Things have changed quite a bit since I published my first Android App back in 2009. Let’s talk about a figure that is sort of a magic number (pun intended) for a free app: 50K downloads.
Why 50K downloads?
Google Play displays the amount of downloads in blocks: 1K+, 5K+, 10K+, 50k+ and so on. Sometimes you need to double the number of downloads to move up and sometimes you need five times the amount. This makes 50K downloads an official milestone on Google Play and one of the “hard” ones.
Also, this number has some interesting properties.
First let’s see a niche app: MTG Tracker.
I observed that after reaching 50K downloads, the grow accelerated. While I am sure this has multiple causes, I believe one is that it reached some critical mass and word of mouth started to make an impact. It was sort of an inflection point.
When we talk about games, the story is quite the opposite.
At The Pill Tree, we observed that 50K downloads was sort of an upper limit. Each of our games quickly grew to 40K+ downloads, but after that, reaching 50K seemed more and more difficult. It looked like an asymptote.
It took Chalk Ball 2 months to get there. For SpaceCat it was 5 months. Both games had a remarkable amount of reviews in specialized blog that helped them to get to that point. But both were stuck at 50K until they were featured.
During the time SpaceCat was featured, it had 50K downloads per day. Same number again. This was February 2012, when the estimated amount of Android phones was “only” 300M.
What about now?
During 2012, It has taken Codemon 8 moths to get to 25K downloads, even with a fair amount of reviews on its bag (not as many as the other games, but still quite a few).
I’d like to highlight that the game Barcode Beasties (very similar to Codemon) has over 100K downloads, being IMHO unfinished and less polished (but it was launched a long while ago, more on that later).
This does not make sense
There are much more Android phones out there, so getting downloads should be easier, not harder, right?
Disclaimer: This is just my hypothesis that tries to explain this situation.
There are more users, yes, but the mayority are not power users. The amount of people that continuously checks Android news and is looking for new games and apps has barely grown. These guys are mostly early adopters and that phase is long gone.
But the amount of users is growing, so, even slightly, the amount of power users should grow. Where are they?
Well, it becomes more clear if we look at how much competition we have.
I consider myself a power user and an early adopter, and this is what happens for me:
- I am flooded with new good apps coming out every week I barely have time to run them even once, and the same is true for games. I just can’t keep up.
- I have most of my needs covered already. That means I have over 70 apps / games installed that I like and use every now and then. It feels like I don’t need more.
A while ago, I tried almost every game that looked interesting. As of today, I have around 10 apps in my wishlist waiting for a chance, for months.
So, I think power users are either satisfied, overwhelmed or no longer so excited.
Apps used to get more exposure given the bigger percentage of power users and mainly, less competition, but even then, it was not that great.
Is all dark and gloom?
If the amount of users grow, but is harder to get to them, what’s the point?
While this is discouraging, there are 2 main benefits from this situation:
- If you get to be featured / popular the growth is spectacular. SpaceCat was having 50K downloads a day, and that was one year ago. Nowadays is must be even bigger.
- There are more specialized users and that means the niches are bigger in size. I have observed how the growth of my niche apps (MTG Tracker, KendamApp & JuggleDroid) almost matches the grow of number of Android phones, just on a different scale.
Over the past years, the amount of Android users has grown (over 500M now), and so has the amount and quality of apps and games being released daily (over 750K apps listed).
The number of apps that a user can check per day is limited, and it is independent of the amount of users, it just depend on the number of apps.
Getting the same amount of downloads for your app is harder than before, but if you are lucky, the difference is astonishing.
Maybe it is time for all of us to start spending more money and/or time on marketing, focus more on niche apps (even niche games)