How Much Money Can Be Made From a Successful App

How Much Money Can Be Made From a Successful App

The world of app developer has boomed in the past few years, with companies like Zynga, King, Instagram and WhatsApp being built off one successful application, which lead to investment from venture groups and mobile phone users.

In a world where everyone is competing for the top spot, what does getting a featured app or hitting #1 in the Apps Store actually mean for an app developer? We go into depth about how much money can be made from just one successful app and more important, what opportunities can crop up if an application becomes successful.

First off, lets start off with the simple maths – Apple takes a 30 percent cut of every application sale, meaning when a £1 sale occurs Apple will take £0.30, this is the same with micro-transactions, so free-to-play games don’t get off easy.

We have three examples of popular apps and how much revenue they were making at peak times. Candy Crush Saga, Flappy Bird and WhatsApp. All these three apps are different, Candy Crush Saga relies on microtransactions, Flappy Bird uses advertisements and WhatsApp requires a one-time payment in order to use the app.

Lets first go over the pros and cons of each application and how they make revenue:


Candy Crush Saga:


  • Not a one-time payment, users can pay multiple times.
  • Games are repetitive and get harder, leading people to look for ways to get past levels


  • Millions play without ever dropping a penny on the game
  • Big spenders can quickly stop playing, making it hard for company to give estimates


Flappy Bird


  • No payments, meaning people from poorer countries more likely to play
  • Advertising can make millions with popular apps


  • Nothing is certain when it comes to advertising
  • Adverts can be obtrusive and people may find ways to block them




  • Always direct payment from consumer
  • Allows developers to focus on core experience, instead of trying to extract money


  • One-time payment, unless developer adds Pro features that will be the only payment
  • Some will find ways to not pay, through Jailbreak/unofficial apps stores

What’s Better?

It depends on where the app is going – with WhatsApp, users pay one time and then get a service free of ads, although this might change soon with Facebook ownership. For WhatsApp, that is fine, because they make around 50 million sales per month, meaning around £30-35 million in revenue per month.

Candy Crush Saga doesn’t have as many users, but still makes around the same amount of revenue per month, thanks to whales that will spend a lot of money on the game in order to complete it. Flappy Bird may be in the worst situation, but for a small developing house, £35,000 per day is incredible.

All three of these apps are good example of how any revenue stream can be profitable and neither one is completely bad or good, each have issues and all can be incorporated to some extend, depending on morale and time issues.

Revenue and Management 


Flappy Bird, for all the good it brought, is actually an incredibly bad example of how to make a successful application. It became popular through word of mouth, something that only happens once every few years and is quite hard to copy, no matter how much developers try.

Candy Crush Saga is a good example of how to make a successful app and make money from it. King created a hard experience for casual players, where at first they think they are good at the game and then suddenly come to realise they cannot beat Level 72, this is where the microtransactions hopefully come in.

WhatsApp is a mix of both, it is good because it shows a professional application for messaging friends can become insanely popular, latest data says around 500 million active users. On the other hand, it became this popular because it was the first app to be on all platforms, not because it is the best or the cheapest.

Revenue should be the last thing that comes to mind when creating an application, even if the two months or two years creating the app does not pay off in terms of revenue, coding experience and potential opportunities vastly outweigh the slight chance it will become popular.

Take Flappy Bird, the developer took so little care when making it a revenue machine he simply added stock advertisements on the bottom of the game, which people apparently clicked. This is a testament that when your app becomes popular, it is easy to make revenue and it should always be the last thing on your mind.

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