Most App Revenue Goes to Only 25 Developers

Apple makes a big deal about how much money it sends to app developers, more than the GDP of many countries, but it turns out that more than half of the money goes to only 25 developers. More interesting is that nearly all of the top 25 are game developers.

Canalys released the report and The Register found some interesting tidbits. Like:

All but one of those top 25 earners were game developers, including Disney, Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Glu, Kabam, Rovio, Storm8, and Zynga, among others.

Exception—Pandora—they are the only developer in the top 25 who isn’t making games. What’s the secret to this domination of the app world? Franchises, tie-ins, and deep, deep catalogues:

For example, Rovio currently markets eight different variants of its Angry Birds franchise through the Google Play store, in addition to spinoffs such as Bad Piggies. Electronic Arts, on the other hand, publishes some 962 games for iOS, either under its own brand or those of its subsidiaries.

This can be frustrating for small, indie shops who make great apps, but have a hard time rising to the top. As The Register and Canalys point out, app discovery in the App store is still rather bad. If you’re looking for the right app for anything, it’s hard to find the the most recently updated, best-rated app in a category. Lots of chaff, not much wheat.

Given the huge volume of apps available in both major app stores, developers who don’t already have a strong brand presence will find it increasingly difficult to crack the market, the company says, citing discoverability as a particular problem.

The solution isn’t an easy one. I’d say “hey pitch us on your app!” directly to me (tris [at] or through our tip line and we’ll cover it, but the reality is, as much as we’d like to cover every app we think is interesting (or even awesome), we can’t. There just isn’t time in the day to do it. Heck, still pitch us, we just can’t say 100% “oh yeah we’ll write about your app…”.

Apple acquired Chomp to improve discoverability in the App Store, but I don’t think we’ve really seen the fruits of that yet (even in iTunes 11). What do you think? How can small app developers get a bigger slice of the pie?

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Categories: App Store, Games

  • Jeremy Taco Patterson

    Sure they can.

    Develop the app/game, then sell it to Rovio/EA/BooYah, etc.


    • ios Lifer

      Good one!

      • Jeremy Taco Patterson

        I am 100% serious. I’ve had PLENTY of Apps to refer to as personal experience. Almost EVERY game I’ve ever enjoyed started out being developed by a smaller, independent Dev but ultimately are snapped up by one of the Big 25.

        It’s happened to me personally no less than 4-5 times.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    they can’t. marc

  • Luciana

    Short answer: no. As a friend of mine says. It’s easy to develop for iOS, but it’s very hard to be like rovio.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass


    small app developers “aren’t such a real thing”. research, developing and market the mobile app require financial strength(pre-requisite, plenty of money to start with) & reasons why large corporations (aol, cnn, microsoft, even apple) place free apps in the app store for iphone users, is in fact for branding purpose and branding awareness, (see WPP group, millward brown , MBPrecis today kantar media to get a sound knowledge of the discipline). it is not to create income and profit. (mobile apps are mostly to be considered as a spot to place a iAD banner and interactive advertising to generate revenues in the same way websites such as portals do. You can even think it as a tv screen paying for entertainment programs through advertising collection). there is no market for mobile apps and games are exceptions for developers are targeting KIDS & sometime grown up kids in the same way they do with selling a console game which has a value for kids but no value for adults or real adults rather. (no adult is ready to pay for a game, adults have not time to waste , no time for entertainment and each minute of the life instead is actually a good opportunity to create income, revenue, profit or even valuable connections (pr) for then generate profit through leads and accounting clients. we can argue however on how to identify adults in TODAY’s world for many over 18 YO individuals actually never become adults and stay kids age, wasting time, for their entire life. a basic, fundamental principle for HR evaluation and it is the very reason why real adults can hardly get a job, after all most job positions are a “waste of time” READ: the money in the pay-slip isn’t really worth it the commitment) this is also particularly true in the capitalist world where there is no need to get a job for food and a roof above the head. (be aware capitalist countries are actually becoming fewer and fewer for they are not good business for the roman-catholic church surviving when ignorant buy the crap they sell)