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App Store shrank for first time in 2017 due to crackdowns on spam, clones etc. (techcrunch.com)
78 points by bitumen on Apr 4, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 37 comments

A start. Now they need to shrink in-app purchases.

Seriously, I see games with over a dozen kinds of in-app purchases that total well over $100 (sometimes individually that high), and many listed purchases seem to be for repeatable things like gem bags. How much money can you possibly spend on a game!? It should be completely against the rules for heaps of purchases like these to even be an option. Basically, your app should have a hard limit on the number of items, a lifetime limit on dollars spent in total, and this theoretical maximum spend should be displayed in giant print next to the price when you download it. Furthermore, on every single app update, if any in-app purchases are changed, the new total dollar amount should be displayed in large text next to the updating button and such apps should not be possible to install via auto-update on a device.

I don’t see why this sort of “addictive” design is considered bad when it’s used to drive people toward spending, but it’s “ok” when it’s designed to keep people around so they can be shown ads.

Mobile developers really only have a few choices available to them:

1) Have users pay upfront or pay a subscription. This was how the app stores started and it quickly turned into a race to the bottom for free apps. The market had spoken.

2) keep users around long enough to show them enough ads.

3) keep users around long enough and add enough pain in the progression systems that the users decide to spend.

> Have users pay upfront or pay a subscription. This was how the app stores started and it quickly turned into a race to the bottom for free apps. The market had spoken.

The problem is that the App Store model fails at the commodity stage.

The first stage for an application is that you invented it and no one else has it, so you make a lot of money from the monopoly for a while and recover your initial investment.

Then competitors show up. They're not as good, but they charge less money, so they capture most of the market. So instead of the high quality seller having a hundred million customers at $1, the low quality seller has a billion customers at $0 and the high quality seller is left with half a million customers at $1. And then they go out of business.

This is the worst stage for software, because proprietary-but-free software is terrible. The proprietors don't have the resources to make it great but the users don't have the ownership to improve it themselves, so it's low quality or abusive or both.

The problem is the App Store leaves everything at that stage, when the natural evolution after that point is for proprietary freeware to be replaced by open source alternatives. Because the App Store doesn't make it easy for the minority of users with the technical skill to make minor improvements to the apps they use to do that (and ultimately push the changes upstream), which over time is how GNU/Linux gets good enough to replace proprietary Unix and so on.

So once there is aggressive competition in a space, we end up with spam-laden free-as-in-beer spyware forever instead of making the transition to free-as-in-speech apps that don't abuse the users because if they did the users would just strip out the abusive parts.

I agree that, for normal people, these purchases would only be made as symptoms of addiction, and so should likely be prevented or regulated like you say.

However, I don’t think the people at the head of the revenue distribution for these games (the “whales”) are really in the throes of addiction. They’re actually spending completely normal amounts of money... for them. They’re just ungodly rich.

Ask anyone from one of these mobile-casual-F2P game companies who their “real” customers are—the ones they cater to with their designs. They have specific profiles. At the company I worked at, the whales were Saudi princes, wasting their oil money.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with US tech companies (slightly!) draining the pockets of such people, and in exchange fueling their Veblen-goods signalling competitions against their equally stupid-rich friends.

It’s like making money as an arms dealer, except nobody’s getting shot!

I wouldn’t be so quick to assume these folks can actually afford what they are spending:


There were many articles covering this topic during the Zynga peak years, about folks developing gambling-type addictions to freemium games and spending money they don’t have.

EDIT: here’s another article exploring these connections... https://www.theverge.com/2015/5/6/8544303/casino-slot-machin...

And sadly even as far as violence is concerned - there was a horrific story a few years back about a woman who murdered her infant in anger when the child interrupted her FarmVille game.

I don't deny that these people do exist. My point was that they—surprisingly!—don't pay the salaries of the devs at these game studios. The whales do. The studios can afford to keep the profit from the whales and lose the profit from the addicted middle-class.

And many of these studios are going this way! Even back when I was at the company I referred to (~2012), they were already building profiling logic into their backend to try to find the people spending "out of their range" and, effectively, stage interventions for them. They don't want these customers. They aren't their core demographic, any more than they're the core demographic of casinos, or than alcoholics are the core demographic of bars. And like a bar, they'd really rather "cut them off."

>And like a bar, they'd really rather "cut them off."

why? absent any legal requirements (which bars and casinos may have), isn't it better from a business perspective to get some money off them before they go bankrupt?

> absent any legal requirements (which bars and casinos may have), isn't it better from a business perspective to get some money off them before they go bankrupt?

Not necessarily.

Suppose your customer has $500/month in disposable income. Then you want $500/month from them. $1000/month is bad. It means they're borrowing money, and every dollar they borrow they not only have to pay back, they have to pay interest on -- at the crazy high rates that people with bad self control have to pay. All of which comes out of the $500/month you could have had from them going forward.

I'm not really sure you can lay that one at FarmVille's feet. And to try and make a connection between the two seems a little ridiculous.

Additionally, there are some specialist/professional apps that charge quite a bit and they would be screwed by a limit.

Example: the iPad is the defacto standard for electronic flight bags (digital charts for pilots), and the market rate is $75 per year. Higher end subscriptions with terrain awareness and instrument approaches are $150 per year. A rule designed to limit freemium games would hurt the EFB market on the iPad.

I really don't believe that Saudi princesses and similar are a meaningfully large demographic to be relevant in this market. I'd also think that ungodly rich oil royalty has better ways to spend their time and money than pay-to-play games.

The underlying hypothesis that these games have addictive properties targeting a segment with maybe low impulse control seems far more plausible. These are slot machines, not high-stakes blackjack tables.

That sounds like a post-rationalization to not feel bad about exploiting poor/addicted people.

I recently read a story here about someone spending a significant portion of their yearly income on a Fate game in Japan. I think it might be a mistake to assume that the only whales are rich.

Alternately, we could just let people decide what to do with their money, instead of putting arbitrary limits in place because gem bags offend your sense of propriety.

You could although whenever a corporation is involved they will start thinking about their image. It's hard to maintain a good public perception when your store is full of deliberately manipulative products.

This really is different to a government introducing some legislation.

The "whales" are where the money is. And especially the "total" is the danger here - both for whales and for kids. No one cares about that 50ct gem bag... but when it's a gem bag a day, it's 180€ a year.

Probably the big reason was removing all the non-64bit apps, and apps have have not updated their UI to support > iphone 6.

You are right, this is for sure the main reason, the title is misleading.

That’s definitely a large contributor, but if you look at the number of new app releases you’ll see it went down quite a lot when compared to previous years. That’s the other side of the equation for the decrease.

It would be great if google did tiding up in the play store. It's filled with knock off and junk apps.

That would require gasp employing more humans! The management algorithms would not approve!

It's launched, they're done with it if engineers can't get promoted for incremental improvements.

About time they cleaned it up a bit. I find the app store a bit of a mess and finding a good quality app for a particular task is rather difficult at times. The best app is rarely the most "discoverable" so the more noise they remove the better.

Weirdly, some of the best apps I still use are 32 bit only and long since abandoned. They're the ones that do their job without cloud nonsense or built-in advertising or some damn "pro" version that requires a yearly fee and the free version won't shut up about it.

>Those are pretty interesting numbers. There’s actually a common misconception that more and more apps are being developed using non-native tools so they can be deployed to multiple platforms easily.

>According to our data, that’s not the case.

Well that's interesting.

That data appears to be relative to the number of native apps in the app store, so that doesn't necessarily mean that moving towards non-native development is a misconception. In addition, many apps are not moving to non-native entirely... but instead module by module. I wonder how they account for that and how it impacts their statistics.

We (Appfigures) looked at the SDKs that apps use to determine what's native vs. non-native. This method will catch "partially" non-native apps as well as fully non-native apps as the former will need to have the non-native SDK even for a single module.

So basically these stats are representation of the usage of your SDK over your userbase right? And it seems that your SDK is not that popular with those using non native technologies?

Are your SDKs installed on at least 90% of all apps in PlayStore? If not 90% what is the percentage?

This data is for all new apps released and has nothing to do with our user base. In fact, we don't have an SDK.

The report uses data from our SDK identification engine, which works for all apps.

It would help if you released more details about your methodology. So you are not working on a sample of the millions of apps? You are working on all of them? Your "SDK identification engine" can detect in what technology each and single one of million apps in both stores is created with? Really? How?

Do you download each binary and examine its content? Even paid ones? Large ones? Obfuscated?

What is the error margin of your methodology? Or you are 100% precise? Sorry I am honestly interested in the details, and I didnt find error margin anywhere for this study or details about methodology.

You might want to correct a typo in the landing page: "Our indespensible reports..."

Good catch. Thanks!

Is React Native “native” in this instance?


I wonder if the numbers change if you filter out the applications that don't have an equivalent app on a different platform

A lot of it is also their new policy of removing old Apps that haven't received an update in a long time, of which from last year they started removing my earliest Apps.

I've also read somewhere and it send true for me that users typically engage with only a small number of non-OS apps regularly (maybe 3-5?). I know when considering launching a business, apps seem more like swinging for a home run.

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