It may seem obvious at this point, but 2011 was a big year for mobile developers, bringing as much upheaval as it did opportunity.
When reviewing our most popular stories of 2011, its clear that what mattered most to our readers was the business of creating a profitable, popular mobile app — more than half of our most popular stories this year concerned monetization, downloads or user acquisition tactics. Other stories that attracted attention were notable launches (Word Lens), tales of rebirth (Zynga’s mobile success) and revealing interviews with successful developers (A Thinking Ape).
After a turbulent 2010, Tapjoy (which had recently changed its name from Offerpal) seemed to be experiencing a rebirth early in the year when this article was published. Unfortunately for the company, 2011 proved to be just as unpredictable, with Apple’s offer wall crackdown forcing the company to explore ways to stay profitable without being dependent on someone else’s platform. In October, Tapjoy launched a workaround — its own web-based gaming platform.
Jaw-dropping technology also caught the eyes of our readers this year, with our profile on the seemingly-magical augmented reality translation app, Word Lens and the development process behind it satisfying the curiosity of many.
SimplePhyics on iPhone – It’s Not So Simple – April 5th
A review of a popular physics-based puzzle game created by Andrew Garrison attracted attention after the game broke both the top paid and top grossing iPhone charts.
One of the most popular stories we covered this year was the changes Apple quietly rolled out to its App Store ranking algorithm. While the exact formula of how apps are ranked is still unknown, in April Apple added new factors to the formula, mixing factors like downloads, retention and daily usage to help it create more accurate rankings.
A day after Apple changed its ranking algorithm, it also began rejecting apps with offer walls, forcing an overnight change in business models for both developers and monetization companies. The change permanently raised user acquisition costs and many developers feared it would make it very difficult for freemium games to monetize.
After Apple’s changes altered the App Store’s landscape there was plenty of interest in how Pocket Gems’ would fare without offer walls, a tool the developer had used to great success earlier in the year. The game wasn’t hurt by the changes and went on to be one of the highest grossing apps of the year.
After months of anticipation, Paypal’s Android market deal died. When we reported on the lawsuit between the two companies over the deal, Inside Mobile Apps answered long-standing questions about why the deal fell apart, and why Google went on to develop its own payment system.
Zynga proved this year that success doesn’t come easy, even to successful companies. The company’s mobile games started off the year poorly, despite an established reputation and a big marketing budget. However, by June the company’s fortunes were beginning to change, and by the end of year, the company was boasting more than 13 million DAU on mobile.
Understanding the iOS and Android Market in China – September 2nd
China is an increasingly important market for mobile app developers — not only is it one of the fastest growing countries in terms of Android activations, but Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has said China is the second biggest iOS market in terms of revenue. Our extensive analysis piece on the Chinese market became a must-read for any company looking to expand East.
Facebook’s mobile platform wasn’t great for games when it launched, but the company’s move to finally introduce viral channels and work with Apple on installs (rather than focus exclusively on HTML5-based apps) was big news for developers looking to leverage Facebook’s platform in the mobile market.
While the studio may usually maintain a fairly low profile, Vancouver’s A Thinking Ape made headlines this year when an interview revealed exactly how profitable a free-to-play game with solid social features can be.
Because the precise nature of the App Store’s ranking algorithm is unknown, developers are always on the lookout for any information to help them understand the mechanics behind it. This simple story based on a Distimo blog post provided what many companies had been looking for — specific download numbers.