App Store Bills’ Big Winners: Billion-Dollar Gaming, Dating, and Streaming Companies
Ten biggest beneficiaries are worth a collective $1.57 trillion and would earn $1.64 billion more annually under the bill
Some U.S. Senators are trying to move app store legislation called the Open App Markets Act (OAMA) at the end of the legislative session this year. In addition, half a dozen state legislatures considered similar bills in 2022, and will likely do so again in 2023.
While the bills would mandate that phones be open to “sideloading” (see our concerns here, here, and here), from an economic perspective the most significant element of the bills are their mandates for alternative in-app payment systems:
Some proponents of OAMA-style legislation claim to want to help small app developers. But in reality roughly 97% of apps in the Google app store and 94% of apps in the iOS app store are free to download — and both Apple and Google charge a reduced 15% commission for all developers’ first $1 million in revenue.
The app developers that currently have the highest in-app purchase and subscription revenue have the most to gain financially if OAMA and state app store bills pass, by avoiding the current 30% commission paid to Apple and Google.
So, which companies would be the biggest economic winners from app store legislation?
Using information from the BusinessofApps 2022 App Data Report, we estimated the amount of revenue that each of the top 10 grossing apps stand to gain if OAMA or state app store bills pass.
In the report, BusinessofApps charted the top ten grossing apps and games in the US in 2021, using data from AppMagic and Sensor Tower. These are the apps that currently have the highest volume of in-app purchases and subscriptions processed through the Apple App Store and Google Play on Android:
AppMagic describes these gross revenue numbers as “reduced by platform fees,” so the data in the figure above show the revenue after the 30% commission has been paid to the platforms. Thus, these numbers likely represent 70% of the total revenue. Based on the numbers, we calculated the additional revenue that each app could gain if all US users made payments outside Apple and Google’s app stores, as enabled by OAMA:
Altogether, these top ten earning apps alone would earn an estimated $1.64 billion in additional annual revenue if app store legislation passed.
Note: Because two of the top 10 grossing apps are owned by Google (YouTube and Google One), and Google also runs one of the app stores affected by the legislation, Google is likely not charging itself a 30 percent commission on Google Play subscriptions and in-app purchases. However, Google is paying Apple’s App Store commissions.
To conservatively estimate Google’s additional iOS revenue earned through OAMA’s changes, we estimated only 15% additional revenue to Google’s apps rather than the 30% commission used for other calculations. Due to this difference, our chart shows a slightly different order of the top ten apps by revenue than what is presented in the BusinessofApps report.
Now, let’s break down the top ten apps whose companies would benefit the most financially from app store legislation passing:
Roblox was the top-grossing app in 2021 and is free to download — but offers in-app purchases, often different clothes or skins for avatars within the game. The app aims to reimagine how people play together and has roughly 58.8 million daily active users according to their website.
App store legislation would allow Roblox to pocket the 30% commission it currently pays to Apple, roughly $250 million in additional revenue annually. Roblox made almost $2 billion in global revenue in 2021, and as of September 30th, 2022 its market cap was roughly $21.5 billion.
(2) Candy Crush Saga (Activision Blizzard)
Candy Crush was the second-highest grossing app in 2021 according to BusinessofApps. The app is free to download and offers in-app purchases for special types of candy used to gain higher scores in the game. This popular game has”a loyal fanbase of over 250 million users”, is “the sixth highest grossing mobile game of all time”, and had over $1 billion in annual operating income in 2021. Candy Crush’s parent company, Activision Blizzard, had an estimated quarterly market cap of over $58 billion as of Sept., 30th, 2022.
(3) Coin Master (Moon Active)
Coin master, a casino game, recently surpassed $2 billion in lifetime player spending. The game offers in-app purchases for extra coins and tools that are used to advance players’ position within the game.
Coin Master is owned by the developer Moon Active, which was recently valued at $5 billion.
(4) Disney+ (Disney)
Disney+ is a subscription streaming app offering subscriptions at various rates:
Disney+ launched in November 2019 and made over $2.5 billion in its first year of operation. Disney+ was recently valued at $60 billion, and Disney itself had a quarterly market cap of $168 billion at the end of Q3 2022.
(5) YouTube (Google)
YouTube has over 2.5 billion monthly users and reached 50 million subscribers to their YouTube Premium service in 2021. As discussed above, Google is likely not charging its own apps commissions on Google Play sales, but Google is paying Apple App Store commission fees.
Their in-app purchases offer different subscription options including monthly membership, YouTube Red, and YouTube Premium. YouTube is owned by parent company Google, which had an estimated quarterly market cap of $1.24 trillion.
(6) HBO Max (Warner Brothers Discovery)
HBO Max is another subscription streaming app, with over 50 million subscribers.HBO is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc., which reported a quarterly market cap of almost $28 billion as of September 30th, 2022.
(7) Garena Free Fire (Sea Group)
Free Fire is a mobile gaming app that offers in-app purchases similar to those in other gaming apps as well as weekly subscriptions. Free Fire is owned by Sea Group, who reported over 568 million quarterly active users and $1.2 billion in gross profit as of Q3 2022. As of September 30th, 2022, Sea Group’s quarterly market cap was roughly $31.5 billion.
(8) Google One (Google)
Google One is a cloud storage app that provides in-app purchases based on storage amounts on monthly and annual bases. Google One is also owned by parent company Google.
(9) Pokémon GO (Niantic)
Pokémon GO is a mobile gaming app that offers in-app purchases for use in gameplay. Below, is a table from SensorTower showing the top in-app purchases for Pokémon GO.
According to BusinessofApps, Pokémon GO had over 71 million active users in 2021, and parent company Niantic was valued at roughly $9 billion during a funding round in 2021.
(10) Tinder (Match Group)
Tinder is a dating app that is free to download and offers in-app purchases and subscriptions that unlock extra features for users. As of Q2 of 2021, Tinder had over 9.6 million subscribers. Tinder is owned by parent company Match Group, who reported over $3 billion in revenue in 2021, and has an estimated quarterly market cap of $13 billion as of September 30th, 2022.
App Store Legislation Would Create New Winners Too
One important additional note: the figures above encompass the current top 10 grossing apps. But several other popular streaming apps — including Netflix, Spotify, and Epic Games’ Fortnite — currently opt not to allow in-app purchases and subscriptions, or skip the app stores altogether, because they choose to avoid Apple and Google’s commission fees.
If OAMA or state app store bills became law — as some of these companies have lobbied for — we would likely see those companies enable subscriptions and in-app purchases through their apps, bringing in additional revenue. And that additional revenue could make those companies among the big winners of app store legislation.
Top Ten Beneficiaries Have a Combined $1.5 Trillion Market Cap
To summarize, here are the top ten apps that would benefit from app store legislation, their parent companies, and the estimated market cap for each company:
App store legislation would transfer revenue from Apple and Google to app developers — that’s one of its proponents’ explicit goals. But overall , the top 10 beneficiaries of OAMA and state app store bills are worth an estimated $1.57 trillion combined.
While it’s understandable that some app companies would lobby policymakers to pass a bill that would increase their bottom lines by millions of dollars, it’s less clear why policymakers should make that a priority.
Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org) is a center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future. We work to ensure that all Americans benefit from technological leaps, and that the tech industry operates responsibly and fairly.
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