From the beginning of the year until now, the mobile industry has continued to rise at a meteoric pace.
Many themes emerged after reviewing all of our stories in 2012. Apple and Google set themselves up as the two mobile front-runners, mobile games continued to rake in piles of money and China continued its rapid growth in mobile.
Here are the top stories of the year in no particular order:
iOS 6 Maps debacle
At WWDC 2012 in June, Apple first announced that it was ditching Google Maps as the pre-installed maps app for iOS in favor of Apple’s own maps service when iOS 6 would launch in the fall. In September, iOS 6 launched along with Apple Maps as planned and the new Maps app was quickly flooded with criticism for its poor directions and lack of features. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an apology letter regarding Apple Maps poor debut. Apple users went 14 weeks without an official, native Google Maps for iOS app until it hit the Apple App Store on Dec. 13, after which it racked up 10 million downloads in 48 hours.
Rise of the mobile market
In 2012, Apple and Google became the hands-down leaders in the mobile space. Both Apple and Google now have more than 700,000 apps in each of their respective app stores — nearly doubling the amount of apps in a year’s span. Smartphone penetration in the U.S. market also passed 50 percent for the first time. Platform-wise, Apple and Google also dominate, with a 86.8 percent lion’s share of the market as of September 2012, according to ComScore.
Japan bans monetization mechanic kompu gacha
In May, Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency declared kompu gacha illegal in the country, going into effect in July. Kompu gacha is a monetization mechanic in social games where users pay small amounts of money to receive a random item, kind of like a toy vending machine. Major Japanese mobile players including GREE and DeNA announced that they would pull the mechanic out of their games. Companies such as mobile-social gaming powerhouse GREE felt the effect of the ban on its bottom line. GREE reported in its Q1 2013 earnings that the company’s “monthly net sales bottomed in July,” which was around the time of the kompu gacha ban, adding that its net sales fell 5.4 percent quarter-over-quarter.
Huge mobile game earners
Finnish mobile game developer Supercell told the New York Times in October about the staggering amount of money the company pulls in on a daily and monthly basis. Supercell, which only has two games in its stable, were seeing sales in upward of $500,000 a day and $15 million in gross revenue a month. NaturlMotion Games’ free-to-play racer CSR Racing was pulling in more than $12 million a month on iOS and in-app sales of more than $400,000 a day. Developer Cygames’ card battler Rage of Bahamut was reported to be earning $43,000 a day on Android (Japan revenues excluded) and monthly revenue on both iOS and Android possibly as high as $2.6 million. The game held the No. 1 spot on the Android top grossing apps chart for more than six months (it’s still No. 1) was dethroned temporarily by another DeNA game, RPG Blood Brothers back in November.
Monetizing on Google Play
We’ve heard varying opinions whether Google Play monetizes as well as the Apple App Store, but multiple sources have shown that developers can monetize on Google’s platform. Game developer TinyCo told us in October that its free-to-play title Tiny Village saw higher average revenue per paying user (ARPPU) on Android over iOS. In countries where carrier billing is active, which allows users without credit cards to purchase digital goods, developers like DeNA saw 15 percent of their Android users convert to paying users in Japan and Com2uS with a 10 percent conversion rate. In Distimo’s 2012 year in review report, the app tracking company found that daily revenue in Google Play grew 43 percent in the past fourth months, although on a typical day in the month of November, the Apple App Store generates $15 million in revenue, while Google Play sits below $3.5 million.
GREE drops OpenFeint
GREE announced in November that it was shutting down the servers for its social networking platform OpenFeint on Dec. 14. The Tokyo-based company first acquired OpenFeint in April 2011 for $104 million, but the company wants to push its own GREE platform as the primary social platform for its stable of games.
The rise and fall of Draw Something
Pictionary-like title Draw Something took the mobile world by storm. Since launching in February on mobile, the app surpassed 50 million downloads by April. In March, Zynga acquired the game’s developer, Omgpop, for $180 million. Since then, though, Draw Something use fell dramatically. A month after Zynga’s acquisition of Omgpop, Draw Something had four million fewer users.
Microsoft continues its mobile push
Despite Apple and Google cornering the market for the time being, other players are continuing to vie for mobile mobile market share. Microsoft proved its not slowing down its push on mobile, with the recent release of Windows Phone 8 and reporting that the Windows Store has more than 120,000 apps. Microsoft is going down Apple’s route, trying to create an ecosystem that translates across all devices including computers, tablets and smartphones. Flurry reported in June that the Windows Phone platform grew 521 percent year-over-year.
Mobile market in China
China, with a population in excess of one billion, was predicted by mobile app monetization company Flurry to surpass the U.S. in iOS and Android device install base by as early as Q1 2013. It’s clear China is an emerging market for mobile, with developers such as CocoaChina, Punchbox and DeNA seeing success in the country. On the Android platform in China, mobile game developer CocoaChina recently said it generated $1.6 million per month in revenue for its game Fishing Joy 2. Apple revealed in its Q4 2012 earnings call that China now accounts for 15 percent of the corporation’s total revenue and generated $5.7 billion in Q4 2012.