Rick Strom, an iPhone developer with three apps on the Top 100 chart for games, is calling shenanigans on the iPhone app market. He claims that these games aren't performing as well as Apple's hype would have you believe. His apps place at:
Social Networking - #34 - Zen Jar Social (paid) -- #59 at time of writing.
Board Games - #36 - Spirit Board #36 (free) -- #57 at time of writing.
Board Games - #95 - Spirit Board Pro (paid) -- Out of Top 100 at time of writing.
Now, first, let me go ahead and halt the track to explain something here. Rick's apps appear on the genre specific lists of "Board Games" and "Social Networking". He is not ranking on the overall list for all apps. While I don't think Rick's specific examples have much merit it is interesting to find out how many downloads equate to #36 on a genre chart:
"In order 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. And social networking is a popular category."
Not so fast, Rick. Yes, social networking is a popular category, but one dominated by free applications for established social networking services. Rick's app is interesting, but I'm not sure how many people are shelling out money for indie social apps. In fact, the first paid app to chart is Tweetie, an exceptional Twitter client, at # 23.
I'm also guessing there's quite a divide between the amount of downloads for an app at the top of the charts to those down in the ranks. I think for an app to truly pop, it has to make it to the front page of the App Store. Rick is reaching a bit in his point based on his applications, which haven't really garnered any real following.
However, Rick does bring up an excellent point in the way the app market has been judged:
"As software entrepreneurs, we fail to do this time and time again. We measure the market by its huge successes. This would be the equivalent of opening a coffee house after looking at Starbucks’ quarterly report, and assuming that Joe’s Coffee and Cake is going to quickly rise to the level of a multinational corporation. Rational small business people, unless they have the resources to begin with, don’t try to compete with huge, entrenched corporations. Nor do they assume that their success will be on the same level. Joe will look at Sue to get an idea about what his business might do."
I agree that the market is inflated with many believing that any app will sell and make thousands. It still requires a quality product to perform on the app store. Sometimes people get lucky (fart apps), but a vast majority of applications will never make a significant amount of money.
This is the reason why developers like Chris Taylor (Supreme Commander) is hesitant to enter the iPhone market with the full resources of his company, Gas Powered Games. The amount of money that a full company would put into an app probably wouldn't make its money back. Maybe iPhone development is better left to indie devs that code in their spare time?
Do you think the market is inflated? How many apps have you purchased? I've snagged around 40 so far.