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A spooky new trend in apps

by User Not Found | Oct 29, 2010

Angry Birds is a runaway success. It has appeared in the top ten Apple apps for the last 26 weeks. More than 2M copies were downloaded on Android almost immediately. However, Angry Birds is Rovio’s only game. Once everyone who is interested in games has downloaded it, how does a company like that continue to make money? Are they destined to be a “one hit wonder” and disappear after the initial burst of downloads?

The solution seems to be to sell themed applications! The Angry Birds Halloween app is just the beginning of a trend we expect to see more of from developers successful with a single product, as Rovio has already discussed a Christmas themed Angry Birds to be released later this year. It’s unclear if Labor Day, Boxing Day, or Bastille Day will warrant their own themed applications.

The fact that themed applications are launching shouldn’t come as a shock but their release does show us that companies are still testing various strategies.

Instead of leveraging in-app purchasing to sell the themed levels, Rovio sold Angry Birds Halloween as an independent application. This is interesting for a few reasons:

It shows there are some limitations with in-app purchasing. Specifically

  1. The audience for the app may be different (or larger) than the original app thus limiting it to those who bought the original limits the audience
  2. Having an app appear in the top ten must sell more product than marketing an upgrade in-app by garnering “free” ad space on the list
  3. The halo effect could occur introducing new users to the original app.

Lima Sky on the other hand updated their application, Doodle Jump to include a Halloween theme but did not release a new app. This could be for a number of reasons

  1. Lima Sky didn’t want to develop an entirely new app
  2. Lima Sky felt the boost of Doodle Jump downloads sufficiently met their sales goals

Neither approach was wrong or right but simple present different ways to pitch an app. However, the results seem clear - Angry Birds Halloween sits atop the iTunes US Top Ten app list on 10/28/2010 while Doodle Jump is in eighth. The original Angry Birds is second. Now, Angry Birds is inherently more popular so it’s not a clear cut victory but the numbers don’t lie. It is now reported Rovio has sold more than 1M copies of Angry Birds Halloween netting nearly $700,000 in the process.

What this means is that other successful developers may in fact follow Rovio’s lead in the future. A holiday edition of Skee-Ball might include rolling pumpkins or Christmas ornaments. And as these successful developers crowd the top ten with multiple applications they will reduce the space available for new developers. Combine this with Apple not updating the top ten lists during the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and entrenched developers stand to benefit even more as users are exposed to their offerings while emerging players struggle to break into the top ten. This only furthers the notion that enhanced discoverability is key for future app stores and could present an opportunity for other platforms to woo developers.

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