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Why Are Free Games More Popular On iPhones Than On Android Devices?

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Some research out from Xyologic today on app store download trends in 2011 indicates that while games have remained a popular category across both Apple’s App Store for free apps and the Android Market, they appear far more popular on with iPhone users than they are with Android users when looking at the top downloads on the platforms.

Why is that the case? The conclusions can be interpreted in a couple of ways: it could mean that the gaming experience remains better on Apple’s devices than it does on those built using Android.

Or it could just be because games publishers are still putting iOS first in their priorities when developing games — specifically free-to-download games. That could be because research seems to indicate that iOS remains a better revenue driver when it comes to services like in-app purchases — a key route for games publishers to make money. (One recent report that highlights in-app revenues on iOS versus Android is a report from Distimo published yesterday.)

On the positive side for Android, the conclusions seem to indicate also that the Android Market provides a better opportunity for non-games publishers to have a hit app, while on the App Store, it’s harder for those publishers to get as good of a look in to the top rankings — and that is significant, since those rankings remain a key way for new users to discover apps on their devices.

Xyologic’s latest report notes in 2011, the Android Market saw more games downloads than it did in 2010, but non-gaming apps continued to account for the majority of downloads. In November 2011, there were 85 apps in the Market’s top 150, working out to 91.5 million downloads; and there were 65 games, with a download total of 33.42 million.

Those numbers show that the non-gaming apps were actually also more popular on a per-app basis: the average per-app downloads for non-games apps works out to 1.08 million; while for games it was just above 514,000.

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), meanwhile, saw a smaller volume of downloads compared to Android — unsurprising given that Android has a much bigger installed base now than Apple’s iOS platform: within the top 150 downloaded apps, 50 were from non-games publishers and worked out to an average of 512,000 downloads per app (25,640,000 in total). The remaining 100 most popular apps were games, with average per-game downloads of 715,700 (71,570,000 in total).

The Top 25 Downloaded Publishers on Android in 2011, according to Xyologic: Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Facebook, Rovio, Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE), DroidHen Casual, Outfit7, Magma Mobile, Glu Mobile (NSDQ: GLUU), Go Dev Team, Kittehface Software, Skype, Notes, Nikolay Ananiev, Swiss Codemonkeys, NHN Corporation, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), Handcent, Pandora (NYSE: P), Al Factory Limited, Kaufcom Games Apps Widgets, Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), Runnergames, Backflip Studios, Polarbit.

The Top 25 Downloaded App Publishers on iPhone in 2011: Glu Mobile, Gameloft (EPA: GFT), Big Fish Games, Rovio, Capcom, Chilingo, Storm8/(TeamLava), Outfit7, Electronic Arts/Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) BV, Gamevil, Halfbrick Studios, DeNa/(Backflip Studios/Ngmoco), Zynga/Newtoy, NaturalMotion, Pocket Gem/(Streetview Labs), Tencent, NimbleBit, PopCap, Playforge, Clickgamer, Com2uS, Burbn, Orangenose Studios. It’s notable that the only non-gaming publisher here is Burbn, which makes the photo-taking, -filtering and -sharing app Instagram.

3 Responses to “Why Are Free Games More Popular On iPhones Than On Android Devices?”

  1. Sebastien_Givry

    To me there’s a simple answer to that. On iOS, you can monetize your free game with Apple’s in-app purchase in every country where the store is live; with one App (maybe two if you differentiate the iPad app). On Android, hum…there’s operator billing in very few countries, in the rest it’s credit card, paypal, etc which reach is very limited in the vast majority of the world; and you don’t enter your credit card for in-app purchase. Also for games, the portability issue is much higher…. but this will change for sure in 2012 as Android Market is improving, fast.

  2. The data in your table doesn’t seem to line up with the story:

    You say non gaming apps were more popular on Android yet the table suggests that there were 33 million game downloads and only 9 million non game downloads.

    You say “Apple saw a much smaller volume of downloads compared to Android” yet the table suggests total download figures for Apple are higher in 2011.

    Something doesn’t add up here.

    • Ingrid Lunden

      thanks for pointing that out–it was a typo in the table as supplied by xyologic, so the numbers had been correct in the text, but not the table. i’ve fixed it and replaced it.