Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Amazon App Store: One Developer's Sad Story

Pocket Caster, now a poster child for how success can be unsuccessful.
Amazon has been pushing its Android app store, and getting a lot of developers to sign up. It sounds like an opportunity to stand out in a crowded market, especially if Amazon offers to make your app one of its Free App of The Day picks. This is what happened to Shifty Jelly with their Pocket Caster app, a utility for handling podcasts. Sure, they knew that they wouldn't make any money from the app that day, but it seemed logical to assume that the extra exposure would result in some added sales. Right?

Here's what their week looked like:

The number of orders looks great, and so do the earnings... but the sales are what counts.
So their sales went from 20 to over 100,000... but they actually made less money. OK, sure, they knew that... but you'd think the sales would jump after all the exposure, wouldn't you? No such luck. They got a little blip in sales, but in a couple of days the sales were back to the level before the promo. No effect, basically, except for the 300 or so emails every day they were getting that they had to answer.

Developers are desperate for their apps to get noticed, but this sort of promo is obviously helping Amazon but not the developer. At least they didn't spend money on this, like so many other app discovery mechanisms that are out there. You can easily drop thousands of dollars to get your app "discovered", and most of the time you'll not see that returned. I saw one ad for a service where they boasted that you could buy a spot on their ad network and get lots of clicks, usually for $1 or less... sometimes as low as 45 cents! News flash: If your app sells for 99 cents, and you only get 70 cents of that, this sort of campaign is not a good idea.

The sneaky part here is that Amazon is introducing its own Android tablet at some point, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Amazon only had the Amazon App Store on that tablet, which means only apps that had signed up for Amazon's terms would be there. So Amazon has a huge reason to want to give away your apps, because it pushes sales of their devices... or will be soon.

This all just points back to the fact that you have to have a realistic projection of the number of app sales you can achieve, and the revenue, before you spend a dime on development. The coding isn't the hard part; making money on the coding is. You really need to figure that part out and factor that into your budget. You don't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars developing an app to make a few thousand dollars. And the business is only getting tougher...

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