AppLovin's MD for EMEA, Johannes Heinze, looks at thow the holiday season can be a great boost to mobile games, as long as you approach it correctly
The last quarter of 2017 is nearly here and mobile game marketers should have a plan in place to take advantage of the most lucrative season of the year. Q4 coincides with several holidays – Christmas, Boxing Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and New Year’s, all of which drive sales across many verticals, including mobile. As marketers, you need a plan for the Q4 season, so let’s go over the best strategies and engagement tactics to help maximise your revenues during this crucial time.
Maximising Q4 success boils down to a lot of planning where execution of in-game events is just a small part
App analytics platform Flurry saw app installs double on Christmas Day 2016 compared to an average day in December. The key categories of apps that were installed include messaging and social, music, media and entertainment, and of course, games. Apple’s own data also shows that Christmas and New Year's drive mobile app purchases. The iPhone maker reported $240 million in customer purchases on New Year’s Day 2017, making it the busiest day in App Store history.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most downloaded apps from the App Store on Christmas and New Year’s Day was a mobile game, Super Mario Run. It makes sense that mobile games and apps would generate the most revenue during Q4, as phones and tablets are often gifted during the holidays. With new devices comes the need for the apps that power the user experience, and mobile games let us turn our phones and tablets into entertainment machines.
PLAN AHEAD AND OPTIMISE
Before you jump in and start working on holiday content and assets and your promotion strategy, you need a holistic view of what’s going on in Q4. Creating a calendar to mark important dates will help you organise and work back from key holidays that make the most sense for your mobile game. Also, make sure you consider geography – while it will usually make sense to create an in-game event for Christmas, it doesn’t make sense to do one for Boxing Day in the US.
One thing that will help you nail down which holidays to target is to research the ones that are observed where your mobile game is popular. By having this geo-specific view, you can optimise your Q4 strategy across your different markets.
CREATE HOLIDAY CONTENT
Now that you’ve nailed down key dates and holidays, you should plan what kind of content you want in your game. In-game events are proven to be one of the most effective ways to increase player retention and in-app spend, and Q4 offers plenty of opportunities to launch such events. While the economic benefits are obvious for mobile game developers, in-game events also offer players new challenges that replace the grind of normal gameplay.
Something developers should take into account is that holiday content and in-game events should all be handled server-side. This means players won’t have to download a huge update in order to participate. Instead, players should be able to jump right into a game and see all of the new content, which will eliminate any friction.
If you plan to include special offers and promotions in your game, you have to make sure there’s a sense of urgency behind them. For example, you could include special weapons, new avatars, and other holiday-specific in-game items for a limited time. This way, players will be compelled to download and play your game because they won’t want to miss out on these limited-edition items.
Clash of Clans is an excellent example of how to do holiday and in-game events right. Its December 2016 update offered players new levels to explore, upgrade discounts, and limited edition Christmas gifts. Blizzard’s Hearthstone also released its own Winter Veil season event last Christmas season. Levels were changed to have a Christmas look and players were offered special cards and new challenges.
CRAFT YOUR PROMOTIONAL STRATEGY
With your holiday content created, you now have to plan how to promote it. Take a look at your budget and figure out which marketing channels make the most sense for you, such as in-app advertising, PR, and social media.
Another promotional tactic you should employ is using push notifications. It’s a good rule of thumb to announce your in-game events and holiday content in the weeks leading up to the release of your game (usually two or three weeks prior). Be careful not to over-market with push notifications, as they can seem spammy.
Mobile game developers can also take advantage of in-game marketing channels like the message center. Putting a little red notification on the in-game message center will entice players to check out what’s new and upcoming. Another clever and subtle way to promote your holiday content is by changing your app’s icon. This gives users a visual indication on their home screen that something is new about the game.
In summary, maximising Q4 success boils down to a lot of planning where execution of in-game events is just a small part. The months leading up to Q4 should be used to analyse and plan which local holidays offer the best opportunity for your particular game.
Planning also involves figuring out which marketing strategies make the most sense for your budget. Social media, forums, and in-game message centers offer a free way to get the word out there, but paying for in-game ads will undoubtedly drive user acquisition. Both user acquisition and user retention require strategies to maximise the success of your game in Q4.