Mac App Store low on freebies, high on games

Apple's three-month old Mac App Store isn't growing quite as fast as iOS' app library, but it's proving to be an important play in Apple's spot in the gaming world.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
App stores by size.
A breakdown of applications, both free and paid, from various app stores. Distimo

A new report released by market research group Distimo shows that Apple's now three-month old Mac App Store is off to a slower start than its iOS counterparts in terms of app volume, though is becoming a bellwether for more gaming opportunities on the Mac OS platform.

The report, which tracks data from the App Store on both iOS and on Mac OS, also evaluates Google's Android Market, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, BlackBerry App World, Nokia Ovi, and Palm's App Catalog for the month of February.

According to Distimo, the Mac App Store reached 2,225 applications in two months, which was about a quarter of what the iPad had in app volume during the same time period. Even given the smaller pool of apps, the report found that developers who have their application in the Mac App Store's top 300 rankings generate "half the revenue of a top 300 iPad app on average."

Part of the reason for that centers on pricing. Just 12 percent of applications on the Mac App Store were free at the time of the report, leaving the rest in the paid category. That's compared to a split of 35 percent free and 65 percent paid of iPhone and iPod Touch apps, and a 29 percent free and 71 percent paid split for the iPad.

One very important tidbit about pricing is that the average price of the top 300 Mac App Store paid apps is much higher than their iPhone and iPad counterparts.

"The average selling price of the top 300 applications is seven times higher in the Mac App Store ($11.21) than on the iPhone ($1.57) and almost three times higher than on the iPad ($4.19)," Distimo said.

While the report doesn't spell out why this may be the case, one of the reasons the App Store on the iOS side was so disruptive in the first place was that developers tended to price their mobile applications lower that had been the norm on other platforms--especially compared to desktop software. While there have been numerous cases of developers proving that wrong with lower pricing for App Store apps (including Apple, which charges $80 for Aperture on the App Store, vs. $199 for the boxed version), many still charged the same, with some even going higher to make up for part of the proceeds going to Apple.

Along with the numbers of pricing and application volume, Distimo makes note that the Mac App Store library is venturing in the same direction as it is on iOS, with games seeing a rise in popularity.

"In the Mac App Store, gaming is still less popular than on the iPhone and iPad, with iPad having over 50 percent more games listed among the most popular applications than the Mac App Store," the report says. "However, the popularity of games in the Mac App Store combined with the fact that there are already 646 games in the store, signals the Mac App Store could boost Mac gaming."

By comparison, Valve's Steam platform, which lets users download digital copies of games, has a library of 176 titles available for download. Unlike games purchased on the Mac App Store, these can be played on both the PC and Mac, and pack on social features through the Steam game client. Valve launched Steam for the Mac in May of last year.

The Mac App Store's library now sits at some 2,867 apps according to third-party tracker AppShopper. Of that, Apple's own applications continue to dominate the top 15 paid list, with 99-cent FaceTime leading the way, followed closely by Xcode, iPhoto, Pages, iMovie, Keynote, Aperture, Numbers and GarageBand, with various third-party apps in between.