This Week in Apps #78 - Where's All that Money Coming From?
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.
U.S. Revenue Index (YTD)
App Store 354.54 +66.7% Google Play 365.81 +48.4%
1. Genshin Impact Unlocks a Treasure
Genshin Impact recently released an update that gave it the biggest bump in revenue it's ever seen, and by a lot.
Net revenue in Genshin Impact's three largest markets, which include the U.S., China, and Japan, nearly quadrupled in the last week. Our estimates show daily net revenue averaged $1.2M in the three markets during August. On Wednesday, that total grew to $2.5M, peaked at $3.9M two days later, and ended Tuesday with $2.8M. Still more than double.
MiHoYo isn't some indie developer that got lucky overnight, and Genshin Impact isn't some unknown title that exploded on TikTok, so you may dismiss this. If growth were half, I'd skip it too, but that's not the case.
Genshin Impact's revenue grew by a silly amount across both the U.S. and China, the two largest revenue contributors to games. Not many games managed to achieve that.
If we zoom out a bit and connect this with other trends I've explored here before, we can quickly see why China's limitation on gameplay time is problematic for game developers, why game developers need to localize, and as important, why game developers will eventually all bow to government restrictions on how the game is designed, a trend I foresee eventually making its way back to the U.S.
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2. A Super Slow Start for Super Follows
Twitter rolled out its Super Follows feature to some creators in the U.S. last week. In case you haven't heard, creators on Twitter who are accepted into the program will be able to tweet content that will only be visible to paying followers.
The "creators need to make money" trend isn't a new one, and I've talked about it a few times in the past when looking at Twitch which was the first big name to let followers pay creators, and more recently TikTok, whose revenue is growing at a super-fast pace.
At this point, it's expected that Twitter will turn on some monetization, and I've been waiting to see how it takes off.
The short answer is: not that fast.
Super follows enable creators to charge one of three tiers ($2.99, $4.99, or $9.99) for content that won't go public. In its first week of being available to the public, users have spent about $10,000 to super follow the handful of creators that are in the program.
In case you're curious, Twitter keeps 3% of that after paying Apple's fees, which net out to roughly $200.
That's it??? If that's your initial thought, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is that not everyone can be in the program. You need to hit a threshold for followers just to qualify, and even if you do, the program is by invitation only. The second is, this is just too new. Paying for something we've been conditioned to receive for free isn't an easy switch to make. Combined, these two will spell a long road to seeing "super follow millionaires".
But... I think it will happen. The way social media has been moving, what used to be "people sharing stuff" is now "everyone's following the few that share stuff". I'm not talking about friends who overshare (like many of us who started tweeting way before Twitter became a media company) but rather those that simply follow influencers.
Changing perception isn't easy, but if Twitter doesn't do it now, those creators who keep the latter group engaged will eventually go elsewhere. Let's see where this gets in six months.
3. Top App Revenue Grew 21% in the U.S. in August
This week we published our monthly report of the top apps by downloads and revenue for August.
YouTube was, again, the top app by net revenue in the U.S., earning $65M, according to our estimates. Dating-destination Tinder, which is a standard fixture in our ranks, was right behind it. ESPN came in 3rd after having a solid month in terms of new subscribers.
The rest of the list, which included streamers, more dating, and Pandora, more or less matched July's. The only noticeable difference is the absence of Twitch, which saw a slight bump in U.S. revenue in August but not enough to rank.
But while the list itself is pretty static, the revenue isn't. At all. Total net revenue for the top 10 apps jumped by 21% to $374M of net revenue (that's after the stores take their fee) from the App Store and Google Play in the U.S., according to our estimates. The Mobile Revenue Index also shows the same trend, jumping more than 30 points in August.
I say this almost every week at this point, but the golden age of apps is back. It's nothing like what it used to be in 2008, but that goes both ways. It's harder to ride the wave, but the wave is infinitely bigger.
If you're an app developer, now's your time to shine.
4. The Rise of WhatsApp Business
The most downloaded report also uncovered another interesting trend, and that's just how much growth there still is in the business messaging market. Case at point: WhatsApp Business.
WhatsApp has been the most downloaded messaging app in a very long time. With a few blips along the way, but overall it's the way many communicate, especially outside of the U.S. and on Android, where iMessage doesn't exist.
That's how people communicate.
For businesses who want to have a presence in this ever-growing world, there's WhatsApp Business, a virtual storefront aimed at getting small businesses to get discovered and interact with their customers.
Since it was launched in 2018, WhatsApp Business was downloaded more than 417M times, according to our App Intelligence. That's quite a few businesses!
The trend has also been very positive from the get-go and only seems to speed up. WhatsApp Business hit a new record in August, with 22M new downloads globally, following July's 19M downloads, which was its previous record-breaking month.
It's hard to see it in the U.S., but in some countries, like Brazil, WhatsApp is the way to communicate across the board. Friends, colleagues, work, shopping, and even with some government agencies. The obvious implication is that Facebook, an unregulated for-profit company, has control of one of the largest communication channels in the world. But... they already have that with Facebook itself, so that's not new.
Looking at WhatsApp Business, it's obvious Facebook wants to have even more control over interactions, and the more they can bring themselves into shopping, the more companies like Amazon should be concerned.
5. The Thing About React Native...
Speaking of development... Yesterday we published some numbers around the usage of non-native frameworks React Native and Flutter, which took Twitter by storm and (re)started the general debate of whether non-native app development is the future.
The short answer is: Maybe.
First, let's look at the numbers behind a few more popular non-native frameworks, Unity and Cordova.
When adding up all the apps that use React Native, Flutter, Cordova, and Unity, we a much different picture than by just looking at one. I know non-native frameworks as much of a religion as preferring the native alternative, but for the sake of analysis I'll add them up.
When we do that, we see that on the App Store, 10% of apps and games are non-native. On Google Play that number more than doubles to 25%.
Surprised? Don't be.
The benefit of non-native frameworks, of build-once-deploy-everywhere, is the kind of thing every developer would want if it were possible. Why? Because for all the opportunities the stores offer, success isn't merely a result of how you code your app (or game). It wasn't before and it isn't now.
Right now non-native frameworks can't offer a smooth experience for all types of apps, but they can for a bunch. That's why TikTok and Instagram use React Native in production.
The real challenge, and the thing that will make-or-break the future of non-native development, in my opinion, is the tools around it. The frameworks are evolving fast to get as close as they can to native performance and in their journey also change a lot. Those changes make it hard to build tools and maintain packages that the masses can use, and that's making some dislike native development.
But, that will eventually (and inevitably) slow down, bringing stability to those developers that stuck around long enough.
According to our SDK Intelligence, 416K developers have at least one app built in one of these frameworks. This number suggests enough will stick around. It's not a question of "if" but "when".
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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.