Game Emulators Took Over the App Store Briefly - Will The Trend Continue?

Ariel Ariel
2 minute read May. 17

This is a single insight from This Week in Apps - Game. Set. Match!. Check out the full article for more insights.

Last month, Apple allowed game emulators into the App Store for the first time ever. That created a lot of excitement from gamers and also from many others thinking they can play games for free now, sending Delta, the first emulator to hit the App Store, to the top of the charts.

Three other emulators were released since, but none saw the same success, leading me to dig into this new(ish) niche.

In case you're not familiar, game emulators are apps that enable playing games from different platforms on the iPhone. They don't provide the games, just the ability to play games you may already have (or more likely, downloaded from an illegal website).

Each emulators supports different platforms and requires varying levels of skill to get working.

Delta, which has been out the longest and is also the most user-friendly, is also by far the most popular game emulator in the App Store. It became the #1 most downloaded app, across both apps and games, in the US for 14 days!

Our App Intelligences shows Delta made its way into 5.3M devices in that time, and that's a fairly conservative estimate. Most of the downloads, roughly 37%, came from the US, with China a distant second. The rest were spread out over 75+ countries.

But... after Delta's honeymoon the trend started sloping down and fast. The game emulator is now ranked 47th in the US App Store and downloads have been cut to nearly a 10th of what they were in the early days.

What About The Newcomers?

In the last few days, three new emulators were released including Gamma, PPSPP, and RetroArch. PPSPP peaked at #3 in the US chart but declined pretty quickly and the other two didn't make it into the top 10.

When compared to Delta, these aren't as user-friendly or easy to get started with, which might explain the difference in demand. With the exception of PPSPP, which is fairly friendly but only works for PSP games.

Our App Intelligence puts downloads for the trio at 1.1M led by PPSPP with Gamma behind it and RetroArch in third place.

Although it's early for the trio, these numbers along with the declining trend is in line with what I'd expect. Overall, none of these provide an easy hub for games in any way, and don't even come with games pre-loaded. Instead, they're offer a convoluted way to play games from devices that aren't very accessible if you know how and want to fiddle with it.

The DIY equivalent of games...

Then there's the legal question of where you get games, a challenge that led Nintendo to sue Delta recently.

Is this trend going to continue? Yes, but only down. Between the legal issues and complicated user experience, the decline in downloads will continue. I'm not sure what Apple was thinking.

App Intelligence for Everyone!

The insights in this report come right out of our App Intelligence platform, which offers access to download and revenue estimates, installed SDKs, and more! Learn more about the tools or schedule a demo with our team to get started.

Are you a Journalist? You can get access to our app and market intelligence for free through the Appfigures for Journalists program. Contact us for more details.

All figures included in this report are estimated. Unless specified otherwise, estimated revenue is always net, meaning it's the amount the developer earned after Apple and Google took their fee.

Tagged: #games

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