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How Broken Is App Discovery, And What Are Some Repairs Underway?

An 8-item QnA about the reality of the app discovery ecosystem, lots of telling statistics, and some useful resources moving forward.

Xiaoxu Ma is founder of the YTTRO: Free Game App Discovery effort.

Q: How is the global mobile app marketplace doing on the whole?
A: Pretty well.  

  • The global mobile app marketplace will reach $25 billion this year (Markets and Markets).
  • Collectively, by 2017, developers will have made over $77 billion from 268 billion downloads altogether. (

Q: How many apps are there? 
A: A lot.

  • On the App Store and the Play Store alone, over 3.1 million apps (Statista).
  • Taking into account all the other app stores, over 4 million (Statista). 
  • Those numbers are growing.

Q: So any independent app has a pretty small chance of making it big?
A: Smaller than you would have thought.

  • Of the small number of chart-toppers, most belong to titans who cement their positions in the charts with their size and marketing power. (Polygon)
  • Here's a sample of the kinds of growth they experience. (YTTRO

Q: Wow. How much do these chart-toppers make? 

A: A lot.

  • The top 3% of developers cash in over 100k a month. (Vision Mobile)
  • That's more than 20,000% of what the bottom 57% collectively earn. (Vision Mobile)
  • The top 20% of the app stores rake in 80% of the revenue. (Newzoo).
  • That means the remaining 80% of the app stores fight over the remaining 20% of revenue.

Q: What?! What does the revenue ratio look like between a top developer and an average indie developer?
A: Not so good.

  • A top app can earn an astounding 40,000% of what an indie developer earns (GigaOm).
  • (And produce over 1800% (Fierce Developer) of what the indie developer produces.)

Q: Hold up- what does an independent developer earn? 










A: Well, it varies. 

  • More than half of developers make less than $500/month. (GigaOm)
  • 68% majority of developers make less than $5000 over the entire lifetime of their most successful app. (App-Promo).
  • The average development cost of an indie mobile app: approximately  6500. (TechCrunch).
  • How high marketing costs can go: 30,000 (almost 500% of development costs). 
  • Even if you are spending 30,000 on marketing (that's several thousand a month), the titans are spending over 15,000 times more.  (VentureBeat)
  • Assuming you spend the above amounts (nearly 40,000) on developing and marketing your app, the majority of indie developers not only don't reap earnings, but also lose up to 82% of their expenditure. 

Q: Wow. Are there any independent developers at all in the top 20% of apps? 
A: Yes, but less than half.

  • If we exclude the top 'titan' earners from the 20% minority, only 8% of independent developers have generated sufficient revenue to run a stand-alone business. (App Promo)

Q: Shouldn't all indie devs just throw in the towel and join titan companies like Glu or Gameloft?
A: Not quite yet. There’s still hope. App discovery may be broken, but the tech ecosystem deserves credit for attempting repairs. Check out a few that are headed in the right direction.

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