Buy and sell apps at Apptopia. But where should you host them?

What happens when you make an app and you don’t want it any more? How do you find someone to adopt your app? This was the dilemma in which Neil Schmidt found himself a week and a half ago. He made a scavenger hunt game for the iPhone called Buckshot that generated lists of objects to hunt for and take pictures of. You could even share pictures of your findings with friends. After Neil made the game and managed the game for awhile, he realized he didn’t want to the deal with the hassle of the Apple app store any more (overhead costs, yearly fee to use the service, and lengthy approval processes for updates to his app). So, like any entrepreneurial-minded business man, he put the rights, the game, the code, and the revenue stream of the game for sale on eBay. Starting price: one dollar.

Schmidt listed his app on eBay on December 29th and ended it on January 5th. His listing specified that upkeep was minimal on the app and that the $1 version of the game, plus in-game ads on the free version were grossing him $300 a month. The game had been live since May 2011 and had 20,000 users at the time of his posting. His only cost, aside from time invested and the $99/year iTunesConnect (the service that enables you to use the Apple app store) was the price of his cloud server hosting his app, which was costing him about $2 a day. After 95 bids, he took home $16,600 for the app.

For as much attention as this one app developer received, apparently wanting to be relieved of app duties is not completely unheard of. It happens often enough for companies to be formed just to broker app deals. In February, Apptopia will be the latest newcomer to the app selling and buying game. Despite not being officially up and running yet, the company has already facilitated one app sale for over $15,000 and has scheduled another thirty sales to drum up attention for the February launch.

Apptopia has signed up to be the middle man for all transactions, including pairing buyers and sellers, working with the respective store the app is currently listed in, and taking 10% of the transaction price. Co-founder Jonathan Kay is estimating the sales of the apps will be between $5,000 and $50,000. Realistically, he concedes, individual app sales will probably be between $6,000 and $15,000. Kay expects that apps that sell for over $50,000 are developed by companies that have their own legal and financial departments, and aren’t interested in working with a third-party broker.

Apps that sell for less than $5,000? Apptopia isn’t interested. Not because of the price, but just at what the price probably represents (an app that isn’t that competitive, that doesn’t have a large user base, that isn’t profitable, and will only clog their site making it hard for serious sellers to find serious buyers). To curb the risk of having these undesirable apps in the store, Apptopia has a listing fee, which will be waived for the first 200 developers to sign up their apps during the February launch.

There are other app-centric third-party companies and websites that have sprung up in the recent past, but they all seem to focus on a slightly different aspect of development or brokerage. For example, AppSplit helps you promote and advertise your app, but you get to keep all the revenue. Chupa gets buyers and sellers together but only over sections of source code, not whole apps like Apptopia.

Reasons for selling an app can be varied. There’s probably a whole blog within the phrase “app developer burnout,” but standard advice to make life easier for app developers: make sure your app is hosted in a reliable, efficient, and reasonably priced data center. That will go a long way in alleviating any potential future problems.