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Why one developer decided he was done with the iOS App Store
Why one developer decided he was done with the iOS App Store
October 29, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

In a postmortem of his game PWN: Combat Hacking printed on Pocket Tactics, mobile developer Erik Asmussen says the iOS market has become too crowded for even a successful title to pay dividends.

"Many things that used to work (press, Apple feature, free promotions) have lost effectiveness," Asmussen writes. "Even when all these things fell miraculously into place, the revenues simply weren't there."

To date, PWN has seen 50,000 downloads and a lifetime revenue of about $10,000. Asmussen says that, at PWN's peak position within the top 200 on the Apple app store, the game was earning about $300 to $400 a day.

"This would be great if sustained, but hanging on to these spots is nearly impossible without an ongoing feature in the App Store or a huge install base," he explains. "The scary thing is that these numbers are actually pretty good for an iOS title."

While the game garnered better-than-typical press attention upon release, middling reviews and certain design quibbles caused PWN to drop off the radar shortly after launch, and no amount of updates and free promotions could regain that lost ground.

"The free app market is [arguably] even tougher to compete in, because all the big money players are now staked out there and it takes a massive ad spend to get anywhere close to the number of players you might need to get decent revenue," says Asmussen. "While [PWN's performance is] not a disaster, it's a pretty weak return given a year's worth of time and my expectations for the game's potential."

As a result, Asmussen says he's now focusing his efforts elsewhere than the app store. "iOS is just not a market that I think is viable for me to compete in any more, let alone depend on as a sole source of income. Instead, I am developing games using Unity and targeting several other platforms first."

"The most important benefit of this shift is that it opens up a ton of new avenues for promotion and distribution that were unavailable to me as an iOS developer," he adds. "I know these markets are still highly competitive and have their own problems and obstacles, but they don't feel like the dead end that iOS appears to be now for someone in my position."

You can read the entire postmortem, and the lessons Asmussen has drawn from developing PWN, over at Pocket Tactics.

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