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Top 25 developers make half of all U.S. mobile app revenue

Companies like Rovio, Disney, and Electronic Arts made serious cash during the first 20 days of November, research firm Canalys says.

There might be hundreds of thousands of apps in your favorite mobile marketplace, but chances are, few developers there are actually making serious cash.

During the first 20 days of November, just 25 developers, including Rovio, Zynga, Electronic Arts, and Disney, generated half of all mobile app revenue earned, research firm Canalys discovered in a study announced yesterday. The companies pulled in a combined $60 million in the U.S. from paid downloads and in-app purchases. The remaining $60 million was earned by all other developers.

Canalys analyzed both the App Store and Google's Play marketplace. Although other app stores are out there, including a popular one from Amazon, the company chose the two biggies, allowing it to make its claim with a reasonable level of certainty.

Interestingly, all of the top developers except for one -- Pandora -- are game developers. That's something that can't be overlooked, Chris Jones, Canalys vice president and principal analyst, said in a statement:

Part of the story here is that successful game developers almost invariably have multiple titles generating revenue. Zynga, for example, had 15 titles in the list of top 300 grossing iPhone apps on average in Apple's App Store every day, and nine titles in the equivalent list in the Google Play store.

Even with its singular focus on its Angry Birds franchise, Rovio has multiple game variants in the list. With the holiday season now under way, we expect to see many of these top game developers employing discounts and special offers, taking advantage of their ability to cross-promote within their app portfolios. This is expected to ensure that over the Christmas period in the U.S., the dominance of key game developers will only increase.

Unfortunately for smaller developers, it might be difficult to get into the list of top app makers. Canalys found that "discoverability" is a huge issue in the App Store and Google Play, and top developers are usually "prevalent" across the stores.

"Depending on the type of app, they should consider how best they can exploit social media and social recommendations, tactical sales promotions and discounts, branding tie-ups and targeted in-app advertising," Tim Shepherd, Canalys senior analyst, said of smaller developers.