'Flight Control' Sales Stats Offer Fascinating Look At Inner Workings Of The iPhone App Store

Firemint, the company behind the best selling iPhone game ‘Flight Control‘, has put together a fascinating report outlining the sales trends the company has seen over the last month, from March 24 to April 25. The application has dominated the App Store over the last few weeks, reaching the #1 paid spot in over a dozen countries (though it’s currently fallen to #7 in the US). Since launching on March 6 the application has been downloaded over 700,000 times. It’s unclear how much money the application has actually made – it’s currently marked as ‘on sale’ for a limited time, but even at its current 99 cent price point the app’s developers will have made $485,000 dollars after Apple’s 30% cut.

For those of you who haven’t played it, Flight Control is a highly addictive game that involves directing tiny aircraft to their landing pads. The game strikes the perfect balance between accessibility (you can figure out how to play it in about two minutes) and offering a significant challenge. It may not be the sort of game you’d want to sit and play for hours at a time, but it’s a perfect diversion for the doctor’s waiting room or a bus ride.

Firemint has gone to great lengths to record its data, but it isn’t quite comprehensive – apparently the studio forgot to download its reports from Apple on a couple of days, and there’s no way to get them now. Still, this is probably the most detailed set of data to be released by a top developer to date.

Among the revealing insights:

  • The United States accounted for the vast majority of sales, with 57%. Second in line was the UK with 17%, followed by Germany and Canada, with 4% each.
  • Each Top App List is country-specific (your downloads in the USA don’t help you reach the chart in the Austrailian version of the store). At the high end of the spectrum, Flight Control was able to reach the top spot in the United States with 9586 daily downloads, while it took 3061 to hit the top spot in the UK store. Reaching the peak position in Finland took only 23 downloads in a single day.
  • In the US, Flight Control saw a downward trend in sales over time as it maintained the #1 spot in the App Store. This isn’t particularly surprising given the finite number of iPhone owners who check the App Store on a regular basis, but it gives an idea as to why the top apps lists have such a high churn rate. Firemint speculates that Flight Control was able to maintain its top spot even as sales declined because the App Store uses a moving average rather than the number of sales in a single day to rank apps.
  • Sales were impacted by outside events, including Easter (when there was an increase in sales) and media coverage.

The data makes a few things clear. For one, adding localization support should probably be placed on the back burner for applications that would require a large time investment to add new languages. Over 80% of Flight Control downloads came from English-speaking countries. It’s also clear that, at least in the case of Flight Control, there isn’t sustained growth once an application hits #1 on the App Store. Instead, the application quickly peaked and has gradually lost steam over time, though it remains popular. Be sure to look through the full report for more details, including a day-by-day breakdown of download stats.