Three years in, Apple’s iOS App Store is getting a bit crowded. At 500,000 apps for sale, the task of standing out as a developer is intimidating, and for users, browsing for new downloads can be overwhelming. Apple has done some curation, like creating lists, to help ameliorate the issue. But it could do much more, by creating separate stores based on categories where people can go to find specific content, and perhaps establishing new pricing models to go with it.
For certain topics, Apple already is embracing curation around themes: Newsstand, which creates a separate place to buy digital newspapers and magazines, with a digital “shelf” for storing them. Right out of the gate it has been a success: Conde Nast reported last week that since Newsstand’s debut, its digital magazine sales through the store rose 268 percent, and across all nine of its titles, it saw their single issue sales jump 142 percent.
That’s being attributed to a number of factors. You don’t have to search the whole iOS App Store for magazine or newspaper apps anymore. Instead, with a click inside the Newsstand app, they’re available in a separate category within the App Store. You can browse by the latest issues in the same way you might on a physical newsstand, as well as by the most popular paid and free titles.
There’s another key: You can subscribe within Newsstand. By using a subscription payment model as an option, publishers make more money with ongoing sales, rather than just single sales of newspaper editions or magazine titles. And it means new issues show up automatically on a shelf, so subscribers are often prompted to read when they pop up. If people read more, they’re more actively engaged in the product. In other words, this is a boon to the publisher and the customer.
So it makes sense for Apple to think about expanding this model to other departments within the App Store. On Wednesday, Appsfire made a solidly argued plea for Apple to essentially do the same thing, but for games:
Apple would make a great service to the developers’ community but also to gamers, if, like music, movies, books, they created a separate store with its own sub categories, allowing other verticals to surface for and get really discovered.
Games have their own nervous center (the Game center), their key monetization path (in app, which is mostly used by games), its own user base and ecosystem (from developers, to app networks like openfeint or scoreloop). Games are a separate vertical and should be treated in a separate store.
Games are a huge part of the App Store, and people are spending a lot of money on them, often at the expense of traditional portable gaming platforms. Apple has demonstrated it wants to be known as a place you go for games. It’s pushed the iPod touch as a gaming device through ad campaigns, and at press events for new iOS software Apple invariably brings up on stage the big traditional console gaming publishers like EA, Capcom and Ubisoft to drive the point home that iOS is a legitimate gaming platform.
So why not take it a step further and give games their own store? Better yet, add it to Game Center, a place where you can already play games in multiplayer mode with friends and keep track of your achievements. There’s a button within the app that gives you a list of “recommended games” based on what your Game Center friends have played, and if you want to buy one, it will route you to the usual App Store interface to do so. But you still can’t search for specific games or browse top titles within Game Center. But adding the in-store option you could sign in once, browse games friends are playing, buy new games, and compare achievements and high scores in once place: it could be like a full-on arcade experience, right on an iOS device.
It’s not just games and digital publications where Apple could do more curation and test new payment options. In addition to a Newsstand or an online arcade, Apple could do the same thing in TV.
There’s been a lot of talk about Apple working on a television recently — beyond the set-top box Apple TV — after Steve Jobs told his biographer that he “cracked” the problem of creating a new TV. And what would that look like? John Gruber at Daring Fireball thinks if Apple does do a TV it’ll be by curating all TV apps into a single store, essentially with each app being a channel of video, sort of like each app in Newsstand being a different title, like New York Times or Vogue.
That’s basically how TV will work in the future, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said earlier this year:
“In the next 10 to 20 years, almost all video will become click-and-watch Internet video and consumers will interact with it on a wider range of devices and it will able be on demand,” he predicted. “You will not tune into a certain channel this is broadcasting — and that is the radical change. It will be an on-demand world.”
So it makes sense for Apple, with their integrated software and hardware advantage, and ability to make things simple for consumers to use and understand, to be the one that brings this model to the mainstream.
Apple’s been willing to take risks with other entrenched models of distribution, as with newspapers and magazines. Games and TV are two great categories to tackle next.