How Do App Markets React to Removals?



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We are truly entering a new age in the app market. Individual apps are now growing so big that they can pose a threat to the very app stores from which they are downloaded or even become an issue of international politics. Apps being removed from various app stores for different reasons inevitably causes a shake-up in the market, as app developers react to create spin-off apps and new competition is born.

Take a look at some of the more prominent app removals in recent memory to see how you can benefit from another app’s removal from an app store.

Fortnite removed from Apple iOS and Google Play

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fortnite has been downloaded on more than 130 million Apple devices and generated $1.2 billion in App Store spending. Not a bad sum, but from Epic’s perspective, the 30% charge enforced by Apple on all in-app purchases was too much. After Epic tried to circumvent the fee by providing a platform where players' money was filtered directly to Epic, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from the iOS Store. The same thing happened with the Google Play Store. Now Epic is waging a lawsuit on two-fronts to combat what Epic calls ‘evil’, ‘monopolizing’ practices of app stores.

Epic can still be downloaded on Android devices by visiting the Epic Store. Unfortunately, you can only play on iOS if you had already downloaded the app prior to the ban, and you will be forever stuck on Season 3 as new updates are blocked.

Supporters of Epic have hailed the move as revolutionary. Some even hope that the move could start a trend which would significantly alter the current system, redistributing profits from in-app purchases more evenly between developers and app stores. Nevertheless, no matter which side of the debate you agree with, it appears that Epic’s stand will ultimately result in martyrdom.

How has the market reacted?

Apple has made no attempt to hide from users that PUBG Mobile, perhaps Fortnite Mobile’s biggest competitor, is still on their marketplace. On the very day that Epic’s developer account was removed from the App Store, PUBG Mobile was displayed on its featured section. Tweets were also pushed out by the App Store talking about new graphics and improved overhaul of PUBG Mobile, which will no doubt only swell its burgeoning success.

What used to be a neck and neck competition between Fortnite Mobile and PUBG Mobile is now becoming a one-horse race. While a tweet from Epic in April revealed that Fortnite Mobile still has over 350 million restored players, it seems PUBG Mobile is racing ahead when it comes to downloads. Tencent’s PUBG Mobile is reported by The Esports Observer to have over 400 million downloads and this figure does not even include players from China who would no doubt add millions more to the tally. While Fortnite is an anomaly in its success, in the long run, attempts to bypass the app stores will most likely end up costing app developers more than anyone else. For now, at least, the bilateral system of the iOS App and Google Play Store’s shared dominance seems destined to remain.

Smartphone Apps Are Now a Weapon in International Disputes

As of today, the Indian government has banned a total of 118 apps - primarily of Chinese origin - as political tensions between India and China escalate. Most notably, these apps include PUBG Online, India’s most popular gaming app, as well as the social-media sensation TikTok, which has been downloaded more than 600 million times.

How has the market reacted?

PUBG Mobile

As PUBG was removed from the market in India, its rivals saw huge spikes in downloads and usage. Call of Duty, Garena Free Fire: 3volution and other battle royale and shooter games are therefore benefitting from PUBG’s demise. According to metrics from the Airnow Data platform, Call of Duty Mobile saw a 113.49% increase in daily downloads on Android in the first week after PUBG was removed from Indian app stores. Garena Free Fire: 3volution also saw a 100.5% increase.


In April, TikTok had around 610 million downloads in India. That represents roughly 44% of the population of India and over a quarter of global downloads of the app. The quick, creative video-based communication between groups struck a chord with the population in a country which has many different languages and a vast population - not to mention the economic lockdown which gave users in India and around the world extra time to spend scrolling on their phones.

TikTok was probably the biggest app success ever in India, and its removal has left a void which no other competitor seems able to fill. When TikTok was removed from Indian app stores on the 29th of June, spin-offs such as Trell, Bolo Indya, Mitron, and Chingari emerged as potential replacements and experienced some promising success. Bolo Indya, for instance, recorded a huge 2959.5% increase in downloads in well under a week. But all these apps, Bolo Indya included, have failed to consolidate themselves. Following the promising starts, all of these apps have struggled to capitalise on their success and have experienced a sharp dip in downloads and very low retention rates. None have even come close to the lofty heights which TikTok achieved.

In an interview with The Economic Times, Anand Lunia, a founding partner and investor in Roposo claimed: “The kind of money needed for scaling won’t come into many apps. They don’t have the capability to pool money or build scalable apps. I can bet most apps seeing downloads today will lose 90% of the people within a month.” Our data definitely corroborates with this. After the initial spike in July, downloads of Bolo Indya have dropped dramatically, and throughout August and September Daily Active Users have always remained at around 20,000 users.

As removals occur, app stores, developers and users must begin to adapt in order to be more reactive to market volatility. This dynamic and unpredictable environment gives rise to many new trends which can be, and are seized upon, by the most informed digital marketers.

The fact that app stores are now becoming involved in the political relations between international superpowers is perhaps worrying. But it is also a testament to the power that apps hold in the modern world. To truly win their mobile market, app developers and their marketers must constantly be ahead of the curve in regards to all the latest changes and removals that are occurring in app stores around the world.

For more up-to-date insights on the latest trends in mobile gaming, and everything app related, be sure to regularly visit our blog.