App Store Roundtable: The Gold Rush


Welcome to the first App Store Roundtable. The iPhone and the App Store are always hot news, and for good reason. It’s a fantastic marketplace for developers, and there’s always something exciting happening somewhere for the press to report on. But sometimes the issues faced by everyday developers working on the platform get left in the dust.

The goal of this column is to give the development community a regular outlet — and to give the rest of the world a window into our lives. We’ve recruited an army of iPhone app developers willing to share their thoughts and opinions on the state of the App Store. The participants range from part-time hobbyists and one-man band independent developers, to big developers and publishers with dozens of titles under their belt. We hope you’ll enjoy hearing from them all.

To get things started, we talked about the App Store’s initial “gold rush.” Many developers brought up the fact that a few high-profile success stories have created the impression of easy money on the iPhone. This is driving more and more apps, making it increasingly hard to stand out, but relatively little is known about how to create a sustainable business in the App Store.

The word circling the media is that the iPhone is still a place where a developer of a flatulence app can earn an instant six- to seven-figure income. In development circles, though, we all know the glory days are over. You can’t just release crap and score mint anymore. In fact, it’s tough even to release something good and get noticed. The shear volume of apps available for iPhone in such a short time is unreal.

— Mike Kasprzak, developer of Smiles

We keep hearing the gold-rush stories, and the overnight success of fart or wobbling apps, or whatever the craze is that week. What I’d like to see discussed is the viability of having a sustainable business by writing games (or apps) independently and selling them through the App Store. Is that going to be possible, or are we doomed to the results of the shareware PC market? Do we need to cast our nets further (Android, web, desktop), or can developers carve a niche in the App Store and make a (good) living out of it?

— Noel Llopis of Snappy Touch, developer of Flower Garden

iTunes is to the music industry what the App Store is to iPhone software. If you’re not a Top 20 musician, you do not expect people to learn of you via iTunes, so why would we expect it to work for Apps? The issue at hand is what the proper venues are for advertising your App to your target market and the best bang for the buck for small developers and startups to enter the more traditional advertising space to get the mass market to know about their products.

— Trent Shumay of Finger Food Studios

Not to sound all “doom and gloom,” but inventory of the App Store is rapidly growing, and individual apps’ chances of exposure are diminishing. It’s getting harder and harder to climb into the “Top XX” lists. Apple doesn’t seem to be making any significant moves towards making developers’ lives any easier as far as the “marketing” aspect goes — they can only feature so many apps, after all.

— Peter Bakhyryev of Byteclub, developer of Scramboni

Join us next time?

If you are an iPhone developer with experience of the App Store and would like to participate by sharing some opinions in future App Store Roundtables, please get in touch via our contact form.