Mobile Mavens

What impact will Apple's App Store redesign have on indie games developers?

What impact will Apple's App Store redesign have on indie games developers?

With iOS 11 right around the corner, Apple has revealed a long list of important changes to the way its App Store is going to be run, with a larger focus on editorialising content instead of simply using algorithms.

This could have huge ramifications for the mobile market - will the Apple editors spend more time trying to dig out the hidden gems, or will they still focus on the biggest hitters already out there?

A radical change could drastically affect how indies do business, so we decided to ask our Indie Mavens what they thought of the new App Store design and what it might do to their business.

Specifically, we asked:

  • What do you think of the App Store redesign?
  • Do you think the renewed focus by Apple on curation and editorial content will prove to be a boost for indie games on the App Store?

Matthew Annal MD Nitrome

The design overhaul looks nice and I like to think that it will work better for devs than the old/current system. It certainly has some nice ideas, like the added editorial elements such as interviews and autoplaying video, which is far better for getting attention than the tiny icon lists we have now.

If I had to be a pessimist, I fear that there may end up being more focus on less apps.
Matthew Annal

That said, as a developer who is reliant on Apple's featuring and who was doing well off their current system, I can't help but be terrified by anything that happens that could affect that in any negative way.

I am not presuming it will, but I would always keep with something that's working over the unknown, even if that turns out to be stronger.

I expect it will end up not being so different in terms of downloads you can expect from users to what happens now. There are ultimately the same number of users looking for something new in that section to play.

If I had to be a pessimist, I fear that there may end up being more focus on less apps, which is great if you are one of the chosen few, but terrible for anyone on the edge of that.

What's nice about the App Store in its current form is that it seems developers who make a decent game are almost always recognised by Apple's editorial team. I hope this will not change.

The top grossing charts will no longer be available on iOS 11

I like the fact that the top grossing has apparently been dropped, though it concerns me that the big players will instead focus on the remaining charts to manipulate visibility, and this may in turn reduce visibility for others without marketing budgets.

I love the fact we can now respond to user's comments and that reviews are not auto-reset. Those are two of the things I always felt were far superior on Google Play.

Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

Apple's reasoning on the new store design is pretty sensible and potentially good news for us.
Aaron Fothergill

By the looks of it so far, there's less of a chance of being visible through a minor feature now, but that was pretty tiny anyway. The daily featuring might help, but the ability to do more preview videos, promotional text etc. are more likely to help us convert a view to a sale/download.

Something else I came across is that Apple's now done a specific submission form to allow developers to give the editorial team a heads up on their new release/update.

Apple's reasoning on the new store design is pretty sensible and potentially good news for us, despite the reduced number of features.

Getting players to check the App Store every day and having a very specific and in your face Games category should increase the number of players looking for games. It's just a matter of working out how to get them to see yours.

I'm already liking being able to respond to reviews (see my comments on that in the previous article)

Travis Ryan Studio Head Dumpling Design

The dedicated landing page for games is welcomed, as is the move to editorialise its content; there's real potential to shine a human spotlight onto the people behind the scenes - not just the mega-corps - which feels like a genuine play on Apple's part to showcase the value of its games and creators (and perhaps help raise us out of the 'free gutter').

A snapshot of the various tabs found in the new App Store

Auto-playing video previews is much welcomed - Dashy Crashy has always come alive and into its own when in motion - while allowing devs to pair up app previews with in-app purchases on the store front will yield results. I can certainly see us surfacing and rotating offer content in this way.

The value of games and their creators needs re-establishing, and I think this is a great move in that direction.
Travis Ryan

Obviously, there's the risk of reduced feature slots overall, with some 'Todays' being more valuable than others.

It's interesting to note Apple and Google taking opposite approaches to spotlighting – Apple with its daily approach, Google with its new month-long 'Android Excellent Awardees’.

The success of this format will be determined by editorial and frequency, which will need to be less stagnant than the current 'best of' and recent indie games sections.

If everything comes together, it should feel like you're flicking through a magazine of the latest apps and events, which could be super neat, at least for those engaged enough.

I suspect the public at large may want their snapshot lists and 'top 10s' to scroll through, such is the nature of media consumption these days (just look at the 'Scores on Reviews' debate games media has endured since its inception).

However, the value of games and their creators needs re-establishing, and I think this is a great move in that direction.

Sebastian Lindén CEO & Creative Director Qaos Games

The new design is definitely giving App Store editors more active roles and increasing control.

Compared to the old list-view, a feed with featured spots will put pressure on indie devs to make great content and stories aside from making great games, using resources that indie devs do not necessarily have to the same extent as bigger studios.

In the end, Apple will lean towards games with the highest revenue.
Sebastian Lindén

Another interesting change is the removal of the Top Chart from the main nav. This was the only way for developers with no Apple feature to get organic traffic from the App Store.

Removing the Top Chart from the main tab will impact developers not featured by Apple - the kind that spend on UA and cross-promotion to achieve a ripple effect and virality.

In the end, Apple will lean towards games with the highest revenue. Apple mentioned that they have paid over $70 billion to developers in the last nine years, not accounting for ad revenues. As most smaller developers make a living out of ads, it's problematic when Apple don’t even mention ad revenues.

We saw indications of this when they introduced promoted search, but also by looking on how they have featured games the last six months, where bigger studios always pick the top spots.

I think that the renewed focus by Apple on curation and editorial content will increase the importance for smaller developers to maintain and strengthen their relationship with Apple. It will be important to stay consistent in development cycles, not die, and always over-deliver.

Apple introduced Search Ads earlier in 2017

Deputy Editor

Ric has written for PocketGamer.biz for as long as he can remember, and is now Deputy Editor. He likes trains.

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