For some developers of the top-selling apps at Apple's iPhone App Store, the development platform is not making them millionaires, but forms a piece of a broader portfolio offering.
According to a recent blog post, very few people are making money off their iPhone apps. The blogger said: "An absurdly small percentage of developers will ever reach [the] point" of making more than US$100,000 off an app, and added that for games apps, it only takes six to eight downloads per day to get it listed on Apple's Top 100 charts.
This also leaves the majority of the 36,000 apps unmoved off the shelves, the blogger said.
ZDNet Asia heard a similar story from some of the top iPhone games developers.
Nathan Hunley who runs Igloo Games, which created the Dizzy Bee game, said he is making a "comparable" salary to his previous jobs at Nintendo and Sony, although he did not say how much that was. "I'm not getting rich and not struggling to survive."
Igloo charges US$2.99 per download of Dizzy Bee, which has been placed within the top 20 most downloaded games. "[Although] Dizzy Bee has gotten a lot of notoriety and it seems like tons of people know it, we're not getting rich. People assume that every success in the App Store is a home run, but even having a hit doesn't guarantee you'll be making a check in three months. It's very easy to fall off the charts and be forgotten about," said Hunley.
Getting word out on apps is not easy, either, he said. Dizzy Bee's boost in exposure was a result of it being featured by Apple in its iTunes storefront. If the game had not been highlighted, Igloo would have had to develop a marketing strategy on its own, said Hunley.
Apps tend to get moved by word of mouth too, but Hunley thinks developers should focus on making "games of substance" to stay valuable to customers.
Tero Alatalo, CEO of Finnish development company, 10tons, too said: "There is certainly a risk that an app doesn't get noticed. The competition is fierce in terms of quantity. Lots of apps do get edged out of the game quite early on."
Alatalo too said quality matters in the long run. "Don't aim for mediocrity... Sure, you could always get lucky with a lower quality app, but the simple truth is that the better your app, the higher your chance of success." This principle applies to "all game industries", he said.
iPhone app part of broader offering
Igloo makes games only for the iPhone platform. On the other hand, 10tons' game, Azkend, is part of a broader portfolio offering. Azkend is based on an existing desktop version, said Alatalo.
"Having our products available on all platforms that make sense is definitely part of our bigger strategy. Making an iPhone version is a relatively easy extension to a desktop product as long as the original app is suitable for touch controls and a smaller screen," he said.
Following the success of the iPhone version of Azkend, 10tons is looking to port another desktop game offering, Dragon Portals, to the mobile platform "in the near future", added Alatalo.
Enterprise software maker Qlikview has a BI (business intelligence) iPhone app.
Eryk Markiewicz, vice president of marketing, global alliances and international markets at QlikView, told ZDNet Asia in an interview, the company decided to build an iPhone version of its BI software to fill a void in the market for mobile BI apps.
"There aren't any mobile BI applications that are interactive and optimized [for the platform]," he said, adding that many competing apps tend to display static reports and do not exploit the platform's features.
Qlikview hopes its iPhone offering will help pull more customers into using their on-premise and cloud offerings for the desktop. "It is up to the user to decide which device he will use to access the QlikView application and the iPhone version adds just another way to use QlikView in the go," said Markiewicz.
He added: "We don't expect the majority of our revenue will come from mobile application in the coming years but it is definitively a growing need and we want our customers to benefit from it."
Qlikview's mobile BI app is also available for Java-based mobile phones.