Last month in May, Apple quietly introduced a few changes to how it highlights and sorts mobile apps in the iTunes App Store, particularly in the games section. Some of these changes may be significant to developers of games because the way their creations are displayed on the App Store may be affected.
Before, game developers had depended on featured app lists that were generated by way of algorithms in order to show the latest or trending apps. But it appears that quite a number of these app lists are nowhere to be seen. As a matter of fact, lists like New, What's Hot, and All iPhone (Free & Paid) have disappeared. instead, lists that have been editorially curated have now taken their place.
The disappearance of some of the lists may not be too surprising. For instance, the All iPhone (Free & Paid) list was probably axed because of rampant abuse from developers of apps who try to list their games with A or AAA letters in their names so that they will be displayed first in app lists. Sure, consumers are way smarter nowadays -- they will not be easily fooled by app names that kind of look suspicious, but the fact remains that some developers are still doing this practice.
As for the New list, it did not display apps alphabetically, but instead ranked titles based on the number of downloads. But based on criteria, most titles that are displayed on that list are only the ones that gain a lot of traffic upon their release, not so much for those that are new but may still be under the radar.
Apple, of course, is trying to come up with lists that are more accurate, and should encourage better app discovery from consumers. Thus, the App Store's games section now shows lists such as Best New Games and All Time Greats, which are updated weekly by Apple editors. Other lists like More Games You Might Like are personalized based on the consumer's app purchasing history.
Also, the games section's subcategory pages -- Action, Adventure, Racing, just to name a few -- now also display editorially curated app lists. These pages now feature their own banner art located at the top in order to promote the best new titles within those categories.
So far, how have these new changes affected app developers. A few have already provided feedback that they have experienced decreased organic downloads, some as much as 90 percent. But a few circles maintain that the new lists actually reward those titles that are genuinely interesting and good, helping consumers discover them better instead of having to browse through scam apps or cloned games. And because there are editorially curated app lists, users actually can check out titles that are recommended by app experts.
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