To kick off 2013 in the Windows Phone app world, Microsoft has announced a new contest for developers called Windows Phone Next App Star. The top prize is a featured placement of the app in a Windows Phone prime-time TV ad in the US.

The announcement comes along with a great tidbit on Windows Phone app ecosystem progress. Todd Brix, Senior Director of Windows Phone Apps Team, shared with TNW that Windows Phone app downloads and developer revenue have doubled in the last 60 days.

The whole point of the contest is to bring more developers to the Windows Phone platform, though for the lucky winners it will likely also mean increased app visibility. Although the ad in question will be in the US, the contest is open to Windows Phone developers worldwide.

To participate, registered developers simply have to opt-in at the Dev Center by March 5. Microsoft will do the rest: it will enter your catalog of published apps in the competition. If you haven’t yet developed a Windows Phone app (or you want to make tweaks to an existing app), you have 50 days to publish it in order to be eligible.

The app submissions will be judged based on an equal weighting of user ratings and app quality, including implementation of new Windows Phone 8 features. Microsoft will start with picking 64 entries, and then host a head-to-head, bracket-style competition with public voting (ending on April 8), narrowing down the playing field to 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, and finally the grand prize winner.

If your app submission doesn’t end up being the top winner, Microsoft says there will still be thousands of dollars in prizes for the developers of the 64 apps that get selected, including a Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone and a one-year free Dev Center subscription. Furthermore, you will also be given ways “to promote your app and gain new fans.”

Here’s Microsoft’s pitch:

This isn’t just about picking the most popular app in the Store. Windows Phone Next App Star is about giving developers a shot at being the next big hit. You don’t have to be a longtime developer on the Windows Phone platform — even a newcomer can win fans and win big.

The only real requirement is that you are 18 years of age (students, hobbyists, or developers in the field of software technology are all allowed to participate). If you’re interested, check out the official rules (PDF).

See also – Microsoft says Windows Phone 8 increased app submissions by 40%, to keep full staff on for holidays

Image credit: Paolo Ferla