Tag Archives: Freemium

25 Insights About Top Grossing Games on iOS

In my last post I noted that it’s naturally getting harder for apps to get noticed in the iOS app store as we went from 500,000 apps in the App Store in 2012 to over 1.5 million today.  So I decided there’s no better way to back that up then to look at the Top Grossing Games list for iOS – and after crunching the numbers a bit, here are 25 things I learned

Note about the data: I took estimates of revenue and downloads from ThinkGaming for February 19th and combined some meta data from AppAnnie.  Revenue we are showing is strictly from In App Purchase (IAP) revenues, excluding any advertising revenue.


  1. The top 200 grossing games generate about $10.4 million in IAP revenue a day
  2. The top two games – Clash of Clans and Game of War – generate about 27% of the revenues
  3. The top ten games represent over 50% of the top 200 grossing games
  4. All of the games in the top 200 make at least $10,000 a day in IAP revenue


The Top Ten Make Over 50% of the Revenue Generated by the Top 200 Grossing Games on iOS



  1. Over 93% of the titles in the top 200 are free to play
  2. Only two paid games cracked the top 100 games: the ad-free version of Trivia Crack for $2.99 at #16 and Minecraft for $6.99 at #26
  3. Freemium games average more than 2x the daily revenue: $55.4K vs. $24.1K
  4. Removing the top 10 freemium and top 2 paid which skew the results, the ratio is relatively similar with freemium games making 1.8x the daily revenue of a paid game: $26.8K vs. $14.9K
  5. The more you charge, the fewer the downloads. It’s a terribly small sample size for paying apps, but if you remove Trivia Crack and Minecraft plus the top 10 free games, the rate of downloads has the reduced velocity you’d expect
  6. The daily downloads for $1.99 is one-third of the downloads at $0.99, but the difference between $1.99 and $2.99 is not as big a drop, suggesting that if you are going to go above $0.99 you should just jump to $2.99

The higher the price, the lower the downloads



  1. While the Top 200 Grossing Games on iOS is skewed towards newer titles (40% released since 2014), the biggest money makers are apps that were released in 2012 which average nearly $100K per day compared to 2013 releases that average $46K per day
  2. Half of the top ten grossing games were released in 2012 or earlier
  3. Remove the top ten games, and the average revenue by release year is actually relatively similar.  Those EARLIER than 2012 average $33K and those including and since 2012 average around $25K


Apps released in 2012 make 2x the revenue of those released in following years



  1. Just over 100 companies are represented in the top 200
  2. Two-thirds of the companies have a single title in the top 200 but make up just 25% of the revenue
    • Nearly half of that is Machine Zone’s Game of War, meaning that two-thirds of the companies have a single title and make up less than 15% of the revenue
  3. Those with multiple titles in the top 200 average 3.6 apps each and take in just over 75% of the revenue
  4. Parent company Storm8 (which also has the TeamLava and Shark Party brands) has the most apps in the Top 200 with 14 titles averaging $15.7K per day for a net take of $220K per day
  5. The other two companies with double digit apps in the top 200 are Electronic Arts (11) and Zynga (10) making $433K per day and $248K per day respectively
  6. The top money makers are all well known
    • Supercell: 3 titles in top six, generating $2.2 million per day
    • King.com: 8 titles generating $1.7 million per day
    • Machine Zone: just Game of War, #2 overall, generating over $1.1 million per day


Lots of smaller developers have a single title in the top 200, but a third of the companies have over 3.5 games each in the list

Two-thirds of the companies have a single title in the top grossing list, but they earn only 15% of the total revenues from the Top 200 Grossing Games



  1. Our fixation with gambling is well represented in the app store’s Top Grossing list.  When you exclude the top ten apps that, as we noted above, really skew the numbers, the best performing genre of game by far are the seven Casino/Poker titles which are averaging $57K per day.  And we excluded the biggest Casino App, #7 Big Fish Casino which generates an estimated $188K per day.  The second best performing genre among those with at least five titles are Slots games – there is a crazy 16 different slot apps in the Top 200 grossing apps list and they are averaging $31K per day
  2. Puzzle Games also do really well.  Again excluding the Top Ten which includes some of the biggest money makers in Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga, the match-three game genere has 20 titles and averages about $30.5K per day.   The three bubble shooters in the Top 200 are averaging $38K per day
  3. Other top genres with at least four titles in the top 200:
    • People Sim (including Kim Kardashian naturally): $35.2K/day, six titles
    • City Sim: $28.4K/day, 6 titles
    • Bingo: $25.8K/day, 4 titles
    • RPG: $24.2K/day, 42 titles
  4. Excluding Hay Day, there are three Farm Sim games in the Top 200 — and twice as many Dragon (Farming) Sim games.  On average, those games make about $17-18K per day 


  1. Only half of the free games are ranked in the top 200 free game charts, meaning half of the list is not making their money on volume, but very solid average revenue per user (ARPU)
  2. With AppAnnie you can track the difference between the first tracking of a game and the official wide release date.  Practices have changed over time (some studios now release on a non-branded publisher name in another country and then when things look good re-release the game on the main brand), but you can get some basic insights nonetheless.  Some of the biggest companies on the Top 200 Grossing list are testing for two to three months before release:
    • King.com — 88 days
    • Supercell — 79 days
    • Storm8 (inlcuding TeamLava) – 59 days
    • Kabam – 49 days

So some conclusions

  • Money is indeed being consolidated into the top few players, with a third of the companies in the top 200 grossing games list driving 75% of the money for the games on that list
  • Many games released in 2012 or earlier were able to cement their first-mover advantage and are making on average nearly 2x that of games released in subsequent years
  • Freemium games tend to out perform paid games in total grossing revenues
  • While gambling and puzzle games dominate the apps in the list and the revenue, there will be some non-standard genres that have a break out hit like Trivia Crack – but again this is more an outlier and very hard to bank on

Mafia Wars Tests Paying for Thai Expansion: Dawn of a New Social Game Model?

When the Daily Active User (DAU) numbers are broken from Facebook for a week, it’s hard to figure out trends, but the 3rd expansion set for Zynga’s Mafia Wars (and heavy advertising to promote it – and possibly stem growth from Playfish’s slick new mafia-themed entry Gangster Wars) has helped the game reach it’s highest DAU numbers (6.6 million) since December 12th (when the perfect storm of a very messy release, user backlash, and the removal of pre-game gifting caused numbers to plummet).

The promotion of the Thai expansion is interesting because it harkens to that of a video game release by trying to create hype and a desire to get invited to play the expansion. Users were prompted to unlock different items by hunting for jobs with specific logos. Then users were prompted to send gifts of Thai Baht (the currency used in the location) to friends. And then there has been the limited roll out to select users. The ads prompted you to go and see if the “passport” was unlocked for you to go to Thailand. And if it wasn’t you were hit with this:


Three interesting options:

  1. You could try to get it for free (and I’m sure the odds on that are low or designed to reward a certain type of prolific player who is likely to help market it),
  2. You could socially spam all of your friends (someday it would be nice to target to just your Mafia Wars friends) with a wall post (which provides valuable viral marketing for Mafia Wars ) in hopes that your Mafia Wars friends had an extra passport (a sort of by-invitation-only mechanism like gmail and Google Wave that makes it feel like an exclusive club), or
  3. You could buy the expansion pack for 30 Reward Points (the equivalent of $6 of the paid currency in the game).

This last option is the most intriguing, as it suggests a new wrinkle in the freemium business model of social games – something to be expected where these “games as a service” begin to emulate MMORPGs more and more. The buying of expansion packs is fairly common in MMORPGs when new worlds or realms are opened up with a ton of content. The hardcore players buy it when it first comes out and then the expansion pack is added to the core game over time. The same model makes a lot of sense for Mafia Wars, as the expansion packs to date have been targeted at hard core users (you can’t get to Cuba until you’ve hit level 35 and if you weren’t already playing, an expansion pack to Thailand is not going to make you rush to sign up and play).

The price ($6) does seem a little steep at first glance. It is shrewdly priced above the lowest Reward Points bundle (25 Reward Points for $4.99) in an effort to get users to “increase their purchase size” to the 50 Reward Points for $9.99 bundle. One could also argue that users may already have a large stockpile of Reward Points as they were given away to retain users over the holidays.

One could also speculate that the sale of virtual goods may have been declining for many reasons: 1) an overall saturation of the Facebook audience for a mature game, leading to a reduction in new users who are the lifeblood of virtual item sales, 2) hard core users (who tend to be your more prolific buyers) at the maximum 501 mafia seeing less value in buying new items once they have their entire mafia outfitted and 3) a tremendous give-away of loot items (both on limited-time discounts and as part of the “gift safe house” promotion) since Thanksgiving. When a game matures and your hard core users don’t have anything to buy (or do), you need to find something else to meet that demand. Expansion packs are a logical fit and it’ll be interesting to see Zynga’s experiment unfold.

The questions going forward:

  • Is any other RPG-style Facebook game even able to attempt this model? After Mafia Wars (24 million MAU, 6.6 million DAU), the next largest RPG-style game on Facebook is Playdom’s Sorority Life with only (6.1 million MAU, 988,000 DAU) and no real history of expansion packs to date.
  • Can any game genre outside of RPGs do this? Once could argue the additional fish tanks in Sim Fish games are a bit similar, but those are usually at a smaller price and don’t provide real content, which make them almost seem like virtual items.
  • Does the expansion pack model allow developers to add levels without all the repetitive jobs and energy that Tadhg Kelly recently criticized as unethical design?
  • For this model moving forward, how much free content should there be? Could this open up a hybrid model where a subset of users would be willing to buy an expansion pack that just took you through a story while non-payers would have to slog through new levels with repetitive jobs?

Interested in your thoughts as to whether this is a model that can succeed (in at least skimming off user’s willingness to pay among core users) and whether any other developers will try to follow suit.