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Apple iOS developers not raking it in, survey finds

It's a small minority of iOS developers who are seeing the biggest financial rewards, according to an admittedly informal, not terribly scientific survey by developer Owen Goss.

Goss, whose apps include Baby's Musical Hands and Landformer, used Survey Monkey to elicit feedback from 252 developers — one-third of who call themselves independent game developers — about the revenue they've seen from iOS apps. In short, Goss wrote in a blog post, "most developers aren't making a lot of money selling games on the App Store, while a few are making a lot of money."

The difference between high and lower earners was so extreme that, in putting the data into charts, Goss used median averages instead of mean averages. The mean would shown the average developer to make about $165,000, he explained, when in truth 50% have made less than $3,000 total via the App Store, while 50% have made more.

How much more? A developer in even the 75th percentile is making approximately $30,000, Goss found.

"This means that only 25% of developers have made more than $30,000 lifetime total revenue selling games on the App Store. Conversely, we can see that 25% of developers have made less than $200."

Additional findings included:

  • 4% of respondents (10 people) have made more than a $1 million bucks in the App store, while 25% made between $1,000 and $10,000.
  • The top 20% of developers are earning 97% of revenue from the App Store, with the top 1% earning more than 33% of App Store revenue. It follows, then, that the bottom 80% of earners are making just 3% of the revenue.
  • Developers who work alone tend to make less. Even when a group of developers is broken down by his or her per-game, per-month, lifetime revenue, they make more than those working solo—which Goss guesses could be because groups are able to "create games that are larger in scope, more technically interesting, and more polished," thanks to the group input.
  • 50% of developers who released only one game made less than $500 on that game.
  • The longer devs submit, the more they tend to make over time. "This seems to validate the old adage: practice makes better than doing something once," wrote Goss. "Wait...that's not right."

A recent survey from Evans Data Corp. found developers who create for the BlackBerry platform to make "significantly more money" than those who create for Android or iOS. While BlackBerry devs are harder to come by, 13% are said to make more than $100,000 from RIM's App World.

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