I’m an independent developer and recently launched a World Cup iPhone app called ‘Total Football 2010’ for this summer’s World Cup, a really unique sports app providing rich in match stats and visualisations of every match event including every pass, shot, tackle etc:
It’s been extremely well received and the reviews in the App Store tell their own story, overwhelmingly positive. My costs involved two months developing it and paying a third party for the license to use the data (which was a fairly hefty cost for an individual like myself), it’s 100% my own work and I took a break from freelancing to give me the opportunity to complete the app. I hoped that at worst case I would cover my costs and best case it would prove to be popular enough to allow me to continue development on the concept to apply to other competitions after the World Cup.
My numbers so far are very much in line with what you are discussing. Even though the app has been reasonably successful (in the top 10 across a number of European countries and particularly strong in the UK where it’s been in the top 5 selling sports apps for the last couple of days) I’m still struggling to break even on the venture. In part, I’m sure this is due to the fact that I have zero marketing budget but the app has even been featured by Apple on the App Store homepage and sales have decreased since that happened! To give you an idea though, the app is outselling apps by large brands such as The Times (of London), the official England football team’s app and other large brands here in the UK. I dread to think how much they invested in the apps to see even smaller returns than I’m seeing!
In truth, this shouldn’t really be taken as a standard business case study. I’m an individual developer who was really scratching an itch, I knew this kind of app was possible and have been massively frustrated that no ‘big brand’ was using the data I am to provide a really rich experience for users. Also, it’s actually been a pleasure to work on from a development point of view, the iPhone platform is fantastic from a developer’s perspective. I’m incredibly proud of the app I’ve built, the feedback I’ve got and I know the experience of doing this is going to be fantastic for me in future. I’m still very hopeful that the app will come to the attention of someone with a budget who will be interested in the future development of the concept – whether that be in mobile apps or not!
So even had I read this article 3 months ago I probably still would have went ahead with the idea. But I just wanted to chip in with personal experience and reaffirm the message you’ve laid out here. Don’t be taken in by the hype, be realistic in what you expect your returns to be and be very aware that the long tail is very very long…
If anyone is interested in discussing my experience, please feel free to get in touch at the email address below or on twitter.
Twitter: @colm @totalfootball10
As the article emphasized that mobile apps is not a gold mine but it is a good way to learn, gain experience. Maybe, the developers should keep a ‘I’m in for the fun, and not for the money’ attitude towards mobile apps.