The Duck Test

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When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.

James Whitcomb Riley

We all know games drive the majority of revenue on the app store. At this point it’s been well documented. But most people don’t know which category is getting the silver medal on the podium. Spoiler alert- it’s dating apps.


What do top grossing free to play games and dating apps have in common?

Two things:

  1. They are fundamentally social. They are perfect examples of the network effect. Each new user added to the network adds incremental value to every other person in the network, as somebody to play with or date.
  2. They use virtual currency to facilitate in app transactions.

Games pioneered virtual currency, then dating apps copied. The dating apps use some variation of subscription and/or profile super power (ie see who checked out your profile) usually with both options unlocked thorough an intermediary virtual currency.


96% of the apps in the top 25 grossing are social in nature. Social matters because it desterilizes a new user experience. It makes it personal. 

A new app might be interesting. A new app where your friends are waiting for you, and you know how to find them, is far more likely to be interesting.


What does this mean for you?

If you’re making a great socially leveraged dating app, or a top notch free to play game with a massive user acquisition budget- Great! Stop reading. Nothing here for you.

On the other hand if you’re building anything else, but looking to mirror the success of the trail blazers in the mobile app space Tapstream can help.

Tapstream allows you to connect new users to existing users the first time they run the app, automagically. It all happens through Deferred Deeplinks, which tunnel a regular deeplink past the app store and right into the app when it starts up for the first time. If your app is social by nature then it makes it many times more engaging and compelling for new users joining up.

Even if you don’t have fundamentally social content there’s a good chance a new user is more likely to stick around if you can connect them to personally meaningful content and Deferred Deeplinks do that. They offer a white glove personalized experience for every new user.

This virtuous circle is picked up by Tapstream’s Word of Mouth. It gives your most engaged users the power to spread the word about your product and get rewarded for every install they drive, typically with virtual currency. And these newly invited users can be automatically connected to their friends once inside the app, driving stronger engagement and retention.