Android Application Sales
When thinking about developing an app for Android one of the things I tried to find was some idea of what I could expect in sales. Not many developers were publishing how much they made, and the ones that did were putting out high-end games.
I tried to gauge expected sales by looking at the "downloads" graphs of apps similar to mine. As such I ended up giving myself a conservative estimate of a couple downloads per day. I was hoping to earn enough to buy a laptop. As you'll see for the first six months I was way off. Things did get better for awhile and I've learned a lot of lessons.
So, I decided to publish the sales figures for my app, Math Defense, to help out any young, aspiring developers. Or to crush their dreams. I've heard it both ways.
Math Defense - Addition
The free version of my game (which is limited to Addition facts) was released on Google Play on November 27th, 2011 and on the Amazon Appstore on January 8th. The Amazon downloads really started to pick up after it got approved for the Kindle Fire. Since this is a free, no-ad version I make no money off this version.
Another mediocre quarter for the free version, but since I don't make any money of this version it doesn't affect me much.. I don't seem to have any problem moving the free version, it is getting actual sales that is the problem....sometimes.
Math Defense - Full Version
The full version of Math Defense was released on Google Play on November 12th, 2011 and on the Amazon Appstore on December 22, 2011. Sales were very erratic on Google Play (until recently) and were almost non-existant on the Amazon Appstore until the app was approved for the Kindle Fire in March. The full version was released on the Fuhu store in June and sales have been quite poor overall. I was hoping that the release of the new NABI 2 tablet would have improved things, but I guess that was wishful thinking. Math Defense was released on the NOOK store on June 18th and sales were great for awhile and now are mostly non-existant.
I have been able to take part in free app marketing in July and December on the NOOK store and in October and November on Amazon. I really wish I could get some Google Play marketing. Their sales were very consistant (until the last quarter), but their numbers look bad in comparison with the quarters with promotional months from Amazon and NOOK. Amazon is consistantly where I get the most sales. I've had better quarters all around though.
- November 2011 - Math Defense released on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore
- March 2012 - Math Defense is Kindle Fire approved
- July 2012
- Took part in the Barnes and Noble "Back to School" marketing blitz
- Added a promotional video on Google Play
- Added Amazon Game Services (global highscores) to the Amazon version
- October/November 2012 - Registered for free marketing of my app through Amazon. Was accepted and the app was promoted for 7 days at the end of October and beginning of November.
- December 2012 - Took part in a small holiday promotion on Barnes and Noble
- October 2013 - Accepted into Google Play for Education
Free Download to Full Version Sale Rate
Is it worth having a free or trial version? Here is the conversion rate from free download to actual purchases. As you'll see Amazon generally does a lot better than Google at this. Amazon's customers are, in general, more likely to buy the app after downloading the free version, but Google has had it's good months too. Amazon's great rate in the fourth quarter of 2012 was proabably due to the fact that the promotion that I took part in was only for the full version.
My thoughts on each store
Sales on Amazon were pretty terrible until my app got approved for the Kindle Fire. They have a solid market there with those devices and their customers are not afraid to purchase apps (like so many Google Play users are). They offer free marketing for your app (if you request it and are accepted) which can be very, very helpful. Amazon has sold 2 copies of Math Defense for every 1 copy that Google has sold. Partly because they don't only promote top developers.
- Publishing is free. I think they say the cost is $100/year, but they waive the price for everyone that signs up. I'm into my second year and have never been charged a penny.
- They have a strict app approval process. This might sound bad, but it helped me find a couple of bugs in my app that didn't show up on my test devices. Unfortunately, this process can take a week or two if your app doesn't get approved right away.
- Their sales reports are well done and give you easy access to all the information most people want.
- You don't get paid for your sales until 25-30 days after the month's end.
- Free app marketing is available, if you can find it.
- $10 minimum payout.
- After getting Kindle Fire approved my free-to-pay conversion ratio has never dropped below 10%.
I didn't get a single sale from AppsLib in four months. Combine that with the fact that they have the worst sales agreement for any of the app stores that I have tried and you get a total waste of time for a small developer. They keep the first $50 of sales from your app (that's per app) in addition to the 30% cut that all the stores take. That can essentially be considered a $50 publishing fee for every app you publish. I removed my app from this store after 4 months. No regrets.
Barnes and Noble
I have a love/hate relationship with Barnes and Noble. Their developer portal can be a frustrating experience. App sales are very inconsistent; long dry spells with no sales followed by spurts of activity. Getting setup with a developer account and publishing your app can be a long and tedious process. That being said, you have to get your app on Barnes and Noble. They have offered this small developer two opportunities for free marketing and they have sold more in one month than the Google Play store sold in it's first 13 months! They are almost keeping up with Amazon in total sales even though Amazon had a five month head start! I feel like B&N is the one store out there that really goes out of its way to help out the indie developer.
- Publishing is free.
- They contact you with free app-marketing opportunites.
- Their sales reports are effective, but not great.
- You don't get paid until 30-35 days after the month's end.
- $10 minimum payout.
- They have recently added Google Play to their HD devices. Since then sales have been poor and the future of the B&N store is uncertain.
Fuhu are the makers of the semi-popular Nabi line of tablets for kids. Sales have been consistently poor and I had hopes that the release of the Nabi 2 would help, but this doesn't look to be the case. Also, their developer portal has quite a bit of downtime.
- Publishing is free.
- They pay using PayPal instead of direct deposit. This can be good or bad, depending on your thoughts on PayPal.
- They pay quarterly and they don't pay until 60 days after the quarter has ended. This kinda stinks.
- Finding information about anything relating to publishing is next to impossible.
Google play started out very slow, accumulating under 50 sales in the first seven months. Then it started to pick up in July of 2012 and it had remained somewhat consistent at about a sale per day after that. Recently sales have been slowing down again. Coincidentally, July also happened to be the month when I uploaded my first promotional video to Google Play and I think that is probably what helped increase sales. People like to see what they are getting before they buy (or even before they download the free version).
- It costs a one-time fee of $25 to publish unlimited apps on Google Play.
- Their sales reports are usable and attractive.
- They pay promptly. You get paid for a month 15 days after it has ended.
- $5 minimum payout.
- There is no real app approval process. If you submit it, it will likely get published.
If there is one thing you can take away from these numbers it is that marketing really helps (Q3/Q4 2012 for B&N, Q4 2012 for Amazon). And an app store that will promote its developers apps instead of only promoting the top tier apps is extremely helpful for the little guy (that'd be me). A big thanks to Barnes and Noble and Amazon!