Mobile Mavens

The Mobile Gaming Mavens on how to make the most of the Holiday download frenzy

The Elf-ephant in the room or a Sanity Claus?

The Mobile Gaming Mavens on how to make the most of the Holiday download frenzy

The PocketGamer Mobile Mavens is our own carefully curated collection of the finest brains in the mobile games industry.

Every week we ask them a trying question, to keep their synapses firing at maximum efficiency. This week's question was:

How are you planning to make the most of the key holiday season in terms of new game launches or reinvigorating your existing titles - or is this now an opportunity only open to the big publishers with big user acquisition budgets?

Our very first reply set the tone for the rest of the discussion.

Kevin Dent of Tiswaz gave us a three step guide to holiday success: "1. Change your company name to EA Mobile. 2. Drop the price of your entire portfolio to 99c. 3. Sit back and watch your titles saturate the Top 50."

Similarily, Machineworks' Andreas Vahsen had a Xmas plan consisting of "1. Buy Apple Inc. 2. Remove all apps that we don't like from the app store for 'further review'. 3. Watch our apps dominate the charts. 4. Come January, sell Apple Inc." - the flaw in the plan consisting only of Andreas panhandling for 400 billion dollars.

Mills™ of ustwo was taking a less formulaic tack.

"We're putting a massive 'level-based pivot' out with Whale Trail this week that will drive our derisory 1,000 sales a day to 1,010.

"I, along with 32 naked little ustwo elves, will go house to house telling potential users about it thus driving huge volumes of word of mouth."

"I would imagine EA are seriously worried about this..." Bolt Creative's Dave Castelnuovo was impressed with this plan; "So you're saying 33 people will go prancing door to door for 10 additional sales? That’s actually better CPI than most mobile ad networks."

Bah, Humbug!

PR-man Brian Baglow cynically told our developers to "paste a couple of holly leaves on your logo, add a mandatory snowy background, stick a Santa hat on your characters, and get it out to every lifestyle journalist and await the round-up of xmas apps."

Baglow followed this up with an even more cynical suggestion; "a side-scrolling shooter/beat-em-up called Nazitivity in which the forces of the Third Reich go back in time to cause havoc and the baby G has to go kick some unbeliever butt. That should get you enough column inches to ensure a top 10 place."

On the basis that no-one was really going to do that and in the face of EA's sudden dumping on the holiday market last year, Dent recommended everyone just gave up.

"Apple is complicit in marginalising any developer that does not have the prerequisite EA on their letter head ... you cannot condemn EA Mobile for doing this, they do it every year and we always wring our hands and drone on about how unfair this is.

"If you have a great game hold off on its release until February," said Dent.

"The consumers have a glut of content to satisfy them until that point. Then start sharing your title with journalists and prepping for launch. Otherwise, you will be wasting any press coverage that you get."

The only title he saw competing was Epic and Chair's Infinity Blade 2, which he predicted to be worth in excess of 30 million in lifetime sales.

Reasons to be cheerful

Bolt's Castelnuovo disagreed with the Dent's Scrooge-like valuation of Christmas.

"We've seen 10 times sales on Christmas so if you can find a way to do it, it’s well worth it." He pointed out that the 99c price point was actually a flaw in the holiday sales, as it meant you couldn't slash your prices.

Despite this, he couldn't come up with a way to battle EA.

Last year, Bolt used Tapjoy - "the App Store equivalent to cocaine" - to boost installs and keep it title in the top 50, but it's both prohibitively expensive (Bolt spent $2 to get each 99c sale, and Castelnuovo knows that some developers have spent $8 per install for a 99c app) and now restricted by Apple.

This year, Bolt is planning to do burst advertising on high-profile web sites, will skip mobile advertising as it was even more inefficient in terms of ROI than Tapjoy, and sees no benefit from cross-promotions as its app [Pocket God] is so well-known.

The No Compete Claus

Even if Bolt had no general answer, Tower Studio's Jon Hare did. He thought the only way to beat EA was to not compete at the same price point, but rather undercut it.

"We are putting Speedball 2 Evolution on a one day free special in connection with a virtual Advent Calendar on Mobobo’s Talking Santa App Giveaway," he added.

XMG's Adam Telfer was glad Tapjoy had bitten the dust, as it removed that temptation. He was going for a more holistic approach this year.

"For us, it will be doing as much as we can to promote, get on Apple's lists, get featured by bloggers, etc. EA will end up saturating the top ranks, but even if we hold on to our current ones we can expect a bump in sales."

He suggested that developers should focus on other markets other than America. "USA is a Red Ocean, especially come holiday season."

On the other hand, Thomas Nielsen of Progressive Media had decided that if you can't beat them, better join them.

"Xmas is battle of the titans ... So we work with EA! Theme Park is rolling out currently, so we hope that one will blow everyone else away over the holidays."

A backroom operator, Dan works behind the scenes to source and proof content for; if you notice Dan's work, then something has
gone wrong. Dan's background is in writing about politics, tech and the games industry, and he's addicted to social networking and board
games. His favourite mobile games are Carcassone, Neuroshima Hex and Catan
(though he laments its lack of online multiplayer).