The holiday season is imminent, and it’s another marker in the year where retailers, service providers, and other industries tailor their offerings to fit in with the seasonal holidays. But why exactly is seasonal content so important, especially for mobile games? In short, it can boost session lengths, retention, and monetization because it gives players new and fun content for games they’re already playing and it provides new ways to entice new players to your game. Here are some examples where mobile gaming has used different holidays to their advantage.
Fresh content always works
Whether it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, or Halloween, developers can engage players or even acquire new ones for their games by releasing seasonal content. This October during Halloween, Hooked Inc., added Halloween-themed items and characters as well as new seasonal challenges. These themed additions drove a 50% lift in IAP revenue during their Halloween event.
Even simple changes to reflect the time of year can make a difference and impact engagement. For example, if you have an elf costume available for a player’s avatar, spooky special discounts for Halloween, or red, white, and blue decorations in your in-app store — players will have incentive to engage with the limited-edition content you’re offering.
It’s not just about what’s in the game, it can also provide new ways for your game to get noticed. Both Google Play and the App Store also have seasonal lists for apps where games are routinely featured, but you’ll have to make sure to nail your app store optimization (ASO) to have a chance to be featured on any holiday list. Make sure you update your game’s description and keywords to make sure your game appears in searches for holiday content.
Beyond nailing the text-based options for ASO, you’ll want to take into consideration the factors like the most influential conversion rate factors from this year: icons and screenshots. While it may seem like a no-brainer, game devs need to remember to update these visuals to match holiday-themed content so that first-time players don’t have a jarring experience jumping into the game for the first time.
Remember, these changes need to be in before you get too close to the holiday season. This is especially important as we head into the winter holidays as the Apple App Store closes for several days right before Christmas, so it’s essential you get any updates (holiday or otherwise) submitted ahead of this closure.
Obtain and retain
Mobile game developers should also make a bigger push on their user acquisition strategy during this time of year as monetization from ads is going to be better. Game devs will need to stay at pace or ahead of the game by upping budget for their ad spend. This can help keep them competitive, during a time when acquiring users is more competitive, climb the charts (and if that means getting a top chart spot when the Apple Store freeze, even better), and often result in a nice seasonal bump in revenue.
In addition to obtaining new players during the holiday rush, holiday content in mobile games is also a great way to retain players and even bring players back to your game. Players who have downloaded and stuck with your game are likely craving or expecting new content during this time of year. By releasing holiday content, you get to add new mechanics and refresh visual assets. In these ways, holiday content satisfies both your loyal players and can entice new ones to jump back in.
‘Tis the season for new devices — and engaged users
One of the major reasons every mobile game needs seasonal end-of-year content is because mobile devices are consistently one of the hottest gifts every year. For Apple the iPhone has been, and continues to be, the main source of revenue for the company, with iPhone sales in the fourth quarter sitting at $33.7 billion. While Apple hasn’t specified how much iPhone 11 sales contributed to this number, there’s no doubt that it will be a major revenue driver for this year’s holiday season. Further to that, we know holiday sales of smartphones and the apps that power them go hand in hand with spending on mobile games is estimated to hit $68.5 billion this year.
Sure, users might already have their favorite apps downloaded on an existing phone, but there’s a level of excitement that comes with a new device that gets users to download new apps. eMarketer reports that this year, U.S. adults will spend a whopping 3 hours and 43 minutes a day on their mobile devices. With more adults taking vacation time to spend with family and kids out of school for the holiday, this number could be even higher at the end of the year.
While it may seem effortful for game developers to update their games for the holiday season, it remains a critical time for them to level up and potentially drive their game to the top of the charts. Keeping content seasonally relevant benefits mobile game developers year round, but it is especially important during the end-of-year holiday season when players will have more free time, and more new devices they’re excited about. More often than not, it’s worth the work as fresh content is expected from players and when done well has the potential to help acquire new players.
Carl Livie is Senior Director of Business Development, EMEA at AppLovin. Carl Livie is responsible for growing the AppLovin presence across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.