This Week in Apps #88 - It's All Changing...

Ariel Ariel
9 minute read Nov. 19

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 for Games (30 Day)

App Store 202.63 +15.1% Google Play 267.41 -7%

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Insights

1. There's a New PUBG in Town

PUBG New State launched last Thursday and instantly popped at the top of the charts across both the App Store and Googe Play. Many fans were waiting for the new game, which isn't an update to PUBG Mobile but rather a new game from the original team, and that excitement is what made it the #1 game for three days straight.

What does that look like in downloads?

It looks like a lot of downloads. According to our App Intelligence, New State saw 11 million downloads in its first week on the App Store and Google Play.

For reference, PUBG Mobile got 8.4 million downloads in its first week on the App Store and Google Play when it launched back in 2018.

Unlike PUBG Mobile, New State launched in India as well last week, and not as a separate app but rather the same one! PUBG Mobile had to split into two separate downloads, one for everyone and another for India, after the Indian government blocked the original and demanded changes.

And complying was worth the effort. New State's biggest market globally is India, which earned the new game 3.3 million downloads, or 30% of total downloads, according to our estimates.

What you need to know: PUBG New State launched last week, and in its first week, saw 11 million downloads across the App Store and Google Play. India is New State's biggest market by downloads so far and contributed 30% of the total downloads.


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2. Remember Tidal?

This week, music streaming service Tidal announced it will start offering a free plan.

But wait, what's Tidal??

The short version - a music streaming company that started in Norway, got bought by Jay Z (the rapper) and then sold to Square (the payments company). It hasn't had the bestest of times over the last few years, having "missed" payments to artists and having to deny accusations they inflated their subscriber numbers.

On mobile, they're not very popular either.

On mobile, there's one popular music app, Spotify, and then a bunch of "others". Between January and October of 2021, Spotify saw 154 million new downloads, according to our estimates. That's more than the rest of the apps on our list combined!

But this isn't about Spotify but rather Tidal. After being sold in March, new owner Square has plans to (try) and get into the race. A free offering is the easiest way to do that. But... there's really no guarantee it'd make a dent. Spotify has a free plan, as do the rest of the contenders.

I think that alone won't be enough. Spotify already won that race. Tidal does have a differentiator, sound quality, which is why it's making some money. Let's see how that plays out and if Tidal can bring in free users and convert them into audiophiles so they upgrade.

There is one interesting twist here that aligns with the trend we see on social media. In addition to a free plan, Tidal also announced it will be changing how it pays artists in 2022. While most of the market aggregates streaming revenue and divides it, Tidal claims it will pay each artist based on how much time their music was consumed by users who subscribe to its highest price plan.

That's a substantial difference!

Spotify also announced a similar plan, but it hasn't actually implemented it, so maybe it's not as easy as Tidal thinks it could be.

Artists weren't always the most important thing in the music world, as strange and bizarre as that sounds, but as we've learned by looking at Twitch, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter (but only somewhat), creators (aka. artists) are now the stars.

What you need to know: Tidal is rolling out a new free plan to try and get into the music streaming race, where it's #8 by downloads. It's a bit too late, but worth a shot. It's also changing how it'll pay artists, putting creators first.

3. Roblox is Still There

Ready for our monthly report of the most downloaded games in the world? In October things were looking good. Nay, Great!

Garena Free Fire Max was the most downloaded game in the world last month. Max isn't the same as the Garena Free Fire we've seen before. I mean, it's essentially the same game, but with better graphics. However, it's a whole separate game to download. Max ended October with 27M new downloads across the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates.

Brand new hyper-casual 456: Survival made its way into second place with 22 estimated million downloads, followed by yet another hyper-casual, Cookie Cutter. And finally, Subway Surfers, which dropped two spots this month but managed to get the same number of downloads.

Together, the top 10 most downloaded games made their way into 185 million iOS and Android devices in October. That's a big increase over September's 157 million, and as we've seen in previous years, it's likely to continue growing as we head into the holidays.

What you need to know: Garena Free Fire Max was the most downloaded game in the world in October. It was downloaded by 27 million users globally. Subway Surfers and Roblox saw more downloads in October but ranked lower in our report.

4. DoorDash Buys an Expansion Pack

DoorDash, the most downloaded food delivery app in the U.S., is going to Europe (and other countries). They're going to do that by acquiring a European food delivery company called Wolt.

While in the U.S. DoorDash has the upper hand on rival Uber Eats, internationally that's exactly the opposite. While DoorDash is available in a few other countries, such as Japan and Australia, Uber Eats is available pretty much everywhere. From South America to Europe and Asia.

By buying Wolt, DoorDash will be able to get a leg into the international race quickly.

Let's see where DoorDash will go by looking at the top countries Wolt is being downloaded in:

Israel is Wolt's biggest market according to our estimates, with 1.8 million downloads there since 2017. The country's population is just about 9 million, which means it's pretty hard to beat. Kazakhstan is right behind it, followed by Japan, Finland, Azerbaijan, and Greece.

That's a combo of countries we don't see too often.

The acquisition was all paid in stock, which means DoorDash wanted Wolt, but not that much. And when we look at the absolute numbers, it becomes clear why. They're pretty small.

But that doesn't really matter. Wolt won't give DoorDash that many users ready to buy, but they would give them the operation needed to expand in those countries, and in the case of smaller countries like Israel and Greece, a bigger user-base than that of Uber Eats.

What you need to know: DoorDash is planning to expand internationally. Right now it's available in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan. It's buying Wolt, a European company with operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Wolt's kind of small, but will give DoorDash the operational power it needs to expand.

My Take

5. Google Play's Big Change in Korea

I don't normally talk about things that don't include numbers, but something big is brewing. If you're a developer, this has immediate implications for you. If you're not, this will have in the near future.

What's changing? The Korean Government recently passed a law that requires app stores to allow developers to accept payments in their apps and games with any payment processor, not that the store's. That's what Epic really wanted in its fight with Apple but didn't get.

Google has responded by complying with the new law. I was surprised at first, but then I read the details, and it all made sense.

Here's how developers will be able to do that, how much Google stands to lose in fees, and why I don't think many companies will end up doing this.

First, the important details:

  1. Developers who choose to introduce their own payment systems will still have to pay Google a fee on every transaction. The fee will be lower by 4% than what they'd pay otherwise.
  2. Even if a developer chooses to introduce a separate payment system, users will still be able to pay through Google Play if they select that option.

Let's see what 4% means for Google. Using our App Intelligence, here's how much the top 500 highest earning apps and games brought in from Korea this year:

In the first 10 months of 2021, the top 500 apps and games on Google Play grossed $1.8 billion dollars according to our estimates (which you can also get for a very affordable monthly price). That's the gross value, meaning before Google takes its fee.

Of that, Google kept about $350 million. That's not a tiny amount, but...

I have to say, whoever worked on this at Google is a genius! They managed to comply with a law that was seen as the beginning of the end for app store fees in a way that has very little impact on them and better yet, dramatically disincentivizes developers from even trying it.

How did they do that?

A 4% "discount" is likely to ensure developers won't end up keeping any more money in their pockets. Credit card processors charge on average 3%-5% + a transaction fee. When you add those all up, for a small transaction like the price of an in-app purchase, it would be higher than 4%. Best case scenario they'd break even, but with a ton of complexity.

I'm sure big companies like Tinder and Disney could negotiate better rates, but even they would still have to pay Google 26% fee for every transaction, so best case they'd be saving 1%. It could be a lot in absolute terms, but how many companies are like that? Not many.

None of this will dissuade credit card processors like Stripe and Paddle from pushing into the market, even at a loss, to establish a foothold in the market. So this could be a fun one for consumers. But as it stands right now, I don't think too many developers would want to jeopardize their revenue stream to save what would amount to a few wons.

The real trend to watch here is if this would expand to other countries, including the U.S., and also, how would Apple respond to this new law. So far, they've been silent, and I expect them to fight it or at least ignore it for as long as they can. But if they do something similar to Google, I think the results would be similar -- not many will use it.

Do you plan to try a 3rd party process in Korea? Who do you plan on choosing?

What you need to know: Google was forced by the Korean government to allow developers to use 3rd party payment processors in their apps and games in Korea. Developers who do that will get a 4% discount but will still need to pay Google a fee.

App Intelligence for Everyone

The insights in this report come from our proprietary, high-quality app intelligence. App makers, marketers, banks, investors, and journalists all over the world rely on our intelligence every day. Learn more →

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.


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