Mobile Games: Developers Prepare for the Season of Presents, Mince Pies, and App Downloads

POSTED BY Analyst Team
Yes, I’ve been the first to write a Christmas 2013-related post on the Juniper Blog, over 2 months away from the holiday itself. But I know I’m not the only person thinking about it. In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of mobile games developers have the Christmas season at the core of their strategy. Why? Because it’s the most wonderful (read: download-intense), time of the year!

Christmas 2012 saw a record 1.2 billion apps downloaded onto handsets and tablets, after a huge number of new smartphones and tablets were activated. As the App Store sees such a huge amount of traffic over Christmas, Apple shuts down the iTunes Connect service and also freezes the app charts over Christmas, so developers are unable to update or submit new apps during this time, and app rankings remain constant.

So, what strategies and tactics are developers following in order to try and get a slice of the huge download numbers mince pie? Firstly, they’re getting fans excited for new game releases; already announced is Angry Birds Go!, a Mario Kart-style racing game which will be released for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 on December 11th. This clever game also features physical Telepods toys (read: Christmas presents) which can be scanned into the game, an extension of Rovio’s successful licensing strategy.

Angry Birds Go! is itself not a Christmas-themed game, and although many developers release Christmas versions of their games, these do not typically see huge download levels. This is because they will only appeal to people who are already fans of the game and want to access extra content. Nevertheless, they can act as a good cross-promotion tool, and simple changes such as adding a festive touch to an app’s icon can mean it is noticed more on a user’s device. Incorporating Christmas themes into the game can also be a good way to re-engage users; for instance, Angry Birds Seasons hid 25 extra levels behind an advent calendar, so users could play one level a day.

However the one tactic I would expect to see out in force across the App Store will be price cuts to paid-for games and in-app purchases. This strategy will be employed as developers try to reach the top charts before they are frozen, in order to have that priceless guaranteed exposure throughout the festive period.

Of course, these are all incredibly short-term tactics; developers must also consider making their gameplay engaging and innovative, so that users return to the game and provide a sustainable revenue stream for the developer. But that’s not as fun as a downhill race against some Piggies is it?