News & Updates

What happens when the app store breaks?

By James MacTavish / Dec 10, 2014

Appleappstore Blog Splash

Earlier last month, Venture Beat reported that Apple’s App Store suffered from a merchandising bug that dramatically altered the listing of apps within the games section. Although the main page of the App Store seemed fine, browsing into the games subcategories presented lists in numerical and alphabetical order as opposed to rankings based off the merits of ratings and downloads. Making matters worse, these games were featured on subcategory banners garnering unwarranted advertising. Although Apple has come to correct this issue, the damage could already be done for some developers who live and die by the curation of Apple’s App Store. Here are some of the reasons why this bug posed a big issue for developers and highlights the importance of a well-managed app marketplace:

The sheer size of the gaming category

As of October, Pocket Gamer reported that Apple’s App Store contained a total of 1.1 million apps of which just over 25% consisted of games. Considering the game genre is by and large the most popular category in the App Store, this severely impacted the most lucrative sector for developers for multiple weeks. With over 279,000 games in the App Store hidden over such a span, it’s difficult to estimate how much damage was done.

The most critical time for new games was a disaster

The initial launch of an app is bar-none one of the most important times for developers to garner sales and more importantly, solidify their app above the noise. Leading up to app launches, many developers stake their claim with a strong marketing push leading up to launch. Most developers cannot afford to carry a heavy campaign for long durations though, so the first 30 days after launching an app are vital as they aim to achieve enough downloads to rank or be included in the “New Featured” section of the App Store. Ranking in this category provides the ability for even more attention with the app store, and ultimately more downloads and the inclusion on other featured lists. This emphasizes the negative spiral effect that a curation bug like this can cause for developers but also those new to marketplace that live or die on the critical first weeks of promotion.

It sent the wrong message to App Store Developers and clones

One of the biggest negative trends to come out of the rising popularity of app stores has been clone apps and junk apps looking to cash in on the popularity of other original titles. From Flappy Bird to “Threes” clones, app stores have gone to great lengths to try and prevent this from becoming the new norm. While Apple has been successful for the most part in preventing the flood of clones, the lack of attention towards the curation bug that put priority on numerical and alphabetical order led to a whole new disaster of developers spinning up a slew of games with titles such as *777*+ or AAA Mobile Game Quiz. Those titles were then able to invade promotional positions such as the What’s Hot Categories in each of the categories under Games. Apple recently posted 4.6 billion in revenue for the Q4 of 2014, highlighting how much money truly is at stake for many developers. With organic downloads being snagged by clones and Apples slow response time; this fiasco gave more incentive to copy rather than create innovative experiences.

The App Store bug ultimately highlights a crucial fact about app marketplace management. As much as the App Store is a great feature for consumers, app management is mission critical to a developer’s survival. Statistically, 47% of app developers are independent, unable to withstand the potential loss of first week advertising and visibility or worse yet becoming the next break out success. Proper operations and curation ensures that developers are treated fairly and rewarded for producing high quality well received apps in a highly competitive market.