This Week in Apps is a short, no-fluff, round-up of interesting things that happened in the mobile industry. Here are our top highlights.
Index (30 Days)
U.S. Downloads: App Store 102.18 (+7.9%), Google Play 76.40 (+7.6%)
1. Why is Zynga buying Chartboost?
Zynga announced this week that they're going to acquire popular ad network for games Chartboost for $250M. Nothing here's surprising, except for the price tag.
Chartboost is extremely popular with game developers. Ranked by installs from our SDK Intelligence, it's second only to Google among iOS games and ranks 5th on Android.
That, to me, merits a higher price tag considering its rival AppLovin IPOd last month at a valuation of $28B and another big name in the industry, ironSource, is valued at $11B and about to go public.
Let's put valuations on hold for a minute, though, and talk about why Zynga, a game developer, needs to own an ad network.
Going hyper-casual. Zynga wasn't the first to bring casual games to the mainstream, but they were certainly one of the most popular. Even before the days of mobile. Fast forward about 12 years, and the trend went from casual → hyper-casual.
If you've been reading between the lines, you know I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but that's as someone who ran a game studio before getting into analytics.
Players seem to love hyper-casuals because they don't require too much investment. Zynga, in keeping with the times, is trying to ride the wave. One of its recent hyper-casual titles, High Heels, was the #2 most downloaded game in April.
How's this relevant? Capturing attention, aka downloads, at this point, is a factor of how big your ad spend is. The game was pretty even when studios fought for inventory with their (aka investors') money, but then ad networks started rolling out their own games. AppLovin and ironSource have been publishing a barrage of titles and using their infinite ads at no cost to make sure they get to the top.
That's been working wonderfully for Supersonic Studio, maker of Bridge Race, the most downloaded game in April, and Join Clash 3D, the most downloaded game in March.
To keep up, Zynga has to start printing money or get into the ad business. One was easier (and more legal).
It's a data play. Now that ATT (App Tracking Transparency) is upon us, getting user data is becoming much harder. Acquiring an ad network gives Zynga access to a lot of 1st party data that it can use to figure out the kind of games to publish. It's a game of numbers, so insights matter.
Because they can. ATT, which seems to be the root of a lot of these decisions, has clouded the future of some services. I believe it's the kind of thing that seems hard now but will become clearer in the next year as we get to see the real trends and technology evolves beyond needing IDFAs.
But, since its rollout out a few weeks ago, ATT has already prompted some to companies to abandon ship. Facebook shut down its analytics platform and Adjust, an attribution solution, sold for a low price as well.
Zynga is offering the parachute it, and it's investors who stand to get more than a 10x return, need for dumping the risk.
Is that fair? I'll let you decide.
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2. Is TikTok eating Facebook's lunch?
We just published our monthly report on the most downloaded apps in the world. TikTok's reign continues, and Facebook and Google dominate the top across both the App Store and Google Play.
TikTok's 52M downloads in April outdid Instagram's 46.5M, a continuation we see from months before.
On the App Store, the top 10 most downloaded apps in April were identical to March. The order was slightly different, but the players the same. The same is true for Google Play. The only difference we saw is Spotify disappearing and CapCut, TikTok's video editing app, inching its way up.
That's a trend I expect to see more of in the coming months.
There's one trend this table doesn't tell however, and that's Facebook's decline.
In the last 12 months, Facebook's flagship app has experienced a massive loss of weekly downloads, totaling almost 30%.
I asked why on Twitter and got a bunch of responses that shouldn't be included in this newsletter, but really, I think this is the culmination of a lot of different trends. We've got politics on the one side, and on the other we have shortening attention spans that are driving younger folks away from conversations and towards direct consumption (aka. TikTok).
Add to that Facebook's dominance and what you're getting is no growth.
It's easy to say, "Oh, Facebook grows with Instagram and WhatsApp", but that's not exactly true, and those products are very different. Facebook does what it needs to get data so it can power ad targeting, and with its existing userbase, that isn't a problem, but that's right now. Will it be the same in a month? In a year?
The EU is trying to make sure the answer is no, and judging by Facebook's reaction, they're very concerned.
Zuck's no baby when it comes to strategic growth. He knew the power of Instagram early on and understood the value of WhatsApp, two products that are seen as Facebook's saviors right now. His sights have been focused on VR, which could be the next big thing for ads (whether I agree or not), but there has to be more.
With Apple's latest move to curb tracking, I'm sure we'll see Facebook expanding in a new direction. I don't know where yet, though.
3. Getting gas
Did you hear about the gas pipeline hack last week? If not, a major gas pipeline that's serving most of the east coast was hacked last week, and its operational data taken for ransom.
While everyone was trying to get things going, the price of gas in states that rely on the pipeline started going up, and in many cases shutting gas stations down because of crazy demand.
One app came to the rescue and jumped to the top of the App Store: GasBuddy.
Downloads of the 10 year old app which offers a crowdsource way to find cheap gas grew fast on Monday, a trend that continued as the week progressed. By Wednesday, the app, which averaged 6K daily downloads for most of this year, had climbed up to 204K downloads.
As of this morning, GasBuddy is still the #1 app in the US App Store and #2 on Google Play, beating TikTok and Instagram.
4. Peacock’s biggest month
NBC's Peacock has had a very interesting few months. Downloads spiked in January after it added The Office to its roster but have since declined. It's already got a broad catalog of content, but others, like HBO Max, have really hugged the spotlight with originals coming every few weeks.
While downloads haven't been going up-and-to-the-right, something else has. Revenue.
According to our App Intelligence, Peacock's in-app revenue has hit an all-time high in April, with net revenue of more than $3M across the App Store and Google Play. That's after Apple and Google took their cut, so it's money in NBC's pocket.
In 2021, revenue has been growing at an average rate of 41% month-over-month.
Keep in mind: Peacock's $3M in net revenue is no match for HBO Max's $30M, but it's considerably better than many other streamers that are making their move from cable. The great unbundling of cable TV might be a mess for our wallets, but it's generating a race for original content that should keep TV more exciting until movie theaters are back in full force.
5. Coinbase breaks its record
A few weeks ago I suggested Coinbase is going to stick around the top of the App Store for a while, and that seems to be happening. The app has been in the top 5 this entire week.
With crypto being mentioned pretty much everywhere these days, Coinbase saw the most daily downloads ever on Monday and then proceeded to break that record on Tuesday with 275K, and 277K estimated downloads, respectively.
A few things helped this spike—First, the kingmaker. Elon Musk talked crypto on SNL and changed Tesla's stand on accepting Bitcoin. While both Dogecoin and Bitcoin dropped almost immediately, hearing about crypto is easing more people into considering it to be something real.
The other thing that's keeping Coinbase high is Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency you've heard a lot about recently. The thing is, Coinbase didn't have it listed, so while I suspect many downloaded it thinking it does, it didn't stick. But that's changing in the next few months.
Popularity + access = stickiness.
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Note: All figures included in this report are estimated. Revenue is always net, meaning it's the amount the developer earned after Apple and Google took their fee.