One of the frustrating things about the mobile apps industry right now is the idea that there is a war between free and paid apps: that one of these business models must ‘win’ and the other must ‘lose’, rather than co-existing.
It’s epitomised by a Boy Genius Report story headlined “Paid Apps Are History”, which takes some true facts – free apps are dominating the App Store’s Top Grossing chart – but then runs with them to a place where a statement like “The future belongs to free apps” is the conclusion.
It’s true: free-to-play games have become the most lucrative business model in mobile gaming, with many developers and publishers retooling their games and teams to switch from paid to freemium. The charts reflect this clearly.
Yet going for an easy ‘paid apps are history’ headline ignores the fact that some paid apps are still appearing in that Top Grossing chart.
Just looking at the US iPhone rankings this morning reveals Minecraft ($6.99) in fourth place, Angry Birds Star Wars ($0.99) in 25th, Bloons TD 5 ($2.99) in 27th, the paid version of Scramble With Friends ($2.99) in 32nd, and further down the Top 100 there are appearances by Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies ($6.99), Toca Hair Salon 2 ($1.99), Plants Vs. Zombies ($2.99). Need for Speed Most Wanted ($4.99), iMovie, FIFA 13, Grand Theft Auto Vice City…
In other words, there are apps making money from being paid apps – often using in-app purchases as an additional layer, it should be noted.
Paid apps aren’t history: they’re the profitable present and future for a number of developers. Which is not to say they shouldn’t be exploring free-to-play or hybrid paid/IAP models. It’s just that the apps market doesn’t boil down to one business model that everyone must adopt.
Or to use another example: 45 of the 50 Top Grossing iPhone apps in the US today are games. Does this mean non-game apps are history? Exactly.