Apple App Store developers raked in $20 billion in 2016, up 40% year over year

Apple reported Thursday that developers raked in $20 billion on its App Store in 2016, a 40 percent jump since 2015.

That suggests Apple reaped at least $8 billion in revenue from its App Store, an analyst said.

"2016 was an amazingly great year for the App Store," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, told CNBC. "We continue to advance what is available for developers to create. And our catalog of apps grew 20 percent to 2.2 million."

Schiller said the biggest drivers for the App Store included games such as "Pokemon Go," which was the most downloaded app in 2016; "Super Mario," which was the most downloaded app on Christmas and New Year's days; and subscription-based apps, such as Netflix, Hulu and Time Warner's HBO Go.

The tech giant said its biggest day of sales on the App Store was on Jan. 1, 2017, when customers spent a record $240 million. The top grossing markets included the U.S, U.K., Japan and China, which saw 90 percent year-over-year growth.

Investors pay close attention to the performance of the App Store, as Apple now emphasizes its role as a services company. The broad smartphone market is maturing, and the tech giant is highlighting recurring revenue streams that do not depend on new device sales.

Some research suggests that the best days of growth in the apps market may have come and gone. Schiller disputed that, pointing to his store's recent performance.

"I will let the success of the App Store speak for itself," he said. "The App Store is bigger than ever and growing faster than ever. There is a lot of success ahead for developers."

Based on Apple's traditional cut of 30 cents for every dollar that moves through the store, the revenue generated by the app sales totaled about $8 billion to $9 billion for Apple last year, according to Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

Digital stores represent big battlegrounds between Apple and rival Google.

According to App Annie, which provides market data for the app economy, Google Play's worldwide downloads were 115 percent higher than Apple's App Store downloads in the third quarter, which is the latest data available.

However, Apple maintained its advantage in revenue. In the third quarter, App Store revenue was 100 percent higher than Google Play's.

Disclosure: Hulu is partially owned by CNBC parent NBC Universal.