We all know who the upper class in the mobile games space includes. There are the Zyngas, the Kings, the Rovios and a handful of others. At the other end of the scale--but please, let's not call them "lower-class"--are the hordes of developers who are far below the break-even point in terms of revenue for their apps.
Until recently, it's hard to believe a mobile app developer middle class even existed, but recent research from Pollen VC suggests otherwise.
In a recent story on VentureBeat, the firm's CEO showed data from his organization that looked at the top-grossing apps from late last year to April. According to Pollen VC, the number of publishers making between $1,000 and $5,000 monthly has increased 12 percent in that time period.
"Do the math and the number of indie developers making serious money with their apps is growing, and like the app economy they power, shows no signs of slowing," he writes. "It's a seismic shift that potentially plays in favor of a long tail of app developers destined to grow in both numbers and in the amount of revenues they can generate from in-app purchases as they grasp the opportunity to turn their winning app concepts into successful and sustainable app businesses."
This is, of course, a subtle pitch for the services of a firm like Pollen VC which tries to help developers get paid more quickly, but it also reframes the conversation experts often seem to have about mobile app economics. Vision Mobile, for example, has been talking for years about the majority of developers falling under the "app poverty line,' while the success of Monument Valley and a few others is becoming so rare they seem like outliers rather than anything the average indie developer could emulate.
Maybe shooting for the top of the charts is increasingly unrealistic for developers who don't have a substantial marketing budget, but Pollen VC's work is proof that "middle class revenues," for lack of a better term, may be more pragmatic and achievable. Of course, some may define middle class revenues rather differently--I'm not sure how many developers could live off $1,000 a month--but there's at least hope that you could begin earning enough money to create a sustainable business.
Think of it another way: the excitement over the most popular apps sometimes makes them seem like overnight success stories. In reality, the mobile gaming industry might be more like the story of the tortoise and the hare. The slow but steady may not win the top spot in the race, but there could still be reason to celebrate. Aiming for the middle doesn't sound very motivating, but it could be the one area where the monetization of mobile games is almost guaranteed to grow. --Shane