James Daniels of Apex Designs, author of GTA-like Payback [App Store, $4.99] for the iPhone and iPod touch, has made a post to his website detailing the notable sales success of Payback during its first two months in the App Store.

payback_graph

Since Payback made its App Store debut (at $6.99) in late January it has generated gross revenues of $400,000 across 65,000 copies sold.  The lite version [App Store, Free], which appeared about two weeks ago, has seen roughly half a million downloads.

As Daniels points out, the sales he's had so far represent only 0.2% of the iPhone platform user base, speaking to the enormity of the App Store market.

And while Apex Designs has done quite well with this action / RPG, Daniels knows it's not success stories all around when it comes to the App Store and offers some advice to Apple.

We do have one criticism though: it's vitally important to get visibility on the device, so getting into the Top 50 can really boost sales - unfortunately, the paid app charts are sorted by sales, which is inevitably going to skew things towards the cheaper apps and so will make it harder for relatively expensive apps like ours to break through (in fact, we have only occasionally been in the charts in most countries).

We've been lucky (and the lite version certainly helped), but others haven't been so fortunate. We'd therefore like to humbly suggest a solution to Apple - please sort the paid apps by revenue not by units sold. This would effectively allow the better value apps to rise to the top irrespective of price, giving them the visibility they deserve. This would benefit customers and developers alike because it would encourage quality software rather than cheap novelties.

Congrats, Apex.  Payback has come a long way since its humble Amiga beginnings.

  • stargazer513

    I FULLY AGREE. APPLE NEEDS TO CHANGE THAT RIGHT NOW. or perhaps even create two sections, one revenues top list and one units sold top list!

    • Tanner

      No, what I think Apple needs to do is divide the "Top Paid" section into "Top Paid 3.99 and Up" and "Top Paid .99-2.99" or something. Maybe allow the user to set the price ranges for Top 50

  • stargazer513

    I FULLY AGREE. APPLE NEEDS TO CHANGE THAT RIGHT NOW. or perhaps even create two sections, one revenues top list and one units sold top list!

    • Tanner

      No, what I think Apple needs to do is divide the "Top Paid" section into "Top Paid 3.99 and Up" and "Top Paid .99-2.99" or something. Maybe allow the user to set the price ranges for Top 50

  • http://numerus.fabali.net DrummerB

    What could be the reason for that second peak in the middle (2000)? Was that when they released the lite version?

    • SalsaMD

      and/or when the price dropped for the full version.

      • Peter321

        Maybe the release of 1.1 with new features and maps?

  • http://numerus.fabali.net DrummerB

    What could be the reason for that second peak in the middle (2000)? Was that when they released the lite version?

    • SalsaMD

      and/or when the price dropped for the full version.

      • Peter321

        Maybe the release of 1.1 with new features and maps?

  • Kris Jones

    I believe that Apple should allow users to choose how the Top 25, 50, etc is chosen.

    If I want it to be displayed as a number of total downloads, then give me that option.

    If I want it done by total revenue, again, give me that option.

    If I want it by most reviews, give me that option.

    I could go on and on. Give a little power back to the customers.

  • Kris Jones

    I believe that Apple should allow users to choose how the Top 25, 50, etc is chosen.

    If I want it to be displayed as a number of total downloads, then give me that option.

    If I want it done by total revenue, again, give me that option.

    If I want it by most reviews, give me that option.

    I could go on and on. Give a little power back to the customers.

  • Dudehuge

    Nope not by revenue, if Apple did it that way, iDracula wouldn't have been in top place in the past. Sure it used to be 99 cents but everyone that bought it knows that it's worth more than that, and I still pick it up every once in a while, unlike Payback.

    Like Kris said, it's better if you sort it by number of sales or revenue, not just one category.

  • Dudehuge

    Nope not by revenue, if Apple did it that way, iDracula wouldn't have been in top place in the past. Sure it used to be 99 cents but everyone that bought it knows that it's worth more than that, and I still pick it up every once in a while, unlike Payback.

    Like Kris said, it's better if you sort it by number of sales or revenue, not just one category.

  • SacrificialLamb

    Who's to say that iDracula wouldn't have done just as well if the chart was sorted by revenue? Changing the sorting method would only change chart position, not sales (except indirectly because of reduced visibility - although I'd guess iDracula would still have been high up even sorted by revenue).

    • spiffyone

      Not necessarily. At $0.99 they'd have to sell a lot more than, say, Oregon Trail or Let's Golf to have been ranked high up.

      And the position of Oregon Trail, Let's Golf, Wolfenstein 3D, Crash Nitro Kart (which was in the top 20 paid overall, and, more importantly because it is the area of direct competition, top 10 paid GAMES for quite a long time), the continued success of Super Monkey Ball (and, btw, if it were sorted by revenue, Crash and Monkey Ball would probably be in the top spots) kinda contradicts what the Payback devs are stating:

      More expensive apps do, in fact, do well. Oregon Trail and Let's Golf have sold gangbusters. Crash has, to my knowledge, never fallen out of the top 50 overall, and only recently has fallen out of the top 15 spots of the paid games charts. And Monkey Ball? Sega has pretty much played this thing perfectly and made money hand over fist on an app that took the dev about a month or so to make.

      So the higher priced apps can, in fact, do well...when they're tied to known IPs and/or larger developers. So in terms of the higher paid apps, the larger developers have the inherent advantage. The problem for a game like Payback was that it had relatively low visibility outside of the enthusiast circles (like this site), isn't a "known" IP, isn't tied to a large developer/publisher, and, tbqh, didn't have very good early reviews because prior to the latest update it just wasn't polished enough.

      What Apple REALLY needs to do is make the "free" lite versions timed. That way they aren't on your device, aren't play all the time sorts of deals. Because, tbqh, some of the "lite" versions are too full featured, and some consumers might feel that "why pay for the full game if I'm happy enough with this one level?"

  • SacrificialLamb

    Who's to say that iDracula wouldn't have done just as well if the chart was sorted by revenue? Changing the sorting method would only change chart position, not sales (except indirectly because of reduced visibility - although I'd guess iDracula would still have been high up even sorted by revenue).

    • spiffyone

      Not necessarily. At $0.99 they'd have to sell a lot more than, say, Oregon Trail or Let's Golf to have been ranked high up.

      And the position of Oregon Trail, Let's Golf, Wolfenstein 3D, Crash Nitro Kart (which was in the top 20 paid overall, and, more importantly because it is the area of direct competition, top 10 paid GAMES for quite a long time), the continued success of Super Monkey Ball (and, btw, if it were sorted by revenue, Crash and Monkey Ball would probably be in the top spots) kinda contradicts what the Payback devs are stating:

      More expensive apps do, in fact, do well. Oregon Trail and Let's Golf have sold gangbusters. Crash has, to my knowledge, never fallen out of the top 50 overall, and only recently has fallen out of the top 15 spots of the paid games charts. And Monkey Ball? Sega has pretty much played this thing perfectly and made money hand over fist on an app that took the dev about a month or so to make.

      So the higher priced apps can, in fact, do well...when they're tied to known IPs and/or larger developers. So in terms of the higher paid apps, the larger developers have the inherent advantage. The problem for a game like Payback was that it had relatively low visibility outside of the enthusiast circles (like this site), isn't a "known" IP, isn't tied to a large developer/publisher, and, tbqh, didn't have very good early reviews because prior to the latest update it just wasn't polished enough.

      What Apple REALLY needs to do is make the "free" lite versions timed. That way they aren't on your device, aren't play all the time sorts of deals. Because, tbqh, some of the "lite" versions are too full featured, and some consumers might feel that "why pay for the full game if I'm happy enough with this one level?"

  • http://www.onemoretap.com XCool

    Congrats to John for the success. Yes, I'd love to be able to sort those Top Paid apps list too. The App Store needs to listen to more of our feedback and work on it!

  • Chris

    isn't $5 x 65000 = 325000 ?
    After apple takes it's cut it's even smaller (227500), not to mention income tax:) but I guess 400000 sounds way better as a promotion.

    • SalsaMD

      Mar 08 Version 1.1
      Feb 19 $6.99 -> $4.99
      Jan 27 New App: $6.99, v1.02

  • http://www.onemoretap.com XCool

    Congrats to John for the success. Yes, I'd love to be able to sort those Top Paid apps list too. The App Store needs to listen to more of our feedback and work on it!

  • Chris

    isn't $5 x 65000 = 325000 ?
    After apple takes it's cut it's even smaller (227500), not to mention income tax:) but I guess 400000 sounds way better as a promotion.

    • SalsaMD

      Mar 08 Version 1.1
      Feb 19 $6.99 -> $4.99
      Jan 27 New App: $6.99, v1.02

  • SacrificialLamb

    I think it was $7 initially.

  • SacrificialLamb

    I think it was $7 initially.

  • RaZrVIN

    Wow, that is impressive. And yeah, SacrificialLamb, I'm pretty sure it was $7 at the start. Then they dropped the price.

  • RaZrVIN

    Wow, that is impressive. And yeah, SacrificialLamb, I'm pretty sure it was $7 at the start. Then they dropped the price.

  • Thaurin

    Still, $7 * 65.000 = 455.000. So, did they just not deduct Apple's 30% to look good and be newsworthy? I've seen more of these reports, but I'd like to know the math behind them.

  • Thaurin

    Still, $7 * 65.000 = 455.000. So, did they just not deduct Apple's 30% to look good and be newsworthy? I've seen more of these reports, but I'd like to know the math behind them.

  • Jacob

    Why oh why doesn't anybody ever suggest the incredibly obvious addition of sorting by RATING?!

  • Jacob

    Why oh why doesn't anybody ever suggest the incredibly obvious addition of sorting by RATING?!

  • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

    As I said in the article - $400K is gross revenue. (Before the deductions.) Daniels expresses this clearly, in other terms, in his article.

    • Thaurin

      Blake--thanks for clarifying. Obviously, I didn't understand the meaning of "gross revenue" the first time, English not being my first language.

  • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

    As I said in the article - $400K is gross revenue. (Before the deductions.) Daniels expresses this clearly, in other terms, in his article.

    • Thaurin

      Blake--thanks for clarifying. Obviously, I didn't understand the meaning of "gross revenue" the first time, English not being my first language.

  • Kris Jones

    Jacob,

    The reason it is not sorted by rating is because an app with 20 -30 reviews can have 5 stars if the developer gets their friends to give it 5 stars, therefore distorting the actually rating of the game.

  • Kris Jones

    Jacob,

    The reason it is not sorted by rating is because an app with 20 -30 reviews can have 5 stars if the developer gets their friends to give it 5 stars, therefore distorting the actually rating of the game.

  • Nitzan Wilnai

    The real question is how much did it cost them to make it and to market it. The game is very polished and I would be surprised if they managed to turn a profit even with $400K in sales.

    • stargazer513

      mm its ported from existing platform versions so it wasnt made from scratch. so i think profit was made. although the iphone version is polished and enhanced.

  • Nitzan Wilnai

    The real question is how much did it cost them to make it and to market it. The game is very polished and I would be surprised if they managed to turn a profit even with $400K in sales.

    • stargazer513

      mm its ported from existing platform versions so it wasnt made from scratch. so i think profit was made. although the iphone version is polished and enhanced.

  • Jacob

    Kris,

    There's a simple fix for that. When there are a multitude of apps with 5-star ratings, you secondary sort by number of ratings.

    • Dave

      It would not work...imagine if there are over 2000 app with 5 stars rating, where would Wolfenstein (around 4.5) be placed? #5312? who knows...but definitely not in the top 100.

      Well, you might say "new rating" might weed out some of these 5 stars rating? mulititude of new app can still come in with 5-stars?

      How would app like Payback, currently at 3.5 stars ever get any visibility in the app store?

      Of course, you can have the rating weighted. I seriously doubt even after being weighted...payback with 3.5 (or even wolfenstein) will ever get any visibility in the app store.

  • Jacob

    Kris,

    There's a simple fix for that. When there are a multitude of apps with 5-star ratings, you secondary sort by number of ratings.

    • Dave

      It would not work...imagine if there are over 2000 app with 5 stars rating, where would Wolfenstein (around 4.5) be placed? #5312? who knows...but definitely not in the top 100.

      Well, you might say "new rating" might weed out some of these 5 stars rating? mulititude of new app can still come in with 5-stars?

      How would app like Payback, currently at 3.5 stars ever get any visibility in the app store?

      Of course, you can have the rating weighted. I seriously doubt even after being weighted...payback with 3.5 (or even wolfenstein) will ever get any visibility in the app store.

  • Jacob

    Well, you are correct that there should probably be a certain minimum number of ratings an app needs to get before it can be listed. By the time an app gets over a hundred ratings (or two hundred, or some cutoff that makes sense based on the data) it can be listed. I think you're right that Payback, with it's 3 1/2 stars, would potentially be off the list. But that's because there are a lot of other apps out there that users think are better, at least based on the ratings. So let those win.

    • Dave

      HaHa....i was fully expecting you to say that. How obvious...set a minimum number of ratings.

      Except there is on MAJOR FLAW:

      If you really think about it, you're "rating ranking" system will be relatively STATIC. What I mean is that the ranking will not be changed much at all.

      Go to download.com or any site with rating or any other site with ranking...most of the time you'll see the SAME EXACT item ranked at the same value.

      You're looking at a ranked list that's hard for new items to get in...even if they do, the list will barely change. Sure once in a while the list will probably get a new addition.

      But do you really want an app store with the same 50-100 apps getting all the sales.

  • Jacob

    Well, you are correct that there should probably be a certain minimum number of ratings an app needs to get before it can be listed. By the time an app gets over a hundred ratings (or two hundred, or some cutoff that makes sense based on the data) it can be listed. I think you're right that Payback, with it's 3 1/2 stars, would potentially be off the list. But that's because there are a lot of other apps out there that users think are better, at least based on the ratings. So let those win.

    • Dave

      HaHa....i was fully expecting you to say that. How obvious...set a minimum number of ratings.

      Except there is on MAJOR FLAW:

      If you really think about it, you're "rating ranking" system will be relatively STATIC. What I mean is that the ranking will not be changed much at all.

      Go to download.com or any site with rating or any other site with ranking...most of the time you'll see the SAME EXACT item ranked at the same value.

      You're looking at a ranked list that's hard for new items to get in...even if they do, the list will barely change. Sure once in a while the list will probably get a new addition.

      But do you really want an app store with the same 50-100 apps getting all the sales.

  • Aaron

    Personally, I browse throughout the entire category I'm looking in, so the App Store on my 2G touch gets LOTS of usage. However, if I know I'm looking for a specific type of app, game or utility, I read through all the likely apps and read reviews (and come here, of course). Still, Apple should do something to allow for more relevant and useful apps to appear in the "spotlight" as other apps do. Granted, for independent developers they need to perform their own marketing, but it doesn't hurt to have a little help. Developers have to find ways to advertise, and since it's digital distribution, I see no reason why the developers don't also utilize the net (Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, blogs, webistes, etc.) to advertise their works.

  • Aaron

    Personally, I browse throughout the entire category I'm looking in, so the App Store on my 2G touch gets LOTS of usage. However, if I know I'm looking for a specific type of app, game or utility, I read through all the likely apps and read reviews (and come here, of course). Still, Apple should do something to allow for more relevant and useful apps to appear in the "spotlight" as other apps do. Granted, for independent developers they need to perform their own marketing, but it doesn't hurt to have a little help. Developers have to find ways to advertise, and since it's digital distribution, I see no reason why the developers don't also utilize the net (Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, blogs, webistes, etc.) to advertise their works.

  • Kris Jones

    To be honest, I don't spend much time browsing the app store.

    I either look through the Top App lists or I look into a game after attention is given to it here at TourchArcade. Otherwise, it is off the radar for me, rather unfortunately.

    • spiffyone

      Ah...but if you are on your iTouch/Phone and in the mood for a game, do you go to the All Categories section, or specifically to the "games" section? I gather that the majority of those interested in one particular type of app go to the appropriate section. Why? Because top overall is just that: top overall. If I'm in the mood for a game I don't want to have to search through a list that contains things that are NOT games (like utility apps, entertainment apps or creative/photography/music/etc. apps).

      Again, though, the assumption that higher cost games cannot do well is a false one. Oregon Trail, Crash Nitro Kart, Monkey Ball, etc. have all done very well, were at one time or another at the top of the paid games section. What do those have in common? Known IPs, and published by larger companies. So the larger companies have an inherent advantage with the higher paid apps. Smaller developers have to dynamically market their games as best they can. One way (a bad way, IMHO) they've done that is to lower price to a buck. Others include lite version releases, contests, etc.

      And, remember, the top of the paid overall section should be a secondary, and not a primary concern, as if you're selling a game you aren't directly competing with ColorSplash or iFitness no more than PC game makers are in competition with PhotoShop or MS Office)

  • Kris Jones

    To be honest, I don't spend much time browsing the app store.

    I either look through the Top App lists or I look into a game after attention is given to it here at TourchArcade. Otherwise, it is off the radar for me, rather unfortunately.

    • spiffyone

      Ah...but if you are on your iTouch/Phone and in the mood for a game, do you go to the All Categories section, or specifically to the "games" section? I gather that the majority of those interested in one particular type of app go to the appropriate section. Why? Because top overall is just that: top overall. If I'm in the mood for a game I don't want to have to search through a list that contains things that are NOT games (like utility apps, entertainment apps or creative/photography/music/etc. apps).

      Again, though, the assumption that higher cost games cannot do well is a false one. Oregon Trail, Crash Nitro Kart, Monkey Ball, etc. have all done very well, were at one time or another at the top of the paid games section. What do those have in common? Known IPs, and published by larger companies. So the larger companies have an inherent advantage with the higher paid apps. Smaller developers have to dynamically market their games as best they can. One way (a bad way, IMHO) they've done that is to lower price to a buck. Others include lite version releases, contests, etc.

      And, remember, the top of the paid overall section should be a secondary, and not a primary concern, as if you're selling a game you aren't directly competing with ColorSplash or iFitness no more than PC game makers are in competition with PhotoShop or MS Office)

  • Jacob

    Personally, I think it's fine if the list doesn't change much, as long as the other lists remain (which I am in favor of). So keep the top-selling list, but also have a highest-rating list. I like to check the top-rated movies/games on Metacritic, although the majority of that list doesn't change. It's noteworthy when there is a new entry. When I look at top-rated youtube videos, the list doesn't change much (especially when looking at the "all time" timeframe) but it's still worth having, in my opinion.

    Not using the rating system for any of these lists just seems foolish to me. Why put the whole structure in place if it's not used to expose good apps? Sorting by ratings should be all over the app store - in the Top 25 tab, in the Categories tab, in the Search tab (let me sort my results by rating).

  • Jacob

    Personally, I think it's fine if the list doesn't change much, as long as the other lists remain (which I am in favor of). So keep the top-selling list, but also have a highest-rating list. I like to check the top-rated movies/games on Metacritic, although the majority of that list doesn't change. It's noteworthy when there is a new entry. When I look at top-rated youtube videos, the list doesn't change much (especially when looking at the "all time" timeframe) but it's still worth having, in my opinion.

    Not using the rating system for any of these lists just seems foolish to me. Why put the whole structure in place if it's not used to expose good apps? Sorting by ratings should be all over the app store - in the Top 25 tab, in the Categories tab, in the Search tab (let me sort my results by rating).

  • Dave

    @Jacob

    I not trying to pick on you or anything. Although I don't think rating is the solution, I don't think any SINGLE method would work.

    The most logical thing for me is to let the consumer selected their own ranking and default to "popularity"/# item sold. I mean any site with rankings will allow user to select through a drop-down list how they want to rank the list. Why can't the app store do the same?

    tbh, I actually think ranking by revenue could work. Cheap 0.99 will actually still make it on to the list...but high earning app will too. However, I think we should also keep the ranking on # or apps sold. Regardless of what people said, I still think it's a perfectly valid and reasonable way to rank apps.

  • Dave

    @Jacob

    I not trying to pick on you or anything. Although I don't think rating is the solution, I don't think any SINGLE method would work.

    The most logical thing for me is to let the consumer selected their own ranking and default to "popularity"/# item sold. I mean any site with rankings will allow user to select through a drop-down list how they want to rank the list. Why can't the app store do the same?

    tbh, I actually think ranking by revenue could work. Cheap 0.99 will actually still make it on to the list...but high earning app will too. However, I think we should also keep the ranking on # or apps sold. Regardless of what people said, I still think it's a perfectly valid and reasonable way to rank apps.

  • Dave

    @Jacob

    Oh...I have no problem with rating as a ranking option. I just don't think it makes any sense for it to be the DEFAULT ranking.

  • Dave

    @Jacob

    Oh...I have no problem with rating as a ranking option. I just don't think it makes any sense for it to be the DEFAULT ranking.

  • abstract

    I think more sort options would be the way to go. What I would like to see is something similar to the Genius playlist & Google's relevance. So you would have an option that list "picks" based on your prior choices (both paid & free), ratings, and popularity (downloads).
    The flaw in most of the above suggestions that no one has pointed out is, the larger companies can skew these results. An example would be. Let say and app is 2.99$. Apple gets its 3rd (roughly 1$), Game Studio/Publisher gets 2/3rds (roughly 2$), if Game Studio/Publisher was a big name they could buy 100,000 copies of their own game, easily pushing it into the top 10, and the 100,000$ that Apple received could easily be written off as advertisement expenses. 100,000$ really isn't much to spend on advertisement if you think about, a TV commercial probably goes for alot more.

  • abstract

    I think more sort options would be the way to go. What I would like to see is something similar to the Genius playlist & Google's relevance. So you would have an option that list "picks" based on your prior choices (both paid & free), ratings, and popularity (downloads).
    The flaw in most of the above suggestions that no one has pointed out is, the larger companies can skew these results. An example would be. Let say and app is 2.99$. Apple gets its 3rd (roughly 1$), Game Studio/Publisher gets 2/3rds (roughly 2$), if Game Studio/Publisher was a big name they could buy 100,000 copies of their own game, easily pushing it into the top 10, and the 100,000$ that Apple received could easily be written off as advertisement expenses. 100,000$ really isn't much to spend on advertisement if you think about, a TV commercial probably goes for alot more.

  • SacrificialLamb

    The problem with sort by rating is that it's too easy for unscrupulous developers to game.

  • SacrificialLamb

    The problem with sort by rating is that it's too easy for unscrupulous developers to game.

  • Dave

    Interesting point you guys brought up...I never thought of it that way...

    Actually I don't think that'll be much of a problem.

    Let's be honest, if you app sucks it doesn't matter how much you spend to get your apps artificially up on the list. Eventually sales will plummets and you'll be off the chart unless you constantly spents $10k per week/days (however often apple updates the ranking).

    If you app is "good"...and you starts collecting sales then...
    then I actually have no problem with this tactics. Big third parties are always complaining about how app store is flooded with craps and it's hard to invest in developing iphone apps...well now they have a way to get visibility for their apps...lol.

    Another thing is that it might depend on how strict Apple is policing their app store. I highly doubt you'll be able to pad thousands of downloads without anyone noticing. Even if you hide under another "ad" agency...eventually info will leak and people will know about this.

  • Dave

    Interesting point you guys brought up...I never thought of it that way...

    Actually I don't think that'll be much of a problem.

    Let's be honest, if you app sucks it doesn't matter how much you spend to get your apps artificially up on the list. Eventually sales will plummets and you'll be off the chart unless you constantly spents $10k per week/days (however often apple updates the ranking).

    If you app is "good"...and you starts collecting sales then...
    then I actually have no problem with this tactics. Big third parties are always complaining about how app store is flooded with craps and it's hard to invest in developing iphone apps...well now they have a way to get visibility for their apps...lol.

    Another thing is that it might depend on how strict Apple is policing their app store. I highly doubt you'll be able to pad thousands of downloads without anyone noticing. Even if you hide under another "ad" agency...eventually info will leak and people will know about this.

  • Spek

    Instead of debating how to sort the apps I think Kris Jones had it right when he said that the apps should be sortable in a way that is user defined. They should have many different categories to choose from to sort by. I also find most of my apps from the top 50 list or from this web site. I had heard about payback weeks before it was released from toucharcade and got it right when it was released so the app store played no part in getting me to buy.

  • Spek

    Instead of debating how to sort the apps I think Kris Jones had it right when he said that the apps should be sortable in a way that is user defined. They should have many different categories to choose from to sort by. I also find most of my apps from the top 50 list or from this web site. I had heard about payback weeks before it was released from toucharcade and got it right when it was released so the app store played no part in getting me to buy.

  • Mark

    4.99? ha.
    anything that is over .99 is too much. Sorry but I don't think so buddy.

  • Mark

    4.99? ha.
    anything that is over .99 is too much. Sorry but I don't think so buddy.