and friends, so far it seems to be working.

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Re: I hate

And dont forget forced rating requests all the time... grrrr

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Joke

Windows Phone

Can we Windows phone users start to feel smug yet? Nothing to download, so no stats to worry about ;)

Seriously though, is anyone surprised by this? Seems like we've been here before.

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Re: Windows Phone

Yes, most families who may be interested already had a fondleslab and/or couple of phones, so era of mega-growth (OK, lest say kilo-growth) is over.

Incoming news about bears...

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Zot
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I wonder if this is inversely proportional to the numbers of Apps released.

Could this be the result of a flooded market, or just a Freemium aware public?

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Re: I wonder if this is inversely proportional to the numbers of Apps released.

Visit the Apps stores. It is without a doubt about a flooded market.

And crapware. Tons and tons of crapware. ...and tons...

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Anonymous Coward

The growth in raw numbers of devices is due to cheap Android phones / tablets but the reality is they are little used for more than making calls and sending texts. I know some of the older generation and they have 'smart' phones but not for their smart features - just because they look better or it's pretty much all that is available now.

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Anonymous Coward

The centralisation of the app stores make buying software like getting a product from Argos.

It's hard for any app developer to truly make their software stand out and the reviews in the stores are vastly unhelpful, with many low scores being given just because the app doesn't work on their particular device.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes it's so much better to spend more time hunting around on Google (with their bias based on who pays the most for the ads) to buy untested apps from a developer who may choose to only show favourable reviews?

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Achieved?

Market saturation that is...

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Re: Achieved?

Time to start making apps for GGoggles (or any similar product - I cant think names of any other)?

Get ready for that wave to come - just not too early, else you'll sink before the wave arrives.

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Re: Achieved?

Apps for the apparently imminent tidal wave of smart watches?

So then we can have smartwatch apps that are to telling the time what smartphone apps are to making phone calls?

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They can't double forever

Because smartphone/tablet sales are no longer doubling. Simple logic, unless devs were naive enough to think that everyone was going to greatly increase the number of apps on their devices to make up the difference. I know I have about 10x more apps on my phone than I use on a given day, and at least half of them I've probably used 3 or 4 times ever. If iOS worked like Windows and tried to "helpfully" clean up unused stuff I'd probably have at least half of them moved into some disused apps folder...

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Anonymous Coward

App Permission

I'm in the process of writing my own very simple Andorid app to provide a torch.

I went through all the Torch apps on the Google Play store and couldn't find one which didn't require one or more of the following:

Access to the phone status

Access to the network

Access to location (both coarse and fine!)

Access to social media

Access to storage

and various others.

Camera access I can understand, as you need this to access the flash, but why on earth would I want a torch app to know where on the planet I am when I turn it on, or to be able to access my non-existant social media accounts - what's it going to do? Post a tweet "Hey everyone, I just used a torch! #lightbulb"

Seriously, I'd even have paid a small amount of money to get an app that just provided a torch without all the other crap. Now I'll just do it myself.

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Re: App Permission

I went on the same journey. Droidlight wants camera and flash permissions that is all. You don't need a Motorola phone as implied in the blurb.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.motorola.dlight&rdid=com.motorola.dlight

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Anonymous Coward

Re: App Permission

Thanks - missed that one as I searched for "Torch" and that one is called "Flashlight"!

Doh!

Just what I was looking for.

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Re: App Permission

"but why on earth would I want a torch app to know where on the planet I am when I turn it on,"

<sarc>Well obviously it's to help you, the user, otherwise why would it? It's part of the educational element to teach you that you don't need a torch during daylight hours.</sarc>

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Re: App Permission

Similar journey for me, but I ended up with Nexus Flashlight, the two permissions are reasonable - take pictures (obviously because the app needs the camera for the ability to use the flash), and prevent phone from sleeping - nobody want their flashlight constantly shutting off.

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Angel

Good Torch

The Torch app that comes with CyanogenMod needs only two permissions: Hardware Controls and System Tools

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Re: App Permission

There is also Search Light. No permissions besides camera, no ads. You have to be careful to avoid some similarly named apps though (unless you get it from F-droid).

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Re: App Permission

Thank you for this pointer, unless I'm mistaken, this is the one by Scott M.

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Same old

It's no major surprise, the same happened with the internet. There was a huge bubble where everyone was creating websites, each trying to grab as much land as possible and create an audience without any real idea about how they'd make money from it. Then advertisers got onto it and the more popular sites also became the richer sites, meaning more to spend on the already popular site, and so on and so on. Meanwhile the smaller sites that failed to grab the audiences took less money and so didn't stand a chance. Now if I look at my browsing habits I must visit less than 10 sites on a regular basis, reading the news, sport, social etc.

The trend with apps is almost identical. I already only use about 5 or 6 apps and rarely download anything else, my app habits are the same as my browsing habits.

Both follow the same trend and in my opinion it's because both are limited to how they can make money, direct or indirect. Direct is obvious, customer buys app, or customer purchases within app. The indirect rout has a lot more room for innovation with advertising, marketing revenue share promotions etc but they all boil down to the same thing, incentivisation, making money when the customer spends somewhere.

I would like to be able to program as I would like to break this model up as there are other ways to make money without scamming people out of their cash with in app purchases aimed at kids, or gathering all their information and selling it on, one day I'll read my 'for dummies' book I've had for a year without opening :)

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What surprises me is that people believe continual growth forever is possible. There does obviously come a point when the people who want to have a smartphone and download your app already have done so, there are only a limited number of people living on the planet, even if you assumed they would all do it, that still points out to you that growth can not go on forever. It's a crazy concept to be shocked it does not happen or think otherwise.

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Two sentences in the article stand out to me:

"overall download numbers have crashed"

and

"The number of apps downloaded increased by just 25 per cent year on year"

For a company that supposed to be about stats those Flurry guys don't seem to have a good grasp of numbers.

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Wish I'd seen this post .... before saying pretty much the exact same thing...

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Yes, it's hard to think of any other product where at 25% year-on-year increase is a "crash"....

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So how would you describe a drop from a 90% increase to a 25% increase?

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Anonymous Coward

Growth...

...just less of it!

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Anonymous Coward

Executive pay. If they only received a 25% pay increase after receiving 90% the year before, no doubt in their mind their pay would be 'crashing' and thus make it time to prime their golden parachute...

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Re: by just 25 per cent year on year

But, but, but, they HAVE crashed!

Last year those were triple digit numbers. And all the tech polls told me real programs are dead and the only way to make money in the future will be with Apps. And those Apps installs will keep up their insane installation numbers.

/end sarc

Where's the "whiny voice" icon?

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Elephant in the room

One of the big issues not mentioned it that iOS app developers could not cash in on the Christmas rush as the app store submissions and modifications backend was closed for nearly a week. Compare that to android where developers could promote their apps and offer Christmas discounts etc. at any time.

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This must be a new meaning of the phrase of which I was previously unaware...

"overall download numbers have crashed" vs "downloads grew by just a quarter"

Since when did "crash" mean "didn't rise by as much"???

(Usual apologies to D.N.A.)

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