In the few short years since both the Apple and Android app stores have been around, we’ve seen a huge increase in what is now on offer for phones and tablets. With innovative new games and apps released daily, the user is spoilt for choice. With the Apple App Store recently hitting it’s 50 billionth download, and with Google Play just overtaking them, there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon. What is it that they are doing that makes them so successful, and what is holding them back from achieving more?
Despite their successes, there is much that could be improved. The most pressing problem is the sheer glut of apps available. When faced with such choice, a customer will most likely go with the brand name they know. The numbers bear this out, as recently it was found that 8% of all the apps on the Android market can be found on 99% of smartphones, while the other 92% ‘languish in obscurity’. Not good news for a new developer without a well known brand name to work with.
Also, there is the problem with ‘game clones’. Once a game becomes a runaway hit, such as Candy Crush Saga (itself a reworking of Bejeweled) and Temple Run, hundreds of copycat games will also pop up on the app store. Sometimes, this will result in all new popular game which builds on the successful gameplay mechanics of the original, much as Candy Crush Saga did, but more often than not they’re simply rushed copies put out on the store to snare more downloads.
Another problem is the sheer amount of platforms apps need to be usable on. They have to be available on iOS, Android and Windows, as well as the hundreds of different handsets available. The recent introduction of the tablet just increases the spread more. Brian Kennish speculates that this is one of the biggest problems currently facing the marketplace.
But what are the positive aspects of the app marketplace? Firstly, there is the choice on offer. Despite the above statistics of customers sticking with what they know, for those intrepid explorers there will be hidden gems out there in the store, waiting for them.
It also encourages small and indie developers. Some of the best app games have come from developers who have previously been unknowns, but were willing to think outside of the box. One of the best examples is Rovio Entertainment, who released Angry Birds. The game has been downloaded over 1 billion times, making it one of the most successful games on the Apple App Store.
Mobile gaming is now becoming a serious contender in gaming, with iOS and Android games now allegedly outselling Nintendo and Sony’s portable gaming offerings. For developers who are just starting out, or those who want to get a foothold in this developing industry, now is the time to get involved.
So, how can the app marketplace be improved to become this serious contender?
Firstly, game ‘clones’ should be discouraged from the app store. This would encourage creativity in game design, bringing a wider range of quality gaming apps to the store. The lesser known high quality apps need more exposure, to lessen that 8%’s share on the marketplace and spread the word.
To further spread the word of new quality games, there needs to be a system put in place to ‘highlight’ new talent. This has been done in PC gaming, with the introduction of Steam Greenlight. This has proven to be a huge success, bringing games such games as McPixel to the attention of their customers. Another way of highlighting new games is to use the ‘if you liked this’ function, most commonly associated with Amazon. With this in place, a list of recommendations would appear whenever a customer bought and downloaded an app. Like the systems in place online, it would learn what that customer liked and recommend suitable titles for them.
Dojit Notify is one service that helps developers improve the way they use push notifications. If used correctly, they can greatly improve a customer’s experience with an app and increase its longevity. The service uses a simple to use interface, which allows developers to manage their notifications quickly. It even allows them to create personalized notifications for their customers, creating a unique experience for everyone who uses it.
The app marketplace at the moment is booming, but can still stand to make some improvements. With some tweaking and creative thinking, developers can really take advantage of it to make a name for themselves and create some amazing products.