As everyone knows by now, the massive number of apps available on both iOS and Android has lead to a discoverability problem for new apps, and games are suffering as much or more than any other category. Now we’ve got some numbers to help gauge the problem, as app analytics firm adjust has just released their “App Competition Retrospective Report” on the subject. Adjust says that app competition toughened in 2014, and that 82.8 percent of all apps in the App Store are what they term “zombie apps”: Apps that do not rank in the top lists and are effectively invisible in the app stores. This is up from 74 percent at the beginning of the year, a worrying trend.

“If this trend continues — and nothing indicates it wouldn’t — we’ll see less than a tenth of apps attracting any kind of organic user attention by the end of the year, and those that do gain attention will be apps that already have significant traction,” says Christian Henschel, CEO and Co-Founder of adjust. “The app store, as a source of organic acquisition, has finite capacity. When that’s reached, the app store will be dead.”

The number of Zombie Apps — those that are not visible in the app store — has almost doubled in 2014 from 657,778 in January to 1,136,501 in December. During this time, the App Store grew by 54.3 percent, increasing from 889,231 to 1,372,371 apps. The report also notes that the Chinese app market has seen 77 percent growth in 2014, while the Japanese market has seen 54.4 percent growth.

The [a]listdaily spoke exclusively with adjust CEO Christian Henschel about the issue of zombie apps, and specifically how it applies to games.

Christian Henschel

Does the discoverability situation for games appear better or worse than for other apps?

Games, as a category, is bigger and tougher to compete in than other categories – no question about it. It’s also highly diverse, with many developers large and small doing great work and placing a lot of attention on high-quality apps. At the same time, the ecosystem is much larger and there are more opportunities outside the Store than for other verticals.

Should game developers list their games only in subgenres, or also in the main game category? Is there a drawback to listing a game in multiple categories?

Our data indicates that the sub-genres, in terms of competition, provide lower thresholds to be listed. Counter this with the perhaps lower “foot traffic” passing through these lists. Where to list your games is something to carefully deliberate about, and this is something we’ve looked at particularly for this report.

Is there anything that Apple can do to make this situation better in the App Store? Do you think Apple is likely to make any major changes to help apps get discovered?

Yes, we believe this situation can be improved, and there are definitely some very promising initiatives and developments on Apple’s side. For instance, better and more increased curation for more categories, and improved discovery features in iOS8 will all improve the store to provide more for the end user and better conditions for the developer.

The App Store still is only one format and one place though. It’s great for distribution, but discovery can really benefit from more different formats, contexts and conversations outside the Store.

How does the zombie situation in the App Store compare to the Google Play store, and the Amazon appstore? Is it similar, better, or worse?

This is in many ways difficult to compare directly as the metrics vary considerably between Stores, and the data provided is sometimes low quality. Generally, we have seen trends toward a higher flux on Android than on iOS — the top listed apps vary more often over time.

For third party stores on Android, like the Amazon Store, the rule is that the smaller, the easier it is to get a good spotlight in the Store. Again, you have to counter this with a more limited audience. We’ve not yet seen really innovative approaches to discovery in the third party stores, but this is sure to be a topic going forward. Top lists don’t work for discovery — they didn’t for web in the long run, why should they for mobile

What’s your advice to a game developer seeking to avoid their game becoming a zombie?

One area we recommend developers carefully look at is the right categories for their game. The better you can categorize your game to hit an audience, the more eyeballs you’ll attract.

All the same, even with the exact right categories, App Store organic discovery is a multiplier. It’s not a very good source for discovery in and of itself. If you don’t have users, you won’t get more.

Looking at the data in our report, it’s hard to entirely believe “organic-only” acquisition strategies. We must think that paid acquisition is requisite to some extent to find an audience for every app. Ads don’t have to be terrible drivers of traffic, and they shouldn’t. Shop around, educate yourself — especially in games, where there are countless options to achieve a high bang for your buck in marketing.