Apps featured by Apple or Google get 6 times the downloads and 9 times the revenue — or nothing

Technology & Convergence

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Everyone who has published an app in the iOS App Store wants Apple to feature them, because that will boost download numbers to insane levels, right?


A new report from app analytics provider Distimo indicates that while getting the Apple spotlight can boost your downloads by up to six times normal rates, it can also have absolutely no effect at all.

176 game developers with 300M downloads and $600M in revenue told us what works — and doesn’t — in game monetization.

“The feature category that had the highest effect on download and revenue performance in March in the U.S. was ‘Amazing Puzzlers for 99¢,’” the Distimo in a statement. “Downloads of apps were 6 times higher in the featured period than before this period.”

But some categories, including two that showcase indie games, didn’t boost downloads or revenue at all. Clearly, all feature categories are not equally visible, equally trafficked, or equally influential to App Store users.

On iOS, feature categories that boosted downloads the most were special occasion categories, not feature categories. Feature categories are more or less permanent, while special occasion categories come and go — but frequently have higher visibility while they’re active. “Amazing Puzzlers” boosted downloads the most while other categories that borrow Amazon-like if-you-like-X-you’ll-like-Y functionality, such as “If you like … Badland” came in second.

For Google Play, being featured seems to mean a little less.

“Google Play lists all-time favorite apps in the category ‘Editor’s Choice,’” Distimo said. “This list does not change considerably, which means that there is hardly any effect of being featured in this category on the app’s performance.”

But “Trending Apps” on Google Play rewards apps that are doing well, which then simply increases downloads even more.

Not shockingly, revenue can follow downloads.
For example, while it’s not representative of all featured apps, Distimo says that GameLoft’s Shark Dash achieved revenue that was “nine times higher during the featured period” compared to the previous week. That’s estimated revenue, of course, based on Distimo’s analytics engine.

Sadly, the benefits of being featured are usually temporary. Apps that get downloaded while they’re being featured need to be good, sure, but they also need to keep improving — and keep working on monetization — after they are featured and as downloads return to more normal levels.

And sometimes getting more downloads doesn’t lead to any more revenue.

A massive increase in downloads for Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery when featured in the Spectacular Stories: Games category increased revenue, but did not result in a proportionate increase in revenue. And a second feature in Essentials: 10 Incredible Indie Games increased downloads somewhat, but revenue not at all:

(That may be due to the app being on sales concurrent with the promotion, as Sword and Sworcery does not have in-app purchases.)

The full report is available on Distimo’s web site.