Appillionaires: Who is Making Millions From Their Apps?

Computer science used to be looked down on by the cool kids as something nerdy- but with Facebook floating on the stock exchange and Instagram being bought for 1 billion dollars , well, look who’s laughing now. In the 21st century it’s quick witted and fast fingered app developers who are really creating all the buzz, and as we develop into an increasingly mobilecentric world it’s these games and can’t live without apps that are changing the way we respond to the world- and creating a new breed of Appillionaires with it. Seriously, can you imagine navigating a new city without checking Google Maps or a world where 10 minutes couldn’t be wasted by slicing up some Fruit Ninja Style?

Here’s the official Chip Chick selection of some of the hottest Appillionaires on the block– and the companies and apps to watch out for. Just proving you can never get too much of a good thing.. (well apart from American Pie 4).

Draw Something App: Appillionaire status: 180 million

The DrawSomething app is an addictive game which is a cross between hangman and Pictionary, and that you can play with the strangers or your friends. This sleek looking app has won hundreds of fans from around the globe, and is part of the successful OMGPOP Company. Correction- WAS part of the company, as OMGPOP and all assets (including Draw Something) was bought in March 2012 by Zygna for 180 million dollars. What makes this story so impressive is not the amount that the company was bought for, but how quickly the DrawSomething app rose to popularity. OMGPOP had been in existence for a number of years with no major successes till Draw Something was launched- on Feb 1st 2012. It was bought SIX WEEKS later for 180 million, which seems insane, but just illustrates how quickly fortunes can roll in the app-universe. The game is crazily addictive and you don’t need serious art skills to partake, so they’ve made it accessible for everyone… we will just have to watch this space to see what happens next.

iFart App; Appillionaire Status: Estimated 2 million

We like to think we’re relatively cultured and have highbrow interest (or at least pretend we do to our parents) but the rise and huge success of the IFart App shows us this is not completely the case. Launched in 2008 by Joel Comm, this app quickly starting grossing a huge amount by allowing the puerile and potty minded to make fart sounds with their phone. Released on December 12th 2008, it initially cost $0.99 and was downloaded 113,865 times in two weeks, giving the creators an initial $78,908 in profit. In the forthcoming years, the app has continued to see sales grow and grow, and was recently mentioned by GEORGE CLOONEY in Rolling Stones Magazine saying he uses it!(You can’t buy this kind of publicity)

One of my favorite things about this app is that it seems so plausible that YOU could build one just like it, and I love this rise to riches story. The creator is also very vocal about his profits and how his sales are going which is amazing in a world where people tend to keep these things private and close to their chest.

Instagram App: Appiliionare status: 1 Billion dollars

You can’t write a story about the successes of app creators without mentioning the recent Instagram deal. Instagram is a popular photo editing and sharing app that allows you to add cool filters to your images and then share them online. It stood out because of its ease of use and the way it also created a photo sharing social network of its own. It was purchased by Facebook for 1 billion dollars and we’re still waiting to see what they’ll make of it, despite everyone hoping they don’t change it too much.

Instagram was created by 28 year old Kevin Systrom and was originally called Burbn. His background is impressive- working at Google and Twitter, and he had a goal to make something stylish and easy to use that was around images. Eventually Burbn was scrapped and  Kevin started again with Instagram;- created with similar features to Burbn but a cleaner smoother interface. He teamed up with Mike Krieger and the app went live on October 6, 2010. We know the rest of the story- downloads started to come in, investment followed and then the big Facebook buyout this year.  We’re just going to have to see what’s next now!

Minecraft App: Appillionare staus : Over 33 million 

Minecraft is an app with sales that will make your mouth water- over 33 million dollars in its lifetime so far. Created by Markus Alexej Persson, the game involves sandbox style playing (where there is no set path, and you can roam the world and play creatively). In 2009 Persson launched a test demo of the game, then joined forces with alongside Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser to form the company Mojang in 2010. Minecraft officially launched in 2011, and I’m betting his team mates are thrilled they signed on with him, due to the enormous volume of sales and revenue the game has created for the company. The game isn’t cheap- prices are up to £14.99 for it, but due to its great playability it has managed to carve a niche for itself in the app gaming market.

Markus is keen to share the story of his success with other budding entrepreneurs. ‘When I started work on Minecraft, I expected it to be about six to 12 months of work, and that it might hopefully earn enough money to fund development of the next game, whatever that would be. I never expected it to do this well (Minecraft has earned £20 million in one year) and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from the success. I had recently quit my job as a game developer to be able to focus more on indie game development during my free time, and I was looking for a new game to develop by myself. I built Minecraft as I went along – I make sure to play the game a lot, and I’ve built my share of towers, and flooded my share of caves. If something ever doesn’t feel fun, I’ll remove it. If it’s no fun, I’ll redesign it. Once sales start dying and a minimum time has passed, I will release the game source code for free so others can develop it further.’

Fruit Ninja: Appillionaire status: Estimated 3 million

It’s hard to work out just how much money Fruit Ninja has made as the game is now available on so many verticals. A creation of HalfBrick Studios from Australia, the addictive fruit slicing app was first available on the iPhone and iPod before moving to the Android phone and Windows Phone- and now you can play it on XBOX Kinect as well. The game involves using the touchscreen (or the Kinect sensor) to slice fruit that’s being randomly thrown about the screen, with bonus points for clicking combo’s, and the game has different modes including leader boards and a multiplayer options.

Sales vary from vertical to vertical, but in Feb 2012 it was revealed they’d sold 500,000 on the Kinect platform and in 2011 Halfbrick revealed that they’d sold 2 million copies of the app (around 1.4 million in revenue). The figure is reputed to be even higher now, and Halfbrick are busy working on some other games as well- Jetpack Joyride, Raskulls and more. Halfbrick had a head start on many other app developers as they’ve been established since 2001, and after they’d cut their teeth working on games for various consoles they got involved in the world of app-dom- and we all know where that has taken them!

iShoot; Appillionaire status- Estimated $2 million

iShoot is a rather simple app that allows you to play artillery style shooting games using your phone. It resembles many of the old school PC games that you might remember from your childhood, but its creation has netted Ethan Nicholas millions of dollars. It’s hard to give exact figures to how much he has made as details are relatively scarce, but we can share that when he first started out he managed to raise $37,000 on a single DAY.

After this we have reports that in 2009 he earned around $800,000 by April 2009, so it’s a fair bet to say his profit is now in the millions. Nicholas has a background in engineering but was a natural app developer and had to teach himself to code whilst he created the app- which took a while as had to babysit at the same time.

“iShoot was the first app I developed using Objective-C,” Nicholas said, “It was created on an original MacBook that was in rough shape. The Wi-Fi was dead and even the Ethernet port had to be jiggled for it to work right.”

I appreciate there are far FAR more apps and related App-Millionaires than the ones I have mentioned here, but considering your attention span and the size of the internet I’m only mentioning some of the particularly stand out ones (IMO). If there are any particular apps you feel really deserve to make this list- or that we need to know about- please share them in the comments section below.

FYI: I am aware how huge Angry Birds is as an app, but I also know that you all probably KNOW all about it already, so it didn’t get its own entry.

One Comment

  1. IFart is the pet rock of the 21st century. Imagine walking into a bank and telling them you need a loan to build a fart application for a brand new phone? Now imagine that would have been a better loan than about 10% of the mortgage loans said bank made?  Truth is stranger than fiction.

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