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Preparing Your Game for the Holidays: Experience of the ZiMAD’s ASO Department

Not only stores at large malls should decorate their windows for Christmas and other holidays. Apps must follow this example.

Vladimir Romanov

January 9, 2024

6 Min Read

Not only stores at large malls should decorate their windows for Christmas and other holidays. Apps must follow this example. Decorations that comply with the audience’s mood may attract new users, return the old ones, and increase their lifetime in the app. 


Vladimir Romanov, Head of ASO at ZiMAD, shares why it’s important to make use of this time of the year and how to optimize the volume of tasks: we’ll take a look at what must be updated at any cost and what can be omitted if your resources are limited.


Attracting new organic users is one of the main goals of seasonal updates. Another highly important goal is to show that the app is regularly updated and offers new seasonal content. Nobody wants to play the same game over and over, so the only way to keep your user interested is to update your app.


Of course, you don’t have to release a new update for every minor event—this is simply unreasonable. You have to find the events of interest for your particular audience. For example, if the audience is quite vast, you might want to engage it in Christmas and Halloween. And if it’s quite limited—like, for instance, males who like robots—then St. Valentine’s Day is probably not your holiday.

Ideally, you should create a calendar of key events that your team doesn’t want to miss. At ZiMAD, we gather to brainstorm new event ideas from time to time. This lets us plan and implement seasonal content in advance instead of assigning to each other tasks marked “due yesterday”.


It’s essential to be flexible and not to be afraid of testing new hypotheses. Apart from global holidays, you can use local events. For Mexico, it’s El Día de Muertos celebrated in the beginning of November. This doesn’t guarantee that your number of installs will skyrocket, but it’s definitely worth trying. By updating your game for global events and adjusting it to the cultural specifics of your audience you increase your chance of getting featured by the App Store.


What elements of the app page should be updated?


1. The icon of the app. There are two approaches to handling it during holidays: you can either leave it almost untouched so that it’s festive but still recognizable, or you can completely rework it, which is a riskier strategy. 


You should select graphic elements wisely—not all of them are equally good. For example, Christmas is associated with a red hat with white fur, a bag with presents, socks on a fireplace, and lollipops. The first two symbols are stronger because they are met across a bigger number of cultures, so they will convey the meaning to users quicker. And we only have a couple of seconds to do this.


2. Screenshots in the app store. Once the user is interested in the icon, they go to the application page, where they see a set of screenshots. Thanks to them, they understand the essence of the game and decide if they like the characters.


You can prepare just one holiday-themed screenshot and place it first. This way, you’ll increase your chances to convince the user to start playing. Making a whole set of screenshots is time-consuming, but you can do this if you have enough resources. For instance, you can do a thorough job on the first screenshot and slightly rework the rest of them—add holiday symbols to the existing images while leaving the fonts and composition intact.

A seasonal event is a short-time cause that doesn't guarantee a huge installs boost. Therefore, it is important to weigh the time opportunity against the potential effect. The longer your app has been on the market and the more effort you have put into ASO the less the effect from seasonal events will be. The best results are observed during the first years after the app’s release. But, of course, only if there is constant ASO and graphics testing—by ZiMAD's standards, it’s up to 40-50 hypotheses per year. 


Google Play, apart from static screenshots, offers an opportunity to add a video and a cover for it called Feature Graphic, which is something you can use too. But remember that creating video content requires much more time than static content, and not all users watch videos as it requires a faster internet connection and extra motivation. So working with video isn’t a must, but if you leave your old video (not holiday-themed) on your page, don’t forget about Feature Graphic—users will see it earlier than the screenshots.

3. App content. Updating the game for holidays is a great idea. Of course, drastic reworks aren’t available to everyone, but we can make it work using minimal resources. For example, we can change the clothes of the mentor—the hero that accompanies the player throughout the whole game. For Christmas, they can wear Santa’s hat, and for Halloween—a ghost costume. You should definitely show this on the app’s pages in app stores—the more content you have in the game, the more items you can show on your landing page!


We also recommend adding in-app events to reach the top audience engagement level. This is what ZiMAD is focused on this year. We see an advantage with apps that update content for seasonal events, rather than just work on the in-store design. This way, your chances of being featured in app stores increase! 


4. Text optimization. In comparison with visual content, text updates require less time. But we recommend putting it at the end of the queue, which is dictated by store work algorithms. Texts cannot be indexed quickly, therefore, they don’t show the results you hope for. And you can’t write about, let’s say, Christmas in advance—if the players see the new texts as early as in August, they will definitely be more than confused.

Don’t waste your time on reinventing the whole description. Adding an updated paragraph about the event and its features will be just enough. For example, when releasing a Christmas update, add from 5 to 10 new keywords in the beginning of November or in the end of December and remove them in the middle of January.  


Experience has proven that the best combination is always the names of the genre and the holiday. The only thing, which is even more effective, is just the game genre. For example, “Christmas puzzles” are always less popular than simply “puzzles”, but you can earn extra traffic from such inquiries during the holiday season. 

Let’s sum up all our recommendations:

  • Start getting ready for the holidays in advance and make sure to consider the preferences of the audience you work for

  • Preparation for holidays is always more effective if your product development and marketing are synchronized

  • Prioritization is the key: it’s extremely hard to rework the whole landing page to prepare it for the holiday season. Focus on the things that are likely to be the most effective in your case.

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