Mobile's broken app store discoverability

May 30, 2024

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Mobile app store discovery is fundamentally broken.

That’s nothing new to anyone in the business. Discoverability across the games market is an issue - too many games, too little time, and standing out amongst the crowd is the perennial challenge for developers and publishers.

But mobile has a particularly big problem that has existed for years. On PC, platforms such as Steam provide an array of discovery options and have a distinctly different approach to those offered by Apple and Google.

Direct-to-consumer catalyst

Speaking to, Archie Stonehill, head of product at direct-to-consumer web shop provider Stash that's looking to provide an alternative to app store purchases, said developers don’t see as many benefits from their relationships with app stores as they have in the past.

"Starting in 2020, that kind of organic discovery had been more or less replaced by ad monetised Apple App Store space" - Archie Stonehill

In the early days, he said, featuring was a major channel for acquiring users and scaling a game, making app store relationships critical. That’s no longer the case.

“Starting in 2020, that kind of organic discovery had been more or less replaced by ad monetised Apple App Store space," said Stonehill.

"Though partly been driven by the rise of hypercasual and changing consumer behaviours, Apple's ad business now monetises much of the store’s real estate developers previously could bargain for.

"The result is that today, being featured isn’t as reliable and is much less impactful, especially in terms of actual spend (versus install numbers).

“This is largely why game developers feel that the 30% cut they pay to the app stores isn’t justified. If that money isn’t going back into helping them acquire organic users or other added value, why are they paying so much?

“It’s a big catalyst for the direct-to-consumer web shop boom we’ve seen in the last half year or so, and also why many developers are excited about alternative app stores.

“The way we see it, either the app stores need a discoverability overhaul, or they need to lower the 30%. Hopefully it’s both.”

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