The elephant in the room. Can you make money publishing iOS mobile apps using app templates in today’s market?

(We’ve updated this post on October 2nd with extra screen shots)

That’s a pretty loaded question.  Lets be a little more specific..

Can you make money publishing iOS mobile apps using app templates in today’s market?

Well if you answered this question just based on how many marketplaces have popped up in the last 18 months to sell these templates, then you probably answered with an enthusiastic, absolutely!

But if you are like me and wondered if the new marketplace site owners were just trying to serve the gold rush prospectors the dream + picks and shovels?

Marketplaces Available to Buy App Templates The fly-by-night marketplaces are selling the high end of the dream so you don’t notice how cheap the picks and shovels on the shelf are. I used to get an email from a new marketplace owner / promotor about once a month asking us to list our slot templates on their site. A lot of them seemed to be shady operations or sites that never got out of beta. I’m glad we steered clear. The popular marketplaces like SellMyApp.com, Game Gorillaz & Chupamobile really bring the best templates to market. Not only that, but they have great blogs, FAQ’s and tutorials.  I’m not saying that all their “picks and shovels” are awesome, I’m just saying that you can trust these marketplaces to give you what you would expect. Error free codes, money back guarantees, reskinning and marketing services. Here’s the other side of that… 5 I think the gap between what people SAY is possible in today’s market and what IS actually possible is getting bigger and bigger. I’m going to dig into why I think that they app industry is still hot and why I’ve bet my future on it. 3 So if we look back to the wild west of reskinning apps…things were completely different.  1 Even in 2013 & 2014 you could still take most templates, reskin with average graphics and turn them around quick to achieve instant FREE / Organic downloads.  Those downloads came from the way new apps were presented in the app store. I could usually count on 500-1,000 downloads and the ad impressions to go with that.  Sure there were some variables like:

  • What ad networks you picked
  • The type of ads (banner, interstitial, graphical interstitial or video
  • The way you structured your ad placements
  • Ad frequency
  • Switching out your ad networks to keep them fresh

Either way, it wasn’t too hard to get an average eCPM close to $20 or above and make pretty good money on simple casino games. Here was an example of one of our games called: Sweet Desserts Casino HD – Delicious Free Slot Machine  (Still in the store. Click here to see) I’m sure you recognize the template. It’s party slots from Carter Thomas. So a game like this could pull in $2,000 in a short period of time and over $4k in a matter of months. Here are the ALL TIME exact numbers: DL’s, IAP & Ad Revenue: Downloads:

  • 12,181

blank copy 5 copy   IAP Revenue: 

  • $111.04

pm   Chartboost Revenue:

  • Interstitial Ads: $563.07

blank copy 4

  • More Game Ads: $514.53

blank copy   Applovin Revenue:

  • Interstitals: $3,279.95

blank copy 2   Total Revenue: 

  • $4,468.59

Average revenue per user or LTV (lifetime value per user) =$.36  Perspective: In the past I bought traffic for another app pretty easily for $.25 an install. (Since then the cost has doubled from the same source.) Others report now..(if you are good) installs can be achieved for less and we can get over 5x the eCPM we got with Applovin. Chartboost was even lower. *To see an example of eCPM’s 5x scroll about 3/4 the way down on this post. My point? If I would have been buying traffic back then, even for this simple game, I could have made an average of $.11 cents per user and possible more.  Doesn’t look like much I know, but check out the values when we convert it to a percentage. (referring to buying easy non incentivized installs through an ad network 12 months ago)

  • 25 cents to acquire a user
  • 36 cents average revenue per user
  • nets you 11 cents per user

11 cents profit on 25 cents = 44% return on investment.  If you have $100,000 and walk into any bank in the world right now, you will be lucky to get over 1.5% on your money and that’s if you lock it in for 18-24 months. What’s 44% profit on $100,000? Easy math right, $44,000. So scaling up is what the big dogs have been doing all along.


Anyway, back to the reskin of Party slots that generated $4,468.59 This was only 1 free casino game reskin. I’m sure a lot of you did much better than me, but it was all free organic traffic.  This was the time when you really could still pick a good theme and stand out.  Sometimes during updates you could get more free exposure.  Anyway…that was then. Eventually the market was saturated with thousands of copies of the popular templates.  Apple changed the way new apps got most of their downloads and revenue for many of us plummeted. That killed off a ton of people and maybe it wiped you out.  It almost put me under, but I stayed above water just long enough to make it to the next phase.   water Now it’s a little different…but spoiler alert.  It’s better! Why?  Because the average person can go out and buy app installs for their apps like I mentioned we could of 2-3 years ago. If you have monetization setup in your favor, then these results are going to look like child’s play.   There’s two numbers we need to focus on.

  1. How cheap can we get app installs with relevant users into our apps?
  2. What is the LTV (Lifetime value) of those users?

Is the second number higher than the first? If it’s not, then we can do a lot of things to get that LTV up! Things to increase the amount a user spends in your app (while having fun) and / or generates from watching ads, clicking on ads and installing other games.  Depending on your game category, niche, audience and goals these things could be different. I’ll give monetization strategies and you can see which makes the most sense for you and your games.   For example, If you want to stay away from ads that annoy your users because you remember how some people abused ads, then the monetization for your game could be more in app purchase based (IAP). However, many games that have IAP’s don’t have them setup in a way that actually generates revenue.   The only thing they do in generate finger aches as you set all 20-30 of them up in itunes connect (ITC). Look at our Sweet Slots example above. IAP revenue = $111.04 Out of Total revenue = $4,468.59 Percentage of IAP revenue compared to total revenue: 2.4% So we can tweak those IAP’s and give the user more incentive to buy.  If you are ok with serving ads in your games then it’s easier, because ususally most games have room for a few. You can stick to the basic placements like:

  • Game launch (pro tip: put a delay on this so it doesn’t happen until the 2nd time they launch the game).
  • Game over / They die or run out of lives / coins
  • Every X times sometime happens. In a slots game, this would be every x amount of spins.  In a runner game it could be every x amount of starts.

A combination of both gets my vote! (my favorite).  With all the different types of ads these days, most games can incorporate them without many complaints. Side note: the people that complain probably won’t spend any money with IAP’s anyway.  They are the complainers of the world and it’s ok if they leave your app. Rewarded video ads are popular chouce because you can reward the user with something in exchange for them watching an ad.  In our Mega Jackpot Slots Game & Template the user can earn coins by:

  • Connecting to Facebook (at game launch)
  • Sharing the game on Facebook (within the game)
  • Accepting Push Notifications (at game launch)
  • Sharing on Twitter (within the game)
  • Emailing a friend about the game (within the game)
  • Watching a video ad

See examples below: ioo copy 16 ioo copy 11 ioo copy 10 ioo copy 9 When you give enough value to the user, I find most don’t complain. In fact, it gives them a chance to keep playing…for FREE. The key here is to offer more value than your competitors and more than you think you should.

  • If you think them sharing on Facebook is worth 1000 coins, would it hurt to give them 5000?
  • If you think watching a 30 second video ad is only worth 1 life on an endless runner game, could you give them 5? Maybe even 10?

Of course it all depends how your game is setup, but you get the point.  You don’t want to push users away from the app.  You also don’t want to give too much away where they think it’s easy.  Testing will allow you to find the sweet spot. Now assuming we find the best way to monetize our app while providing the most fun and value for the user, what can we do? Go find and attract more users of course! ioio Yes. Once the cost to acquire a user is less than the average LTV (lifetime value per user) then you’ve got a profit. (I discussed this above using our old Sweet Slots Game)

  • Average revenue your app generates per user
  • Less the cost of acquiring users
  • Equals your profit of course.

I know you know this, I’m just trying to take the tabeoness out of all this. (is that even a word? Probably not) Let me try again. I’m trying to say that buying users (app installs) is how the big companies make so much money.

  1. This goes back years, but small indie developers like you and me used to get free organic downloads. If you had enough apps with good themes, you could make money.  Then all of a sudden the free wave of traffic ended when apple “fixed the glitch”.

7   We were all yelling..

  • “Hey, what happened? We can’t make money anymore!”
  • “How will we get downloads?”
  • “This sucks!”

or wanted to do this: 8   Maybe you didn’t say those things, but I did.   I mean, we all can be creatures of habit.  The way it was setup, we didn’t have to spend much on promotion.  Looking back, we were lucky.  Go ask a large corporate company how much they spend on promotion or to acquire a new customer. Ok. I’m sure you get it, but how can I get these users? Not just users to say I have users. Users that want my app and will use it. More recently,  I realized that I wasn’t the only one confused by this and decided to do something about it. What did I do? I started working at it. Yea, I started digging in and working to figure this out.  It’s like someone slapped me and I woke up.  The free gold rush was over, but that’s a good thing.  Now all the fly-by-night app companies are gone and we can get to work.   9 The competition is fierce, but competition keeps people in check and helps give the end user more value and a better product. With all the old popular templates not available or relevant in today’s market, those fly-by-night developers have moved on.  So although competition is high it’s the kind of competition you want.  More good quality games.   They have to be because the customer (users) are getting wiser.  It takes more to intrigue a user just enough to download you app…let alone keep them engaged! I have met people that had and some still have huge portfolios of over 1000 reskinned games across multiple developer accounts.  They used friends and family to create this empire.  That’s all good.  I’m not complaining.  There was a time for that and those people just did it much much better than me. I am about to take many of my old reskins out of the store, but probably had / have 80-90 reskins with 10 different codes.  I bought (licensed) a lot of source code back in the day totaling around $3500. I summarized this in an old email, (maybe you remember).   codes   Here are some specific things I started doing to turn “it” around:

  • Talking with people. Online with FB, email and skype. The people that were already having success.
  • I called people up. Yea, on the phone. Just because apps are online does’t mean we can’t go old school and use the phone for what it was actually made for :)
  • I traveled to a cool industry event in Hawaii.
  • I started dropping in on people that I had been talking to that stopped or fizzled out.  Either on themselves or their business. [Confirming].. I mean I flew to other states and dropped in on people at their business and asked if they had time to grab lunch and tell me what were working on. These interactions are memorable.
  • I started asking other developers what they needed help with
  • I started to set myself up to get into app development full time (Full Story Here)
  • I quit my corporate job recently to pursue this full time
  • I started meeting up with people to discuss strategies and ideas
  • I started experimenting with the monetization techniques I talked about above
  • I started regularly brainstorming new opportunities and then testing
  • I started buying app installs from ad networks
  • I started trying things to increase my eCPM to maximize my rev on the impressions I got
  • I started to really think about ad creatives and what makes a great one perform
  • I started trying Facebook ads for app installs

Just because a lot of this business is based online, doesn’t mean you should become a hermit and not connect with people. 10 What I found out was pretty surprising. I’ll summarize below in a way that compares the old way to the new way. These new ways are what the pros (indie and big time publishers) have been doing and will continue along with other techniques.


  • Before: Buy a cheap app template and use it to publish a reskin with nothing to set you apart.
  • Now: Buy a better app template and use at a start + then add a few features

  • Before: Throw together some quick screen shots
  • Now: Think more about what you are trying to show the user and present in an eye catching way.

  • Before: Thinking that getting free downloads with “ASO” was all about poaching keywords from other apps.
  • Now: Realizing that a lot of the keywords you try to steal or “borrow” are only working for your competitor because they are relevant and they get lots of downloads from users typing that in to find the app.  Additionally they get paid installs for their apps and that probably adds weight to your app and your rankings.  Your title can play a big role in this too!

  • Before: Quickly browse the store for a theme, find graphics on a cheap photo site and use them to reskin your game
  • Now: Research longer and carefully pick a theme / niche.  Then take time sketching things out and have custom graphics created to match the vision you have.

  • Before: Use a cheap template with poor monetization in mind for the developer and poor user experience for the end users.
  • Now: Buy from trusted sellers. Whether that be on a marketplace like Sellmyapp.com or from other developers during a private or public launch.  People that I know put time and effort into monetization and user experience instead of just pushing a product down the line to the next guy.

So in summary, in today’s market we are trying to get far away from the ways of the past.

  • When sellers rushed to put together some poor quality templates just to capitalize on a weekly trend.
  • When app developers (most of us) just reskinned it and hit publish without thinking twice about the quality of the app
  • When the app user just accepted the poor games and played because it was new and cool.

The wild west of app reskinning is something I’m not always proud for participating in, but at the time it didn’t feel wrong.  Lots of us just pushed things down the line without ever stopping and looking at what we were putting out. 1

  • App template sellers
  • App developers
  • Programmers
  • Graphic designers
  • Marketers
  • Ad network companies.

We all unknowingly worked together (many of us living in a bubble) to make money and ultimately pull downloads away from the apps that really deserved it. What’s the great happy ending to this story? Well, I’m glad you asked.   I’m not sure about you, but I learned a lot on that journey and wouldn’t change the past if I could.   The perspective, tips and tricks I learned have helped me grow as a business owner and as a person.   I have taken those experiences and put them into projects I’m proud of. One of which is this website and our templates. The irony is we probably could have made even more easy money by putting out a better app and user experience years ago, but it didn’t seem necessary. We were too distracted by the easy money.  The easy money did have a limit and eventually dried up.  I’m reminding you that the drought that followed helped kill off all the developers that were pulling the market down.   11


Now there is room for new growth. If you are rolling your eyes at me, I forgive you. Keep reading and see why :)    12 So if you are still in the mindset that

  • “It’s not possible to make money in the iOS app space in today’s market”
  • “I don’t know…How then?”

13 I completely understand if you have questions. I’m not just out to convince people to get into something they aren’t passionate about.  I also selfishly am ok with more room for those of us that do believe it’s possible and are doing it right meow.  Not a typo. Get the reference? Super Troopers! Here’s an example. You know those daily reports Chartboost sends you on your earnings? (if you have it setup) Well, we have been testing different monetization techniques with our slot games.  Here are some examples on ad monetization we’ve tweaked.   To test we only push a little traffic through them and if it works for a few days we scale up! Three different game templates that are used:

  • Party slots (from Carter Thomas) Yes, it’s an old template, but still can generate revenue.
  • Mega Jackpot Slots (Our own in house multi theme slots template and game)
  • Secret Chest Slots (Our own in house single theme slots template and game)

All of the games listed are multi theme except Secret Chest Slots. Classy Vegas slots is an old Party Slots reskin!   i copy

[OCT 2nd] Update: 

We’ve been experimenting with user acquisition and have been having good results slowing pushing more users into Mega Jackpot Slots. Here you can see an example of an $84.98 eCPM. One app. One Day.  Of course this is small, but we are working on scaling up. Can you imagine if you 10x it?

$1700 a day?

Yes please!

wefwere

 

If you’ve made it this far I hope now some of you understand why I tried to explain how the market is still alive and well! As mentioned above, we make small changes and then test to see if they will convert well in the form of eCPM or IAP’s and then after they are proven we can scale up. It may look like it’s been easy, but the last few months have been a lot of trial and error!  We are finally to a point where we are gearing up for some new highly polished games to launch and then be promoted. We’d be crazy not to. I mean a few months back we updated our party slot code to comply with Apple’s new policies, Ad network SDK’s, placements, and a few buttons + easier and a more accessible control of these things. We also did that with our Mega Jackpot Slots & Secret Chest Slots templates. How did we know what things to add to improve these templates?   Well, it’s simple, but a lot of people forget these days. We asked the customers what they wanted :) Ok, well we did, but there was a little more to it.  There were 10ish questions that asked what they were looking for, what they were struggling with and a few other things. Maybe you took the survey. Thank you!

  • So we sent surveys out to our email subscribers in July (by taking the survey they were entered to win a multi license of out Mega Jackpot Slots Template + extras. Those extras and the template sell on all the marketplaces I mentioned above at $799.  The winner was thrilled!

 

Click here to hear when we send out another survey which ultimately gives you a chance for two awesome things:
  1. Win the cool expensive give away
  2. Get your problems solved quicker

We spent 2 weeks going through the responses and getting a feel for what they (you) said they wanted and what they actually wanted. However, you spin it, people were not hesitant to buy a template from us because they thought it was low quality or too expensive.  It was two things that stuck out:

          1.  Bad timing for them personally
          2. Didn’t think it was possible to make money anymore

 

                  Well #2, is a fair and honest objection, and they were completely right.  You can’t make money anymore…. Using the methods we used to back in 2013-2014 and a little into 2015.   AKA, we couldn’t put out a lousy game, sit back and spend $0 on marketing and earn free money.   14 Would you expect that to last? Let’s just take it for what it was.  Now, so many people have given up that it’s a better time to be in the game.  There is less low quality templates that users will play, so you have to come correct.   All the old templates are out of date and can’t even be used to update old apps or publish new ones because of endless red errors. Unless you updated them yourself like we did. If you have an old template that you bought in the reskinning era that needs updated subscribe here and we will send you an email to get all the info. There have been too many iOS updates with features, new devices and policy changes to think you can take a 2014 copy of party slots and upload a quick reskin. So, the market sure is different, but I think it’s for the better. I mean look at those eCPM’s above! In closing. I am reminding you that here at MoneyFromApps.com we are committed to do just that. Make money from apps but more importantly provide tremendous value to the users. Whether that be in the form of entertainment, utility or something else, that’s our goal. We will also be recording and reporting everything along the way!       Our general: Wins, Losses, Lessons, Cool Tools and Recommended Products               + Specific: How to guides to help you, Revenue reports, App templates, Courses on research, marketing and advertising in todays market   If any of those things get you excited and you are not on our email list.. Subscribe Below

If there is something else you are looking for or struggling with don’t hesitate to email us (email at the top left of this website)

I read every email.

If you are still hesitant to subscribe or contact me let me remind you that I’ve went ALL IN on this industry.  It’s my full time job.

3 Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share this with your friends, family and old app developer friends.

Cheers,

Todd Smith

 

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