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3 Tips For When to Launch a Mobile Game During the Holidays

Holiday-themed mobile games tend to fly off the digital shelves, but with so many game developers releasing titles around the holiday, how do devs know when their game will get the most traction?

Scott Reyburn

November 12, 2015

5 Min Read

This post originally appeared at part of Chartboost's quartery Power Up Report which, this quarter, focused on the business of mobile gaming during the holidays. 

Releasing a mobile game during the holidays is like guzzling multiple cups of Grandma’s eggnog: the rewards are high, but so is the risk. On the one hand, the holiday season affords mobile game developers with the luxury of acquiring players with extra time and disposable income—making these players highly desirable for devs. On the other hand, every game dev south of the North Pole is looking to make more money from this horde of players with an insatiable appetite for games. To succeed, you’ll have to plan your launch perfectly.

doodle_jump_snowman

To some extent, any launch strategy is a best guess. “You’re always gambling,” says Mark Wang of Game Hive, the studio behind RPG Tap Titans. “You spend so much time developing, but no one really knows what the best way to launch is.”

That being said, we asked Matt Turetzky of Lima Sky (the creators of arcade favorite Doodle Jump) and Wang to give us their top tips for launching a mobile game during the holidays with a bang.

Option #1: Calm Before the Christmas Storm

Launch too close to the holidays and you'll be swamped by competitors with large user aquisition budgets; too far away and no one will notice.

So when’s the sweet spot? “We personally like the second week of December,” Wang says. “It gives us a little extra time to fix stuff if we have to.” For devs, that requires some significant advance planning. To have enough time to address bugs and updates, Wang says Game Hive tries to submit by the end of November for a mid-December launch, which means development must wrap by mid-October.

Option #2: Early Bird Catches the Player

Holiday decorations arrive in retail stores months before the actual holiday. If it works for brick-and-mortar establishments, it could work for mobile games, too. “You’ll see Christmas stuff up in November,” says Turetzky, “So why shouldn’t we try to get a longer life out of those updates?”

Turetzky says the folks at Lima Sky like to launch their updates and holiday-targeted apps in the beginning of November. They do this for two reasons: First, there’s much less competition, and second, they’ll get more engagement from their existing customers as the holiday draws closer.

Option #3: Make a Splash in January

If you’re an unknown studio with a smaller fanbase, you might consider skipping the holiday frenzy altogether and waiting until January. That’s when your audience is armed with new devices and gift cards, Turetzky says, which inevitably results in users loading those gift cards into their accounts and going on a spending spree. “People still have downtime [after the new year], they’ve got room on their phones that they want to fill up, so it’s a much better time,” he says.

Wang agrees that January could be the right time for many devs. “Everyone’s gunning for Christmas, but the fewest amount of apps are launched in January,” he adds. “You have less competition, and can tie into the ‘new start’ feel of the new year.”

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