'Appy Feat: How Apple conquered games

'Appy Feat: How Apple conquered games
Michael French

By Michael French

July 12th 2009 at 11:26PM

Facts, figures and highlights from the past year of iPhone's success

The jury might still be out on whether anyone can really make a long-term business model out of App Store sales.

And, yes, 'discoverability' remains an issue for some, driving developers big and small to game the charts with free or cheap apps that dominate the best-seller lists.

But whatever criticism you might make of it, no one can deny that, in just a year, the App Store has made some fundamental changes to the traditional business model in the games industry - and has even put the emerging digital distribution channels to shame.

Thousands upon thousands of apps; millions of phones sold; billions of downloads - we thought it was only right to look back at how Apple so quickly carved a key space for itself in the minds of games developers and the mobile market…


- After much speculation that the firm would expand its music player line to include a phone (and after a poorly-received attempt to work with mobile handset firm Motorola on an iTunes-compatible phone), Apple announced the existence of the iPhone on January 9th, 2007.

- The iPhone launched in the US on June 29, 2007 ahead of its global roll-out from November 2007 - over a million were sold by September 10th that year, 74 days after its introduction.

- The iPod Touch - which boasts many similar functions to the iPhone, save for the phone - was unveiled on September 5th.

- Just days after the launch of the iPhone, the OS was hacked (or 'jailbroken') with a dedicated tool that allowed independently made applications to run on the handsets. The first such app arrived on August 6th.

- As time went on Apple was thwarting the jailbreaking with firmware updates – specifically one in September 2007 which rendered unlocked devices unusable – and hackers would release new ways to jailbreak the phones. However...

- ...Apple eventually gave in, and just a month later that it would legitimately open up the iPhone and iPod Touch to independent developers via a blog post written by CEO Steve Jobs. "Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February," he said in the letter published on October 17, 2007.

- "We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones," Jobs had also said, but…

- …it actually took a little while longer. The SDK was first unveiled on March 6th, 2008 with the first release arriving in beta the same day.

- It costs $99 to enter the iPhone developer scheme, and the SDK includes a software emulator - but it will only run on Intel-based Macs (naturally), so the real cost including hardware can be anywhere upwards of $599/£499. Throw in an extra $229/£169 if you want an iPod Touch to test software on - or over $99/£100 for an iPhone (including contract).

- In just a week after its launch, Apple said the SDK was downloaded over 100,000 time by prospective App developers.

- Alongside the SDK unveiling, Apple revealed the App Store - the mechanism which would make Apps available, either from handsets or via iTunes on Mac and PC - and the iPhone 3G, a new version of the phone announced earlier that year which added faster communications to the device.

- The final version of the SDK was released in July 2008, alongside the iPhone 3G, its 2.0 firmware and the App Store.

- The App Store had launched on iTunes on July 10, 2008, but wasn't entirely accessible to users until the release of the 2.0 firmware update for iPhone and iPod Touch on July 11th, which made apps playable.

- In terms of games, the 500 launch apps included Super Monkey Ball, Trism, Cro-Mag Rally, Columns Deluxe, Adventure, and Zen Pinball.

- 125 of the launch apps were free, the rest had to be paid for.

- Apple assigns an age rating to every app, either 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+.

- Developers can set any price they want, above a minimum, for their creations but generally the cost of App Store apps can range from 59p/99c to £5.99/$10.

- However, there are apps priced much higher, including a finance/productivity suite called MyAccountsToGo, priced £279.99/$449.99.

- Briefly, an application fittingly called 'I Am Rich' - which did little else except load - was made available for $999, but the prank app was pulled quickly after it launched. That didn't stop someone buying it beforehand, though.

- A month after the launch Apple said one of the first games, Other Ocean's Super Monkey Ball title for Sega, had sold 300,000 copies in 20 days.

- Priced at $9.99, Super Monkey Ball turned over $3 million in less than a month.

- At the time, Apple also said $1m was being spent every day on the App Store by iPhone and iPod Touch owners. Insiders now say the amount could be close to double that.

- Analyst firm Piper Jaffray says that the store could generate over $1bn in revenue every year for Apple, even though the firm says it doesn't see the service as a major profit driver.

- That's because 70 per cent of the revenue made from each App sold on the store is given to the seller of the App...

- ...while just 30 per cent, meanwhile, goes to Apple.

- By comparison, the Xbox Live Arcade revenue ration is believed to be the complete opposite.

- Meanwhile Nintendo WiiWare and PlayStation Network's revenue ratio is said to be 'comparable' to Apple's, but can differ between games.

- By September 9, 2008 - two months after the App Store launch - Apple said that over 3,000 apps were available.

- Apple also said that at that point downloads had reached over 100 million globally.

- By March 2009, there were over 6,000 games available for iPhone.

- In April this year, Apple revealed that a billion apps had been downloaded within nine months.

- The one billionth app, Bump created by Bump Technologies, was downloaded by Connor Mulcahey, age 13, of Weston, CT, Apple said.

- At that point, Apple said there were 35,000 apps on the App Store.

- Just over a year after the debut of the SDK, on March 17, Apple unveiled the 3.0 version of the iPhone OS. This upgrade added over 1,000 new APIs to the toolset including In-App Purchases, Peer-to-Peer connections, access to the iPod music library, a new Maps API and Push Notifications.

- On June 8th, at the unveiling of the iPhone 3GS - and days before the official launch of the 3.0 firmware - Apple said that there were over 50,000 apps on the store.

- At the time of writing (July 11, 2009), however, monitor site Mobclix says there are 64,338 apps on the store.

- The biggest category is games. Of all Apps 20.6 per cent (13,283) are games.

- Other genres break down as follows (starting with the smallest): Weather (319), Medical (700), Finance (982), Photography (1,032), Social Networking (1,041), Health & Fitness (1,470), Business (1,514), News (1,661), Navigation (1,767), Sports (1,852), Productivity (1,909), Music (2,039), Reference (2,287), Lifestyle (3,449), Travel (3,536), Education (3,972), Utilities (4,542), Books (7,856), and Entertainment (9,127).

- Of course, days after this is published those numbers will have varied no doubt, given the speed with which the number rises - hundreds of Apps are uploaded to the store every week.

- According to Mobclix, of the 10,000+ games on the App Store, 72.9 per cent are paid-for apps, the other 27.1 per cent are free.

- If you wanted to buy all the apps available on the Store, you'd have to pay just under $150,000.

- Over a million units of the iPhone 3GS were sold during the three days following its launch.

- Six million owners updated their phones to firmware 3.0 in the five days since its release.

- In March 2009, Apple confirmed it had sold over 30m units of iPod Touch and iPhone (the ratio is believed to be around one iPod Touch sold for every two iPhones).

- By September this year Apple expects to have shipped out over 40m 3G iPhones.