This Week in Apps #85 - It's Still a Money Game
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 352.98 +66% Google Play 313.22 +27%
1. Nine Years Later, Candy Crush is Still Growing!
We just published our monthly report of the most downloaded games in September, which you can read here. There were a few interesting trends there (downloads went down by 23% month over month), it's Candy Crush that stole the show.
While the revenue of the top 10 games in the U.S. declined by about 14% in September, Candy Crush managed to not just keep its number stable but also grow its net revenue by a massive 27%.
In a few weeks, Candy Crush will turn 9, so this is a great trend for King to be seeing. It's easy to dismiss the title's growth by suggesting it's all about ads because while that's partially true, it's naive to think anyone can throw money on ads and turn that spend into revenue.
That's why the top of our monthly report sees very little change at the top positions.
Check out the complete report for the full rundown of download and revenue trends in September.
What you need to know: Candy Crush was the highest earning game in the U.S. in September. It earned $42M in net revenue across the App store and Google Play and leaped over Roblox. Month over month, its revenue grew 27% while other top apps declined by roughly 14%.
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2. Among Us Hits Rock Bottom...
Remember Among Us!, the casual game that exploded "overnight" last year? It's been an interesting example of how games that aren't hyper-casuals with hyper-ad spend and AAAs can still succeed on mobile.
But the initial spike is really just the beginning...
I've covered Among Us! a whole bunch of times in the newsletter since last August because there was a lot to look at. For a bit, Among Us! felt a lot like Zoom. A lockdown baby that's turned into a monster (the good kind) because people couldn't see each other IRL.
But luck only brought the game so far. Lack of updates, improvements, and any sort of push from the team behind it meant that it's really at the mercy of players. That might sound great to an indie dev, but really, it's not how you'd build the next Angry Birds. And that's a shame because they have the perfect characters for plush dolls!
According to our app intelligence, last October, Among Us! had 69M downloads and more than $8.5M in net revenue. Fast forward a year, and in September, both numbers dwindled to 9.5M downloads and just 157K in net revenue. That's a dip of more than 85% in downloads and 98% in revenue.
A plunge is a more appropriate way to describe this. I'd even go as far as calling it a total loss. Extreme but true.
Getting something to succeed is hard. Taking something successful and maintaining its success is harder. Only the first one can happen by luck. It's easy to look at big games like Candy Crush and attribute their success to a big ad campaign, but that's just naive.
What you need to know: Among Us!, the casual game that everyone played for a little last summer, has lost most of its momentum. Downloads are down 85% while revenue is down 98%.
3. Audible Will Triple its Revenue This Year
The Podcast Revolution has been the trend to watch this year, and while most eyes were on Spotify who kickstarted it with the acquisition of Joe Rogan's podcast, there's another app that's been benefiting from this trend.
Unlike the rise of Among Us!, this didn't happen by luck. Audible has been very aggressive about growth. Between ad campaigns running in and out of apps, original content, and lately a push for podcasts.
On the App Store, Audible uses in-app purchases so we can estimate its revenue. They don't on Google Play, so the following numbers will focus on the Apple side of things.
In January of 2021, Audible earned an estimated $3.2M in net revenue, meaning after Apple takes its fee. By May, it doubled to $6.3M, and in September, Audible raked in $11.4M in net revenue, according to our estimates. That's a 256% increase.
October is not over yet, but revenue for the month is already higher than September at $12M, according to our app intelligence. I can comfortably say that at this rate, Audible will start 2022 with three times the revenue.
What you need to know: Audible, the audio book and podcast app owned by Amazon, has seen revenue rise by 256% so far in 2021, likely from new excitement around podcasts.
4. Apple Adds More Default Apps to the App Store, and This Time It's Positive
Apple has quietly rolled out another batch of pre-installed apps into the App Store, including the Phone, Safari, and a few other very core apps. Apple did the same thing earlier in the month, which was immediately met with negative ratings.
Not this time.
The latest batch appeared on Monday and includes Health, Camera, Clock, Find Devices, Heart Rate, Messages, Phone, Photos, Safari, Workout, and World Clock.
Globally, the 11 apps collected 3,631 so far this week, and unlike the first batch, are all averaging more than 4 stars.
Clock and Phone have a 4.1 star average globally, which is the "lowest" rating of the bunch. Find Device and World Clock scored a 4.8 average rating, but with a much smaller number of ratings, so it'll probably go down.
One thing to keep in mind here is that unlike the apps in the first batch, which were much more likely to be deleted and then redownloaded, this batch has the very core apps. That means most users aren't likely to delete it and need to redownload it, which means they won't have the opportunity to rate it. So, they'll have fewer ratings in the short term.
Why is Apple doing this? They haven't said, but if you ask me, it's all for show. It's much harder to accuse Apple of being anti-competitive when its own apps are in the store just like everyone else. We know that this last statement isn't exactly true because when you search for these apps, they always appear first.
I've looked at enough of those to know that isn't organic. But maybe the perception Apple is creating is enough to get regulators to be quiet?
What you need to know: iPhone users can now rate more pre-installed apps. The 11 apps were rated 3.6K times this week and so far, the ratings are very positive.
5. Fox Takes Over the Weather Category — What's at Stake?
On Monday Fox, the news company you probably heard of once or twice in the last year, released a new app dedicated to the weather. It immediately shot to the top of the App Store, and stayed there for several days straight. Right now, it's the most downloaded app in its category in the U.S.
The Weather category has been growing slowly over the last couple of years, making it a lucrative place for those who already have this kind of data and reach.
Just how big is it?
In September, the top 10 earners across both platforms brought in an estimated $5.3M of net revenue from the U.S.
Clime and The Weather Channel were the primary winners, earning more than half of the total in the month, followed by a long list of mostly-not-brand-names that all earned between $100K - $1M in the month, according to our app intelligence.
Fox comes in with enough firepower to take on both of the big guys easily. Its network reaches millions of viewers, and in today's climate (pun only somewhat intended), viewers are more loyal than ever before. Even if we're only talking weather.
I see this as a very smart move from Fox, who identified and entered a lucrative but not very competitive market with little friction. There's a lot of opportunity here, and just like the streaming game, it's just warming up. That pun was intended.
What you need to know: Fox introduced a new weather app this week and it had a very strong opening week where it dominated the top charts for several days. It enters a lucrative but quiet market that it has a good chance of dominating.
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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.