The App Store: Does Size Matter?

App Store Games

As I’m zeroing in on finishing Tilt To Live some of the bigger assets are coming through from Adam and the game size has grown a lot faster than it has in past few months. One of the unstated goals of mine was to keep the game under 10 MB. Why? You are not allowed to download apps, podcasts, or videos that are larger than 10 MB over 3G. You are required to connect to wi-fi in order to do it on your iPhone. Alternatively, you can use a PC/Mac and just sync the said data to your phone/iTouch, but who bothers to do that?

Having a 10MB limit on an “unlimited” data plan sucks, but I’m not here to discuss that. This limit possibly poses a constraint on iPhone developers who want their games to be widely available. I just started digging into this, but haven’t really found anything conclusive on downloading habits of iPhone users beyond a few small-sample surveys and articles.

In either case, the question I wanted to answer was:

Do you stand to lose a significant amount of potential sales/downloads for apps over 10 MB?

I decided to do some unscientific data gathering and some manual data mining with good ‘ole excel :].

The Process

I fired up iTunes and after fumbling about in the iTunes app store I was able to get to the Games top 100 free and paid section. This was actually my first time digging around in the itunes desktop app store, as I download and buy 100% of my apps and podcasts directly from my phone. Connecting my iPhone to my computer is a rare event indeed…

Not having released a game yet on the app store I didn’t have any data on hand that’d prove useful for this. I took a rather low-tech approach and just consulted the all mighty top 100 lists of the app store. I took the top 100 games in the paid list and the free list and compiled them separately to try to find two things:

  • How many 10MB+ games exist in the top 100?
  • How are those 10MB+ games distributed in the top 100?

So the caveats to using the top 100:

  • From my understanding, I’m only seeing the US top 100?
  • It’s not representative of the HUGE library of other apps that are still somewhat successful but not the over-night hit sensation that a lot of the upper rung apps are
  • I don’t have a good idea of the size distribution of games that aren’t in the top 100, so I may be missing the big picture. So any experiments seeking to find a distribution has a very limited view “window” of what is actually going on.
  • This data includes iTouch devices, but since they lack 3G this could possibly skew the data.
The Results

First, I’ll explain what I thought the results would be. Before doing any of the number crunching I hypothesized I would find that the most successful apps are under 10 MB and any app that happens to be over 10 MB would be weighted towards the lower rungs of the list.

Let’s first take a look at the free games in the app store. Below is a table showing the number of apps above 10 MB split into top N lists.

Top N Free Games

[table id=2 /]

We find in total that there are only 18 out of the top 100 free games that go over the 10 MB limit. Not exactly conclusive, but it shows that majority of top 100 free games are available over the air (OTA).  As you decrease the size of the list the number of 10MB+ games starts to dwindle naturally, but when you look at the percentages the amount of those 18 stays relatively the same until you hit the coveted top 10. The only 10MB+ free game in the top ten is Real Racing GTI, a promotional game for Volkswagen that weighs in at a rather hefty 59.3 MB!

Now how does the distribution of these “heavy” games look in the top 100 free list?

Distribution of 10MB+ Free Games

[table id=3 /]

Hmmm…The distribution of 10MB+ games is pretty even all the way up to the top, with a slight dip in the mid section.

Let’s look at paid games.

Top N Paid Games

[table id=4 /]

One thing I didn’t really account for in my original hypothesis is a difference between paid and free games. 53 paid games are over 10MB! While by a slight margin, the majority of paid games seem to ignore the 10MB rule and go for broke! Egad! This above table completely refutes my original hypothesis that most successful apps are under 10MB (Wow those last few sentences sounded super nerdy…). This is assuming you equate that success = number of apps sold * price of app = more $$$, where as in the free model this kind of breaks down. Anyway, moving on to the distribution of paid game juggernauts…

Distribution of 10MB+ Paid Games

[table id=5 /]

Interesting. While the paid app list has a majority of 10MB+ games the bulk of them live in the top 20-40 section, again, only by a slight margin. The stand out number here is the top 20 section. It appears games that are under 10MB here still win out the majority, so maybe there still is some relevance to my original hypothesis but to a much lesser extent than I imagined.

Probably not as useful, but in case you’re curious here’s a simple area graph plotting top 100 free and paid game sizes, there are some monster sized games in the top 100 so that is encouraging! Click it for full resolution.

App Store Game Sizes

The Truth Revealed?

Looking at the free games market the results decidedly point to a more “logical” trend, in my opinion, on how games are being designed. Yet, when you look at the paid games market you find that:

  • Developers don’t give a crap and make what suits them (Hurray freedom!)
  • Consumers don’t seem to give a crap either on how big it is when they are paying for a game. Maybe they even irrationally prefer bigger (in physical size, not content) games for their dollar?

While the results point to opposite trends on app store game sizes, it doesn’t really uncover if developers are consciously shooting for sub 10MB games or simply letting the chips fall where they may in either case. Could free games just not warrant enough budget to make enough assets that grow bigger than 10MB? Are free games specifically targeting “viral” game status by shooting for sub-10MB downloads to allow it to spread more easily? I also find that a good bit of the free games are also “Lite” versions (62 of the top 100 in fact). So it shows that people like to try before they buy at least. With Apple’s announcement that they’ll allow free apps with in-app purchases, hopefully things will clean up a bit. But that’s a different issue for another day.

If you’re interested in getting my scrawny little excel spreadsheet with the free/paid top 100 lists to run any fancy shmancy analytics you’re welcome to it.


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