This is a common question for many game developers looking to release their games on the iOS App Store. The short answer is yes, it is free to submit your game to the App Store and have it published for download. However, there are costs involved in developing, submitting, and maintaining an app on the App Store that developers should keep in mind.
Submitting to the App Store
Apple does not charge any fees for developers to submit apps to the App Store. You can submit your app for review and release for free through App Store Connect. This includes games as well as other apps. The submission process involves:
- Registering as an Apple Developer and enrolling in the Apple Developer Program (free)
- Creating your app record and submitting your app binary in App Store Connect
- Providing marketing assets like screenshots and app description
- Selecting availability date and territories
- Submitting for review by Apple’s App Review team
There are no fees involved in these steps to get your game published on the App Store. Apple only takes a commission on the sales revenue your app generates.
Apple Developer Program
While submitting apps is free, you do have to join the Apple Developer Program in order to gain access to App Store Connect and publish apps. There are two membership options:
- Apple Developer Program Individual – $99 per year
- Apple Developer Program Organization – $299 per year
As an individual, the $99 Individual program provides everything you need to submit and publish apps. The Organization program is meant for companies distributing apps and provides additional team management features.
This annual program fee gives you access to App Store Connect to distribute apps, as well as access to beta testing services, App Store analytics, Apple’s developer forums, technical documentation, and more. So it is less of a distribution fee and more of a general development program subscription.
If you offer in-app purchases in your game, Apple takes a 30% commission on those purchases. This includes one-time purchases like unlocking a game level or bonuses, subscriptions, and in-game currencies. The developer receives the remaining 70% of the purchase price.
After your app exceeds $1,000,000 in lifetime revenue, the commission rate drops to 15% for future purchases. So high earning apps pay a lower commission percentage.
Updates & Maintenance
While submitting apps is free, you may incur ongoing costs for:
- Submitting updates to fix bugs or add new features
- Maintaining backend servers and services
- Customer support
- User acquisition costs like ads or marketing
Factors like hosting costs, development tools, and personnel will contribute to the ongoing costs of maintaining your game after launch. But there are no direct fees to Apple for submitting updates or maintaining a live app.
The iOS App Store is the only way for most developers to distribute apps to iPhone and iPad users. However, some alternatives exist:
- Enterprise program – Companies can distribute in-house apps to employees without going through the App Store, at a cost of $299 per year.
- Ad Hoc distribution – Apps can be shared with up to 100 designated devices for beta testing purposes.
- Apple Developer Enterprise Program – For limited distribution of custom apps to business customers outside of the App Store (subject to Apple approval).
But in general, the App Store is the only method for wide distribution of games and apps to iOS device users. And Apple does not charge submission fees for the App Store.
Publishing on Other Platforms
For comparison, here are the fees charged by other major app stores:
|$25 one-time fee
Google Play charges a small $25 lifetime fee to publish apps, while Apple has no fee. Both take a standard 30% commission on app and in-app purchases. Other stores have similar fee structures.
While publishing on the App Store itself is free, some key costs to keep in mind include:
- Apple Developer Program membership ($99 per year)
- 30% commission on app sales and in-app purchases
- Development costs – programming, design, marketing etc.
- Ongoing maintenance of your app
Having an app approved for the App Store does not guarantee financial success or even covering your costs. The App Store is very competitive, so you need a polished and well-executed game to have a chance at turning a profit.
Distribution Without Code
Some alternative options exist for releasing games or apps on the App Store without writing any code yourself:
- Game engines like Unity allow creating games visually
- Services like Adalo or AppMachine will build apps for you
- Using app templates or app builders
These options can get a simple game or app on the App Store without coding knowledge. But they limit how much customization you can do compared to traditional development. There are also subscription fees involved with some services.
Releasing a game on the iOS App Store does not require paying any direct fees or costs for distribution through Apple. The submission process is free. However, there are costs involved in development, plus Apple’s annual program fee and commission structure.
Making a profitable app requires hard work – nothing is guaranteed just by getting accepted to the App Store. But Apple provides fair and accessible terms for developers of all sizes to publish apps at no upfront cost.