How Much Do iOS Gaming App Developers Make, And Which Apps Earn The Most?

Mobile Marketing Article
20 mins

Roughly 1,000 new apps appear in the Apple App Store every single day. By July 2016 the overall tally was over 2 million, and at the current rate of growth we can expect to see the 3 million mark surpassed before 2020. Gaming apps represent 22% of this vast market, and if the runaway success of the recently launched augmented reality hit Pokémon Go is anything to go by, that share looks likely to climb.


Source: Think Gaming, July 2016. Data for US. iPhone

What’s the deal for iOS developers?

There’s a lot of money in apps. Across all platforms, the running estimate for global revenue from app and in-app purchases is around the $46 billion mark. As one of the best-performing mobile platforms, iOS promises appealing rewards for talented developers.

Apple’s deal with app developers works on the basis of a 70/30 revenue split, covering both the purchase of the app itself and any in-app purchases made by its users. After Apple takes its 30%, the rest goes to the developer, pre-tax.

The highest earning gaming apps in the Apple App Store (United States)

Figures show average daily earnings in USD

  1. Pokemon Go – $1,635,048 (in second week!)
    The first augmented reality game to make the world go crazy! Already at the top spot in the US and being gradually rolled out across the world, we expect much bigger numbers from this one very soon! Revenue comes from in-app purchases and the level of virality and growth of this games is beyond anything we have ever seen before.
  2. Mobile Strike – $1,271,560
    At #2 on our list we have Mobile Strike, another free-to-play MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) with one heck of a celebrity endorsement from The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The aim of the game is to build up your forces, complete challenges and generally obliterate the opposition. Much like GoW, Mobile Strike has its own in-game currency, which players can earn by completing challenges – or by making in-app payments of real-life cash.
  3. Game of War – Fire Age – $865,409
    Game of War – Fire Age is the biggest earning game in the App Store right now, and its exceptional revenue is almost exclusively down to in-app purchases. GoW is a strategy game in the mould of Age of Empires and Command & Conquer. The game’s millions of players converge online to forge alliances, interact with each other via a chat interface, and, of course, do battle. And all of this for free?Not necessarily. Whilst the GoW app is free to download, players who wish to compete with the best must spend real money on virtual gold – the currency used to purchase new units, upgrades and so on. According to research from Slice International, the average spend on Game of War purchases per paying player over 2015 was a jaw-dropping $550.
  4. Candy Crush Saga – $442,296
    Finally, here’s something a little different. You’ve probably been receiving pesky Candy Crush Saga notifications on your Facebook account for about four years now (or maybe you’re a player!) CCS is a classic puzzle game in the tradition of Tetris, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (anyone?) and Bejeweled. Yet again, this game is free to download – the earnings all come from purchases of ‘special candies’, which give the player a better chance of completing Candy Crush Saga’s increasingly infuriating puzzles.
  5. Clash of Clans – $321,783
    You’ve guessed it – it’s another strategy based MMO, and once again, the revenue all stems from in-app resource purchases. Clash of Clans essentially set the blueprint for this model when it launched back in 2012.

In-app purchases and the broader premium trend

By this point you will probably have picked up on a trend: in-app purchases generally bring in greater financial reward for the developer than price tags attached to the app as a whole.

The formula is simple and highly effective: attract players to download the game for free from the app store; give them a sufficiently full-bodied experience to get them hooked; then encourage them to make in-game purchases, in order to be competitive with other devoted players. It seems that developers can extract far more value from their customers gradually than they ever could through the box price of an old school video game.

This lesson is transferable to other mediums. For example, tuition apps can provide a basic free service with the added option of paid-for, premium lessons. By giving away a desirable product that can become a part of the recipient’s life, the marketer can put themselves in a uniquely powerful position to sell. It’s official: differed gratification is leading the way in the mobile gaming app industry.

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