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Taking Advantage of Seasonal Trends to Grow Your Game

Hicham Rkini, Head of Monetization & Growth | Yodo1

You fire up your favorite mobile game and see, with excitement, that it’s been fully decked out for Halloween! Pumpkins. Spooky story elements. Costume skins. The works! You can’t wait to explore and see what’s possible because you know it won’t be around for very long! 

As a game developer, it can be easy to forget the freshness and delight that seasonal events like these can bring to players, and how impactful that delight can be. The fact is this: seasonal trends play a big role in user engagement and revenue streams for mobile games, acting like a magnet for both new and existing players, with the most action happening in Q4, which we will discuss below. As the seasons roll by, each brings unique opportunities, and for the savvy developer, this is a goldmine, especially if you plan ahead.

And so, since the holidays are rapidly approaching, let’s explore the concept of seasonality, its importance, and how developers can ride these waves to propel their games toward success.

 

What is seasonality?

Seasonality is about predictable changes that happen around the same time each year. These can be religious holidays like Christmas, Diwali, or Ramadan, shopping events like Black Friday, or other happenings like elections or sports events. Companies often have special sales or promotions during these times. 

However, many developers miss this opportunity, possibly because they have too much on their plate or don’t know what to focus on in game development and marketing.  As a top mobile publisher for over a decade, we at Yodo1 always maximize these trends in the games we publish and work with, seeing notable success in user engagement and revenue growth.

Gaming Revenue Increases during holidays
 

Spotlight on Q4

The last chunk of the year, the fourth quarter (Q4), is special for three main reasons:

  1. Key Events: Q4 is packed with events starting with Diwali and Halloween in October, moving through Singles Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday in November, and wrapping up with holidays in December and New Year’s celebrations.
  2. Heightened Competition: Advertisers are willing to spend more, so advertising costs shoot up. What does that suggest? Higher eCPM is an objective measure of the increase in opportunity but certainly doesn’t mean that only paid marketing will move the needle. 
  3. User Engagement: The holiday spirit often leads to more online shopping and mobile gaming, causing a rise in user engagement.
Q4-Trends-in-Terms-of-CPM 2
 

Navigating the Seasonal Tide: A Developer’s Toolkit

Seasonal trends offer a treasure trove of opportunities for developers. By tweaking various aspects of their games and marketing strategies, they can make the most out of these cyclical market dynamics. Here are some tools in the developer’s toolkit:

App Store Optimization: Revamp icons and screenshots to reflect ongoing events. For instance, changing your game icon to feature a pumpkin during Halloween. This can improve your conversion ratio and lead to more downloads, which in turn can improve your category and keyword rankings! On top of this, app store curators are more likely to feature games that embrace trends. 

Search optimization: Include keywords related to seasonal events to attract more traffic. For example, using keywords like “Christmas Special” during the holiday season could drive more traffic to your game.

Seasonal makeover: Embrace the season in your game’s visuals. For example, add snow and holiday decorations in your game environment during Christmas to give it a festive feel. Here is an example from Rodeo Stampede: 

Ad format and placement optimization: Revisit your monetization strategies before Q4, ensuring the right ad formats are chosen and placed at the correct points throughout the game. It’s also a good time to try different ad formats that might resonate better with the seasonal audience. For example, exclusive holiday-themed items or skins might be available within a lucky spin mechanic, with spins being earned when players choose to watch a rewarded video ad. 

Last-minute sprint: If you just realized the importance of seasonality, focus on quick changes like updating visuals and incorporating user-friendly ad formats like App Open Ads.

Understanding cultural nuances: Dive into local expertise or conduct thorough research to ensure your seasonal changes are culturally appropriate, especially when targeting global audiences. This may be the perfect opportunity to work with local freelancers in different countries, perhaps to create translations with nuance, or craft culturally sensitive assets. And imagine how much you’ll learn in the process!

 

Engaging Users Seasonally

Seasonal strategies can significantly enhance the gaming experience and keep players engaged. As the seasons change, so can the in-game environment, offering fresh, themed content that resonates with players’ real-world experiences.

In-game events: Create seasonal in-game events or challenges to generate buzz and get players excited. For the games we publish, as well as with the other games we work with, a focus on elements like UA and social media, creating special tournaments, rolling out seasonal quests, or even introducing limited-time characters or items, can be a powerful magnet that draws players in.

Discounts and special offers: Tempt users with seasonal discounts on in-app purchases or special item bundles. Offering exclusive items or discounts during a season can encourage spending and retain players.

Case Spotlight: Pokémon GO 2022 Halloween Event

The 2022 Halloween event in Pokémon GO is a great example of how seasonal in-game events can boost user engagement and revive interest in a game. Here’s how Niantic, the game’s developer, embraced the Halloween season:

During the event, a new animation was introduced for the Spooky Pose available in the in-game shop. This update made the pose more lively, applying to new and past purchases alike. New Halloween-themed avatar items were also rolled out, allowing players to dress up their avatars in spooky Halloween attire.

Season of Light Game Growth

Going even further, the PokéStops and Gyms in the game were decorated to reflect the Halloween theme, offering a visually festive environment for players. A special remix of the Lavender Town music played at night throughout the event, enhancing the spooky atmosphere of Halloween.

Loyal players were given double Candy rewards for various in-game actions like catching, hatching, and transferring Pokémon. Trainers level 31 and above received one guaranteed Candy XL when walking with their buddy, encouraging players to stay active within the game, and special questlines were introduced to make the whole event even more exclusive and timely. 

While not every developer may have the resources to take seasonality to this level, the meticulously planned Halloween event in Pokémon GO serves as a great example and offers insights that mobile game developers can learn from as they strategize and experiment with infusing seasonal elements into their own games. Good stuff!

 

Concluding Thoughts

At Yodo1, we have seen firsthand how leveraging seasonality can lay a strong foundation for sustainable growth in the fiercely competitive mobile gaming arena. Our experience in helping developers grow their games has shown that a well-thought-out seasonal strategy can be a game-changer in standing out in the crowded app stores and captivating players’ interest all year round. If you haven’t yet given it a try, why not start this holiday season?