Rants and Anti-Rants From Top-Grossing App Developers

My day job brings me the good fortune of working with the majority of the top-grossing app developers. For the AppNation conference in San Francisco earlier this month, I was asked to organize and moderate a panel, “Rants From Top Grossing App Developers.” The panel consisted of Giordano Bruno Contestabile (EA/PopCap Games), Cat Silvestre (DeNA/ngmoco), Daniel Pfeiffer (FunMobility), Jamil Moledina (Funzio), and me.

Rants from top-grossing developers might seem odd. As Jamil pointed out, why would a top-grossing app developer complain since it is, by definition, generating the most revenue? Therefore, included in my highlights are a few anti-rants.

Mirage of cross-platform. Giordano pointed out that the promise of cross-platform app development was talked about for 10 years, and we are still not there yet. From Jamil’s perspective, we are seeing some progress as interfaces and monetization solutions are becoming more consistent across platforms.

Fragmentation is still an issue. From their experience working with feature phone apps pre-iPhone, Giordano and Cat both agreed that fragmentation issues have subsided a bit. With that said, fragmentation issues are still prevalent, and we aren’t just talking Android. During Funzio’s recently released hit iOS game, Modern War, Jamil said his team spent several sleepless nights working through fragmentation issues with older iPod touch devices.

People problems caused by the bubble. Daniel said it’s difficult to hire good talent at a reasonable price due to unrealistic expectations versus the value and impact an employee brings to an organization. From my perspective, the trouble with talent acquisition largely stems from so many venture-funded mobile app companies. I’m reminded of the dot-com bubble, and how that impacted the early growth of my company. Daniel believes that a lot of dumb money is pouring into inexperienced startups with thoroughly unprofitable app concepts. Jamil disagrees, however, that we’re in a bubble. He believes investments are generally rational given how big the mobile app space will be. From a hiring perspective, Jamil said the problem is not just hiring developers. The greatest issue, he said, is hiring top-notch artists.

Randomness of smartphone store policies. Daniel expressed frustration over the randomness of smartphone store operators’ policies including their procedures and enforcement thereof. For example, Daniel cited the recent approval by Apple of Big Fish’s use of subscription billing in a game, which was only days later rejected. Also, Apple forbade the use of incentivized app downloads in April 2011, even though our company’s research shows that users who receive incentives can be highly engaged.

More intelligent ways to drive user acquisition are needed. While pleased they can generally target by country, Jamil would like to see mobile ad networks support demographic targeting.

Got a rant or anti-rant of your own? Please share in the comments.

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