Mobile Mavens

Can promotional events like Red and Black Friday drive monetisation?

Our Mavens debate charity, sales and engagement

Can promotional events like Red and Black Friday drive monetisation?

As well as being Black Friday, last week was also the opportunity for Apple - and some content providers - to raise money and awareness ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December via the (Red) organisation.

So, with the oncoming holiday season in our sights, despite the rise of F2P games, we asked our Mobile Mavens:

Are sale events like Black Friday now a dead duck? Have they been superseded by event-led pushes such as Product Red?


William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

I think Black Friday still resonates, but as more and more commerce moves online ... it matters less. Amazon has "Black Friday" specials, of course, as do other online retailers.

I can see events driving more promotions in the future. Perhaps Apple and others will have promotions tied to major events such as The World Cup etc.

The interesting thing about Product Red and the Apple promotion, is that Apple as policy, has rejected apps that state charitable intent ... i.e. "50% of proceeds will go to X Charity", as they (Apple) believed that they had no way of monitoring and verifying this.

Lots of high profile apps are supporting Apple and getting featured too

Product Red obviously solves this problem for Apple because Apple is directing 100% of the proceeds to the charity. No need to verify that the developer will comply with their stated intention.

Scott Foe Chief Product Officer Ignited Artists

I know that this may come as a shock to some of you and ... shhhhh ... pssst ... don't tell anybody this and ... I'm only telling you this because we are close friends and ... "free-to-play games" are not actually "free."

Sales are a big aspect of "free-to-play," converting price sensitive players and optimizing price-elastic graphs.

It will not be surprising to see many Black Friday sales inside of free-to-play games this coming Friday. (Hah! Bet this article runs on "Cyber Monday!")

As with any retailing, the issue of running sales is that running sales conditions consumers over time to wait to spend. "Everyday low prices," anybody?!

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

As always Scott has hit on a couple of essential points.

  • F2P games absolutely has to be about retailing inside the game to players.
  • And the "Everyday Low Prices" or Weekend Steam sales affect consumer behaviour.

It's really easy to screw this up.

Back in 3UK we found blanket sales to be completely counterproductive.

The month of the sale generated 3x the revenue of a typical month. The next two months generated a much reduced income so that in the end we net gained zero additional revenue despite all the work we put in to set it up.

[At 3UK] lifestyle pricing increased revenue 3-fold because it created a positive expectation.
Oscar Clark

We shifted strategy so that content would start at £6, reduce to £3 after 6 weeks, reduce to £1 then be removed from the deck a week later.

This approach of lifestyle pricing increased revenue 3-fold because it created a positive expectation. Players choosing to get a game early were not just considering the full price, but the difference in price to get the game right now. This actually led to players spending more and earlier.

The Apple 'Red' sale isn't just about the commercial side of things. There is an emotional component, a narrative which engages the audience and gives the player a reason to buy now.

If we want to avoid players binge spending or waiting till the price inevitably drops we need this kind of narrative. We don't have to be Apple or Google to benefit from this thinking. If you have an F2P game you should be thinking as a retailer too.

Even the barbarians are going (Red)

There is good evidence for why this works. A players natural state is not to buy. Indeed any kind of consumer behaviour is a risk. To overcome the risk we have to create anticipation, social capital and a reason to act.

We can't reasonably expect to manipulate players; not just as it's ethically wrong. Players have to set aside their other external needs. That happens when players are truly engaged.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

To Oscar's point, all this is is a form of product lifecycle management. As the F2P model slowly morphs into a 'games as a service' model, then it's natural that the product lifecycle becomes inward-focused.

Indeed, you could argue that one of the minor reasons why F2P has become such a dominant model in our industry is that if offers so many opportunities for product management and promotion to a fancies that is incredibly difficult outside of the game experience - for all the reasons that we have been talking about for some 10 years or so.

We must create much greater flexibility for creation, discovery and consumption.
John Ozimek

William's point is a good one, in that by taking ownership of the Red campaign, there is much better transparency of where the money is going. In doing so it shows up perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the growth of the mobile games industry, in that we must at some point break out of the limited categorisations of the app stores, to create much greater flexibility for creation, discovery and consumption.

To answer the question, I think any kind of event is an opportunity for promotion and marketing, whether commercial or altruistic, and it's good to see the app store owners helping with this.

Black Friday is an opportunity for price promotion, and I would worry that it has become more about the price than the product itself, as it loses its novelty value.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.