Even though it seems quiet on the news front with everyone home for the holidays, don’t be mistaken. This is the biggest week of the year for mobile developers in terms of downloads.
Developers on average see 10 percent of their entire year’s downloads in the last two weeks of the year, mobile analytics company Flurry tells us. Christmas day alone represents ten times the normal number of downloads on a regular day, says Peter Farago, Flurry’s vice president of marketing.
Not only are the holidays a period of downtime where consumers can relax and check out new apps, they tend to be a time for cross-pollination between early adopters and more mainstream users. Urban twenty-somethings and college students go home and take the new apps or online services they’ve become addicted to and show them to parents and family. This is a time when companies can test whether their infrastructure is hardy enough to withstand server spikes and see if their products have crossover appeal.
But developers have to prepare well in advance for the Christmas to New Years’ week because Apple’s annual shutdown for new apps and updates lasts until December 29. So most of the more experienced developers pushed their seasonal content out after Thanksgiving and discounted their apps before December 22.
So who’s is winning? Here are some of the tricks companies are using this week.
99 Cent Sales Bump the Giants
Electronic Arts seems to be dominating the three-way discounting shootout between it, Gameloft and Big Fish Games. It’s a tradition many smaller, less-capitalized developers complain about every year: the big guys cut their prices to 99 cents, wiping everyone else off the charts. EA cut its entire iOS library to 99 cents, while Gameloft took 17 games down to that level. It looks like it’s paying off. EA and its subsidiaries EA PopCap, Chillingo and Firemint, hold 10 of the top 25 paid apps in the U.S. Gameloft has one.
Seasonal Content Boosts Mid-Size and Venture-Backed Developers
Capcom’s Beeline Interactive unit, Pocket Gems, Rovio Mobile, Storm8 and TinyCo were among the developers that added holiday-themed content or released secondary winter games. Capcom’s Beeline Interactive unit put snow in Smurfs’ Village (#15 top grossing) and added temporary decorative items like a snowman, snowsmurf and Christmas trees while Storm8 released holiday versions of Bakery Story and Fashion Story.
Sales on Virtual Currency Can Help Apps Up The Grossing Lists Too
Funzio discounted virtual currency by 20 percent in Crime City and Modern War for Christmas, bumping them up the iOS grossing charts to #20 and #7 respectively. TinyCo also did discounting, cutting 40 percent off land expansions for prehistoric city builder Tiny Village. There are risks to discounting however, because it means the developer is sacrificing future income for a short-term revenue boost.
Alec Baldwin Sometimes Hands You a Lucky Break
Even though rivals like EA are doing aggressive discounting, Zynga’s Words With Friends is the top paid app coming off Christmas. Having Alec Baldwin get in a fight with a plane attendant over your game before Christmas turns out to be a godsend. The game has added 700,000 daily active users connected to Facebook (on either the mobile or canvas version) since Baldwin was kicked off a plane on Dec. 6 for playing Words With Friends.