Anatomy of a Mac App Store launch

When I started out the idea for 10 Million Apps one of my desires was to share the process of building and selling apps as a sole entrepreneur. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from other developers sharing their own numbers and wanted to share my lessons in app selling for others.

Space Gremlin initially started out as a bet between John Debay and I about whether the new app store would attract buyers. He was adamant I should focus my side projects on the new store while I thought I should focus on iPad. The only way to settle the argument was to just build something and see what happened. I did the build out over Christmas break and sent in the 1.0 version to Apple on January 13th. By the 27th it was approved and a launch date was set for Feb 7th. Below is a chart tracking the activity around Space Gremlin for the first two weeks.

2/6 – Although I wanted to officially launch on Feb 7th, I set the availability date to Feb 6th so I could make sure it showed up in the store ok. I got 32 sales that first day by accident!
2/7 – Launch day was a big success in my eyes, I was in the top 10 list for Utilities category by the end of the day and very happy with the sales.
2/9 – Daisy Disk experiments with a big price drop which sends my sales sinking to their lowest point.
2/11 – 1.1 update hits, Mac Stories picks it up and twitter lights up, sales climb for the weekend
2/14 – TUAW posts a review of the 1.1 build at 10pm Monday night, twitter explodes with bot spam that night, but the real effects of the article don’t happen until…
2/15 – Sales rocket and Space Gremlin hits the #4 store wide. This was the first time I started recording store positions so that I could see how sales translate to position. In the top 5 you almost have to double your sales to move up by one slot.

At the end of the 2 weeks the thing that left the biggest impression on me is how well the app store sells itself. If I was trying to sell Space Gremlin from my website, I’ll bet I could count on one hand the number of sales I would have gotten before the TUAW review. However with the App Store in the equation I can count on selling to all those people that just browse the store each day looking for things to buy. Likewise, getting in to the top 10 list gave me steady sales throughout the week as the app was surfaced for more users to see.

Post Mortem
1. Giving everyone I work with at EffectiveUI a beta copy of the app to play with really helped me flesh out the initial problems with functionality and design. By the time Space Gremlin hit the store I had at least 40 designers and developers review the app for me.
2. Finishing up the 1.1 update before Apple approved 1.0 turned out to be a good move. The day I launched Space Gremlin I also sent in the 1.1 update to Apple and it got approved just ahead of the TUAW landslide. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
3. I suck at marketing. Aside from the lucky breaks with Mac Stories and TUAW, I haven’t been able to drive much traffic to the website. As far as I can tell, most people are now finding the app through sheer curiosity on the app store or word of mouth.
4. Germany is the 3rd biggest buyer of Space Gremlin on the app store, localization is going to be key going forward.

As for that bet with John Debay, I think its safe to say there’s money to be made on the new Mac App Store.

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  • Patrick

    Congratulations on your successes! I’m not the jealous type, but I have to feel a little twinge of envy at seeing you get my monthly sales in a day. :)

  • Jeremy Ricketts

    Hi Sean! I’m a developer and like you, I like where I work but I’m also curious at trying my hand at som OSX development and putting something in the App Store. I was wondering, if you’d be willing to give us an update on your progress. How has the app performed in the long run? Do you mind sharing the total sales numbers so far? An update would be great. I’m curious how important it was that you were kind of an early adopter of the app store with this app or if you think anyone with a decent app has a shot at making some appreciable amount of sales as we roll further into 2011. Think it’s peaked?