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Ask HN: How are top-grossing apps calculated?
54 points by bvod on June 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments
How does Google and Apple calculate top grossing apps, when a number of those apps have their sales from a subscription model that does not happen through the app store (spotify, netflix, etc)?



Fun fact: if your app has a reasonable conversion rate, you can basically buy your spot on that list temporarily by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising.

It usually isn't sustainable, but can be helpful during launch of a new game to make sure it gets attention. I think it was easier than cracking the Top Free list, since fewer apps have IAP.

The ad team at my previous game company would do this and not tell the rest of the rank-and-file employees. We'd be psyched to see our app in the top grossing list... meanwhile the ad team would be spending more money than we were earning.


years ago, the dollar amounts werent that large even. my game company bought us all gift cards and told us all to each buy a couple hundred dollars in our app to bump a couple spots.

another interesting thing, basically everyone on the top grossing chart knows roughly what the others are making - as you adjust ad spend you adjust your revenue, and when you pass someone you know how much they are making. (or just through word of mouth or multiple games)

even more crazy was buying tens or hundreds of thousands of downloads to get to the top of the free charts from bots, before apple claimed to be cracking down, which then triggered a couple percent of that in legitimate downloads. those 'organic' downloads from the charts ended up costing a fraction of what paid ads would have cost if you average the bot download cost over them. then marketing/coo lying about not using bots......dont know why they thinks they can hide stuff from the engineers


> my game company bought us all gift cards and told us all to each buy a couple hundred dollars in our app to bump a couple spots.

Is this allowed?


Sure why not?

It's like opening a restaurant and paying people to eat there for a while to generate fake social proof.


Fake it until you make it. It's natural conclusion of Doing Things That Don't Scale: http://paulgraham.com/ds.html

First 100 people through the door get 15% off!

Beta testers get the full game half price!

And of course, authors do this on the NYT Best Seller list all the time... buy enough copies of your own book at enough book stores and you'll shoot right to the top: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times_Best_Seller...


This only works ( and also for Appstores) if your expected LTV is high enough that the real users will bring in enough money to recoup the initial spent.

If your book/game is crap, the it will fall again, you lost your money and your spot in the charts.


The first two examples of discounts you cited are very different from just paying to directly inflate your ratings.


I'm trying to show a progression from "discounts" to "more discounts" to "we'll give it to you free just to get more 'sales'" That's why I called it a natural conclusion.

The only difference between giving someone a coupon to entice them to buy something from you and buying it yourself is how much money you're losing in the short term. It's on the same spectrum, just at different ends.


No, this is not a spectrum.

Offering a discount or giving copies away is marketing.

Buying copies yourself and pretending someone else did is fraud.


Because Apple and Google are presumably trying to inform people searching for apps by providing them with useful information. If that information is gamed, then it's not useful. And since Apple and Google are the ones setting the terms of use, I think gberger's question is extremely valid and don't know why anyone would down-vote it (not claiming that you, koolba, did). Moreover, I'd hope that a response to it wouldn't have been dismissive and, ideally, would cite some reason to believe it.

New York Times would definitely care if they had reason to believe a book on their Best Sellers list was having its sales inflated. In fact, they mark those books specifically with a dagger next to them and the practice of price manipulation is a subject of on-going controversy which is presumably costing the list some prestige. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times_Best_Seller...


> >everyone on the top grossing chart knows roughly what the others are making

... or what they're spending on advertising :)


I know who you're talking about.


They don't account for revenue from outside the stores. Apple technically doesn't allow purchases to happen outside its stores, in practice that has always been a bit of a grey area, but in any case that revenue is not disclosed to Apple and therefore cannot affect the rankings in any way.

As for the calculations, Apple updates roughly every six hours and I think (the algorithms not being public for a good reason, I have no real proof), they take into account the total sum revenue during the last period, but also use the relative delta revenue as a factor, so even with slightly lower revenue a suddenly popular app can appear higher in the rankings.

They also seem to change the algorithms every once in a while, we've seen pretty drastic changes overnight a few times, eventually though the top apps always normalize around the usual suspects, so it's possible that they just do some sort of reset of historical data that also affect rankings.


That's the answer. If Netflix is on the top grossing app charts, it's due entirely to signups that happen within the Netflix app, not on Netflix.com.

The better way to think about the list is "top grossing apps for Apple/Google". Their 30% cut is what they're counting there.


I also wonder why Apple allows some apps to accept payments via credit card yet others need to use the built in payment solutions?

EDIT: some research later indicates that it's possible allowing a user to sign up outside the app (and outside a webview initiated by the app) skirts around the policy [1], since the user can return to the app and log in, then use their account for payments.

[1] https://www.designernews.co/stories/9695-how-do-apps-like-ly...


Apps are allowed to use external payment methods for "real world" goods and services.

All digital content (premium features, game coins, file storage, music or video libraries) accessible within the app must be charged through Apple, and the user must not be able to find an alternative payment method from within the app.

> EDIT: some research later indicates that it's possible allowing a user to sign up outside the app (and outside a webview initiated by the app) skirts around the policy, since the user can return to the app and log in, then use their account for payments.

Depending on the precise details of your signup page, this may or may not get banned by Apple if they notice it. It's allowed to sign up users and accept external payments outside the app - but then you must not have links to this payment page from within the app. If the user already has an external paid account, then they can use it, but any first-time users must only see IAP or nothing.

Some time ago Apple threatened to ban Dropbox, because they had a webview for signups, and it was possible to upgrade to a premium account within that webview.


That's false. You can offer your own solution presented side-by-side with IAP.


Only certain classes of app's are allowed to do this. From a comment on your linked article, it seems Apple only allows you to do so for physical and non-digital items.


It's just a matter of whether your content is delivered via the app. Netflix, for example, must have users pay via Apple (or outside the app), because they deliver the content in the app. Ebay doesn't require that, since you're just buying something that's going to be delivered to you.


If you collect payments for anything that cannot be used inside the app you are not allowed to use in-app purchases.


How do you know a large fraction of subscription signups don't happen through the App Store? https://9to5mac.com/2015/09/24/netflix-in-app-purchase/


I think Apple only take in account for direct app purchase, in-app purchase and subscription plus this ranking is calculated weekly.


I believe top grossing apps only includes payments made via the App Store for Apple.

It includes both in app purchases and cost to buy.




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