Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

App devs facing major problems with piracy, profitability

New App Developer Conference survey finds 26% of devs have had their apps pirated, and many struggle to make any profit

Organizers of the new App Developers Conference (ADC) - taking place November 5th-7th at the Los Angeles Convention Center and co-located with another inaugural event, GDC Next - have revealed interesting data about the significant challenges facing today's app developers.

While games clearly rule the apps world (69 percent of devs surveyed made games), the developers making the apps have numerous challenges to overcome in order to see success. Piracy in particular has become very prevalent. 26 percent of surveyed developers reported that their apps had been pirated, and even if a game is free, it's not protected against piracy. For developers whose apps use in-app purchases (IAP), 26 percent also found that their IAPs had been obtained without any payment.

"Of our 8 million+ total downloads," one dev confessed, "1.5 million+ have been pirated, mostly in Russia and China. 
Another dev commented that, on Android, "approximately 90 percent of in-app purchases were faked."

Aside from piracy, the top problem for app devs remains discoverability. This was the top-cited obstacle to success in the ADC survey. Too many apps, crowded app stores, consumers' expectations for free or $0.99-priced apps, and device fragmentation were all cited as contributing to the discoverability problem.

The bottom line is that app development isn't the opportunity many think it is. The numbers on profitability are somewhat startling. 40 percent of all surveyed developers made zero revenue from their latest app, and nearly half made zero profit from that app (through all channels, including download fees for paid apps, ad revenue, and income from in-app purchases). That said, it's important to note that roughly half of the zero-revenue devs are solo developers that don't pursue development full-time. Even so, 26 percent of all full-time devs made zero revenue on their last app. Devs going it alone have an especially difficult time, as 70 percent of solo, full-time devs reported making zero profit on their latest app.

81 percent of the devs surveyed were targeting iOS as their primary platform compared to 68 percent developing on Android. Most, however, look to leverage multiple platforms; 72 percent of iOS devs also develop for Android, 36 percent for web, 32 percent for Windows, and 24 percent for Mac OS, while 86 percent of Android devs also target iOS, 42 percent target Windows and web browsers, and 26 percent for Mac OS.

For those interested, the complete survey is available for download here.

Read this next

James Brightman avatar
James Brightman: James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.
Related topics