On the App Store, Apple initially provided two charts for whatever section you were in: top paid apps and top free apps. This was a sensible decision rather than just tallying downloads in a single chart, and ensured great paid apps didn’t get lost in the crowd.
Unfortunately, the best apps subsequently did find themselves buried—under a deluge of 59p/$0.99 specials as users grabbed only the cheapest apps, regardless of quality (bar a few exceptions). Apple’s response to this was the Top Grossing chart, listing apps and games that had made the most money, not merely those that had shifted the most units.
Initially, this chart, while oddly named for some, was actually very useful, providing a means to find the best apps. Higher-priced apps that sold well nested with the true breakout cheapo hits, and all was well in the world. But things haven’t lasted. The Brooks Review offers a quickfire post that links to Neven Mrgan’s summation: Top Grossest Apps. He says that the top-grossing apps are increasingly those that get people hooked on buying in-game currency—games like Texas Poker and Tap Zoo. There’s nothing creative here, and it’s not something that should be rewarded and yet this is entirely Apple’s fault:
Apple added in-app purchases and decided to include those when calculating apps’ earnings for the Top Grossing list. The result? The list is completely dominated by fake-money compulsion engines. The very fact that these are the top grossing apps signals just how good they are at vacuuming money out of pockets. “Games” of this sort make me embarrassed for games as a medium. You can buy a $99.99 dose of fake money in Texas Poker (with no possibility of, uh, winning any money back.) For shame.
This change really irks me since Top Grossing used to be where one could easily find excellent apps. Now it is just an extension of the Top 25 Free apps category.
I’d go further than that: the Top Grossing chart is worse than the free apps one. Often, the free apps chart is populated with great titles that are either temporarily free or that have been created by devs that aren’t concerned with making money. By comparison, the top grossing chart always has a layer of shit on the surface, which is getting thicker by the day and suffocating the great apps that once shone in this list.
You will not see Apple promote these apps; they know very well what the score is. So if Apple wants the Top Grossing list to be at all useful, they’ll change how it’s calculated.
Knowing Apple, that’s a big ‘if’, even more so when you consider that the company would have to find a way to block money-churners but not penalise freemium apps where developers offer a free game but paid-for add-ons in the shape of extra levels.