Arrested development: Why it’s harder to get rich with iPhone apps

Nov 24, 2009
Games

While the ascension of iPhone applications is having a profound impact on popular culture and many walks of life, there are fewer opportunities for independent developers to get rich quick marketing their apps.  As today’s 100,000+ iPhone apps eventually morph into 1 million, major brands like Walmart, UPS and EA Sports could drive smaller players […]

While the ascension of iPhone applications is having a profound impact on popular culture and many walks of life, there are fewer opportunities for independent developers to get rich quick marketing their apps. 

As today’s 100,000+ iPhone apps eventually morph into 1 million, major brands like Walmart, UPS and EA Sports could drive smaller players out of the mobile marketplace.

Take Trism developer Steve Demeter, for example.

Demeter rose to stardom when he created Trism in 2008. The app developed a following before Apple’s iTune App Store went to market, as fans downloaded the app via a pirated process called “jailbreaking.” Trism’s design anticipated many of the features of the iPhone’s game-play. Coupled with a buzz-worthy YouTube video previewing Trism, Demeter earned $250,000 within two months of the App Store opening. His story rallied the hopes of developers across the globe as industry pundits were predicting Trism to gross $2 million by July, 2009. 

So did Demeter ever hit that $2 million mark?

“I don’t go into numbers,” Demeter said during an interview.  “Being on CNN and talking about my numbers made me realize why people don’t go into numbers. You get people asking for loans.  You go into a meeting with Google and they tailor their approach.  It’s almost a stumbling block.”

This pioneer of the iPhone gaming industry is now working on his second act. To date, Trism is the only iPhone app developed by Demeter’s company Demiforce. Meanwhile, established players like EA sports are blanketing the App Store and venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are investing tens of millions of dollars into application development companies.

READ  Fresh iPhone Games for Mar. 28: Max and the Magic Marker, Haunted Manor, Super Stack Attack

As for Demeter?

“It’s up and down,” he sighed.  “I only have the one app, so I can’t comment on how much the changing landscape has affected me.  I kinda let things unfold.”

Since launching Trism, Demeter has seen the App Store present entire opportunities for developers to flourish.  “You still see examples of guys like me making it big.  Apple has a vested interest in the platform,” he said.

With opportunity, of course, comes competition. Demeter is now running up against large game developers with massive branding resources and large engineering teams. He is ready to deal deal with the changing landscape.

“When we do launch new games, we’ll market them pretty heavily,” he declared. “The key is to make an application that instantly proves its value.”

Based on his earlier success, Demeter no doubt will draw attention to his next venture. Independent developers hoping to follow in his footsteps, however, won’t have the same advantage. There is no pressing the reset button on this phenomenon.

Search for more

Home Apps Games