They flame out. Apple CEO Tim Cook made a point of noting this week that the company has paid out more than $5 billion to app developers. But Canalys analyst Tim Shepherd estimates that two-thirds of the apps receive fewer than 1,000 downloads in their first year, and a significant proportion of those get none at all. From the Guardian:
There are lots of lucrative success stories in the apps industry, but many, many more abject failures. A bedroom coder releasing an app developed in their spare time may not be financially troubled if that app does badly, but the suspicion remains that larger app publishers are losing their shirts left, right and centre - spending significant sums making apps that sink without trace once released.
The WSJ compares today's app world to the long-ago days of Tin Pan Alley. Coming up with a snappy tune is one thing - selling it to somebody is something else.
"The barriers to entry are definitely increasing," says 37-year-old Amos Marvel, the co-founder of Los Angeles-based Hidden Variable Studios, whose well-received game "Bag It!" is No. 1 on Apple's free-download charts. Unlike some developers, Mr. Marvel declined to pay to have the game reviewed by certain websites. He did launch a promotion that pushed the apps to users via a service called App-O-Day, which charges a fee for each user download. Hidden Variable hasn't yet recovered its costs, Mr. Marvel says. He estimated it could take up to a year to earn it back. "People don't realize how much marketing it takes to get in front of people."