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December 6, 2019
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How to prepare your game design for a holiday season

by Kate AppFollow on 11/15/19 10:26:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Originally this post appeared on AppFollow's blog.

Holidays, such as Halloween, are no doubt a goldmine for mobile game developers. They offer a great opportunity to show off all of your abilities as a designer, treat players with new engaging challenges, boost app installs and even increase revenue. 

How to bring the holiday spirit into your gaming app? To help you on your way, we asked experts from mobile app development companies how they prepare their gaming apps for Halloween and the holiday rush in general and what metrics these changes contribute to. 

Read on to get inspired and uncover a huge holiday goldmine for your mobile game. 

Neb Mitrikeski, Game Designer at A Thinking Ape:

From the average user perspective, this looks like a simple task, but it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s fairly easy to plan the holiday cycles and infuse them in the game – but when it comes to successful execution that will move the needle in the metrics – it’s actually more misses than hits. Some games just tackle the ASO aspect and the assets on the store, some add the holiday-style video in the marketing cycle, some add new assets in the game, even special events themed around the holiday. Some do all of the above – and still, it’s a hit and misses even in the top-grossing games.

Most experienced UA pros would not recommend spending budget on a holiday event unless the game has really taken off, and most times I’d agree with them. Heavily themed content has a shorter shelf-life and less flexible re-usability, so in some ways, it can be riskier than non-holiday-themed content. Sometimes this holiday infusion works very well; for example, a certain golf game left their Christmas icon and assets running for 5+ months because it converted better than anything they had before. So in some ways, holiday-themed content can be seen as a risk with high upside.

Our mission at A Thinking Ape is to build communities and having events that reflect the holidays our players are celebrating at the time helps us do that. Players can update their in-game appearance with special event avatars, or send each other special gifts to spread the holiday cheer. The extra engagement also leads to better performance during these events, with ARPU, ARPDAU increasing.

One of our top games at A Thinking Ape is Kingdoms of Heckfire, a 4X strategy/kingdom builder game. Heckfire has cycles of ~3-week events, which are usually themed around characters in the game for better engagement with the audience. The event running right now is called ‘Night of The Living Tedd’ with a whole story around the characters Tedd and Todd, complete with Halloween style avatars, spooky chests, and special offers. So for us, the holiday theme is often deeply intertwined in the game, and we get weeks of engagement from this strongly themed content. Other games at A Thinking Ape all use their own approach of infusing the holiday spirit, and the teams regularly exchange notes of what approach worked best.

Kingdoms of Heckfire game Halloween challenge. Source: The App Store

 

Anastasiia Baranchikova, ASO Manager at Social Quantum 

At Social Quantum we celebrate Halloween in two of our games – the farm game Wild West and the city builder game Megapolis

We run different holiday-related in-game events: in Megapolis, for example, we offer players to complete special quests; in Wild West, they can get their farm in a spooky spirit with a Halloween set of decorations; and finally, as everyone loves surprises, in both games players receive Halloween gifts.

To get the most out of the holiday season, we also update our gaming app pages on the App Store and Google Play. This year we experimented with several versions of Halloween update to our current app icons and screenshots, and after running an A/B test, we applied the winning set. When you work with seasonality and update your app page for the holiday season or special events (even if it’s a short-term campaign) testing of visual assets is still a must. The icon and screenshots have a HUGE impact on your ASO and conversion rate, and sometimes it results that the default version performs better than the holiday-themed one. 

No doubt, each year the holiday season gives all mobile game developers and marketing teams an opportunity to test the craziest of ideas and engage players with special in-game events. To make the most of it brainstorm for inspiring designs and challenges, and start preparing your gaming as early as possible.

Social Quantum updated their games for Halloween. Source: The App Store

 

Catherine Sibirko, ASO expert

When preparing ASO campaigns for Halloween and other holidays timing is everything. Perhaps early birds don’t always catch the worm but keep in mind that holiday creatives don’t live long, so earlier you get your game in the holiday spirit, more chances you have to capture valuable seasonal players. 

Also, remember that a holiday-themed icon is not enough to infuse your game with the holiday spirit. When updating your app page according to seasonality make sure that it is backed up by an in-game event. Because, at the end of the day, it is what most players expect to see when they install your game with seasonal creatives.

Injecting ghosts, holiday slang, and colors in your art assets is not always favorable for your game app store visibility and conversion rate. In my personal practice, there were both positive and negative experiments. Therefore, to prevent upsetting surprises for your game ASO, always run A/B tests before updating your app icon and screenshots. For Google Play you can also perform some B/A tests to minimize losses if something goes wrong. Even if A/B tests fail, you will at least know that your game players either don’t appreciate your efforts or they are not fans of the Halloween itself.

Halloween app icon designs. Source: The App Store

 

Anna Kochetkova, Head of ASO Consulting at AppFollow

There is no fresh public data from Apple, but according to the gaming app cases that we have here at AppFollow the share of browse traffic is constantly growing. 

The App Store always celebrates global and local holidays and special events featuring themed apps and games and offering related collections. So updating your game for the holiday season can significantly increase your chances of getting picked by the App Store editors and boost installs. 

Moreover, working with seasonality is a great opportunity to re-engage “sleeping” players and, well, treat the loyal ones.

Spooky games collection. Source: https://appfollow.io/featured/


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