Where to invest your development dollars on the App Store

Apple (s aapl) has a lot of App Stores in play right now, so it might be tough for developers to decide which to focus on at first. Some new info shared by 2D Boy, developer of World of Goo, might help make that decision a bit easier. The company posted its hit game’s download and revenue breakdown following the app’s one millionth download on Apple devices.
Of World of Goo’s one million downloads on iOS, 69 percent came from its Universal version, which is optimized for use on both the iPhone and the iPad. That 69 percent of downloads drove 79 percent of revenue, while the 29 percent of installs of the iPhone-specific version accounted for just 17 percent of revenue. Coming in third was the Mac version, which nabbed only 2 percent of total downloads, and generated 4 percent of the profit.
World of Goo has different price points for each version; the Mac app costs $9.99, the iPhone version is just $2.99, and the universal iPad + iPhone version is $4.99. They also have different release dates; the Mac app debuted on June 7, 2011, the iOS Universal app on Dec. 15, 2010, and the iPhone-specific version arrived Apr. 13, 2011.
The numbers seem to indicate that you’ll get the most bang for your investment buck starting with universal apps, but of course it isn’t that simple. Games are good candidates for Universal development, since often mechanics and controls remain relatively the same whether you have more or less screen real estate. But for other apps, it might be hard to come up with something that works as well on the iPad as it does on the iPhone, or vice versa. Universal apps also require more time on the coding side, and can lead to a more complicated update process, so it’s more of an investment in that regard. Not to mention that trying to make a product that works on both can sometimes involve sacrifices, as TUAW’s Erica Sadun rightly pointed out in the past.
Sadun wrote that post nearly two years ago, however, and one important thing has changed since then: the iPad has become a wildly successful device, selling 11 million units last quarter, compared to the iPhone’s 17 million. Its growing at a much faster rate than the iPhone, too, which means the number of users who appreciate a product that works on both devices is also on the rise.
The bottom line is that if a Universal app makes sense for the specific type of application you have in mind, it’ll only become more economically advantageous to get that out the door first as time goes on. Especially with an iPad 3 launch on the horizon, customers will be looking for the best value and portability they can find, and that’s exactly what Universal apps provide.