Pretty awesome right? I haven’t even told you the amazing part yet, they are stopping development for Android.
You might have caught wind of this story elsewhere with some kind of doom and gloom spin about how it is impossible to ever make money on Android and that developers should flee from the sinking ship sooner rather than later. You’ll be surprised to find that even the developer that wrote the blog post that caused this whirlwind of ridiculous coverage doesn’t think that is true. I reached out to them after reading far too many posts from people that seemed to have skipped what was actually said in favor of the story that they felt like writing.
The developer in question is Mika Mobile, a two person development team that spent about two and half years making games on iOS before porting a couple of their titles to Android.
They launched their first game, Zombieville USA, on iOS in February of 2009. This was about 6 months after the launch of the App Store and at the time there were approximately 20,000 apps available for the then current iPhone 3G. The game was polished and offered stylized visuals that surpassed a lot of what was out there at the time and as a result was prominently featured in the App Store. In the second month it was available in the App Store they saw 150,000 downloads of the free and $2 version. While I couldn’t get an exact split they did indicate that the majority were paid so ballpark estimate they made approximately $140,000 from it that month.
Fast forward to today and they have a total of four paid apps in the App Store and profits are basically steady at a similar level to what they were seeing two and half years ago, albeit from four apps rather than just one. So yes if you are doing the math at home that means that this two person development team is taking in over $1.5 million a year from the App Store. If you are under the impression that is a normal small developer experience in the App Store, then I have some lovely ocean front property in Arizona to sell you.
This tremendous and not likely to be reproduced success in the App Store is the real reason they are leaving Android development and it has nothing to do with difficulties in developing for Android. To infer otherwise is ignoring everything that Mika Mobile had to say in their blog including the fact that they spent only 20% of their time on the Android side of things and yet were producing what most people would consider a healthy living from it.
In the 9 months since they first launched their two Android games, Zombieville USA and Battleheart are both in the 50,000-100,000 downloads range and while again I couldn’t get an exact figure from them that places their earnings from the Play Store at a minimum of $140,000 and possibly quite a bit higher. This was without any major marketing efforts that I could find relying simply on word of mouth, although Battleheart did appear as a featured tablet app in the Market in mid-June. It’s likely that with a concerted marketing effort they would have done even better, but again they are a two person team with a finite amount of time.
Returning briefly to what took up the majority of that 20% of their time dedicated to Android development, it was not related to fragmentation as some have asserted. The two activities that required the most time were the initial porting process (not shocking) and simple customer service (download and payment problems). The latter seemed to be a particular thorn in their side and of course is made all the more exasperating by the fact that those are in fact areas in Google’s control and not really something a developer should be dealing with at all. It’s hardly the first time I’ve heard that complaint from a developer and it is a subject worthy of discussion on its own at some point.
Were it not for the sheer volume of inaccurate coverage this story got I would have left it alone as I would hope that most people would reasonably conclude that trying to make broad generalizations regarding the Play Store, or the App Store for that matter, based on the experiences of one developer isn’t practical.
The real takeaways from this story is that if you are a two person team making around 2 million a year on iOS then by all means go ahead and stick with iOS and more power to you. If on the other hand you are a new developer or you have the resources to develop for multiple platforms then by all means take a look at Android as there’s plenty of money to be made.