Posted 2/12/2016 12:18:42 PM by RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor
With the December holiday season barely behind us, and upcoming holiday’s such as Valentine's Day approaching full steam, we reached out to Perry Tam, Storm8 CEO and Co-Founder, to find out what his company’s approach was on preparing their games for holiday and seasonal dates.
ADM: How do you decide which games to update and for which holiday seasons?
Tam: The key here is to know your audience; make sure that the seasonal content you add makes sense for the storyline and the game’s overall theme.
For instance, a game like Bakery Story 2 is a perfect fit for Valentine’s Day content given the association of baked goods and sweets to this particular holiday. The existing love triangle between the game’s characters also makes the Valentine’s theme more fitting.
Another thing we consider is the popularity of certain holidays relative to the location of the majority of the game’s players as well as geo-specific content. We may run special content for Boxing Day for players in the U.K. or Australia but forgo it in the U.S. where it’s not really an observed holiday.
We’ve been developing games for close to seven years and have a strong understanding of what our players like. But listening to player feedback and keeping abreast of current trends is crucial to serving fresh content to players.
ADM: How far in advance do you start developing holiday updates?
Tam: Planning starts roughly six months prior to the desired launch date. We operate our games as services at Storm8, which means that there may also be other content updates in the pipeline other than for specific holidays. We make sure that seasonals are incorporated into our roadmap so that we can allocate resources and ensure that we have enough time to develop quality assets, review and test the features.
Having launched more than 45 games since our founding, it’s always a balancing act to keep live services on existing games and develop new titles.
ADM: What is the benefit of channeling resources towards holiday updates instead of new games?
Tam: It’s actually not one or the other; we allocate resources to both and have teams that work on new games and seasonal content in tandem. Having consistent and quality updates to players’ favorite games is crucial to keeping them engaged and coming back. That said, while fresh content is important, quality updates matter more than simply having seasonal updates for the sake of it. We’re lucky to have a talented team that manages both.
ADM: Do you find consumers expect holiday updates? Why?
Tam: Absolutely. In fact, players today expect new content regardless of holidays. Like any form of entertainment, our goal is to always bring new experiences to our audience. Consumers don’t want to keep playing the same things over and over. We do our best to keep up with what our players want – and that is to consistently experience and discover something new and different in the gameplay.
ADM: Do holiday updates impact player retention and engagement? How?
Tam: Yes, definitely. On average, we’ve seen a 30% increase in retention and engagement among players for holiday content updates.
ADM: What other seasonal campaigns or launches have you done that aren’t holiday-related?
Tam: In addition to holiday content and adding new levels and features to games, we also have “Events.” Events run for a limited time and players typically have to complete quests to participate. Our players are big fans of Events as it gives them a chance to earn exclusive rewards or limited edition items.
Last Spring, we hosted a Tropical Cruise Catering event in Restaurant Story 2 where players provided catering services for a ship that docked close to their restaurant. The event lasted for 10 days and players earned Cruise Coins and unlocked special rewards.
We also run “World Events” to celebrate popular real-world events within our games, like the addition of a soccer theme to our match-three game Candy Blast Mania during the World Cup. Players matched soccer balls in addition to candy treats and won special prizes.
As a way to thank players, we’ve also run game anniversary events. We had a month-long celebration of Dragon Story’s third birthday last year. Players participated in different events, including a global dragon birthday party where they unlocked limited-edition birthday dragons. We also re-released some of our players’ favorite dragons and revealed our 500th dragon.
Players look forward to these types of celebrations, so we always try to come up with fun, new ways to keep them entertained.
ADM: What success did you have with those initiatives compared to other methods of marketing?
Tam: While we’ve seen increased retention and engagement with seasonal content and special updates, our goal for these campaigns is to bring the most enjoyable content possible to our players. More than anything, the Dragon Story event was a way to celebrate with our players.
ADM: Storm8’s games are free to play. What sort of promotions or discounts do you offer to entice players during a holiday season?
Tam: We host seasonal promotions to get players in a festive spirit and enjoy new holiday content. Sometimes we may release limited time items to either win or purchase. We also offer special holiday bundles and discounts for purchasing in-game currency or items during the holidays. It's really our way of saying thanks to our most loyal players.
ADM: What advice can you give publishers when doing holiday/seasonal game updates?
Tam: Publishers need to understand the following:
1) Know your audience. Understand what holidays your players care about to really drive engagement. If it’s not a holiday they celebrate or understand, it’ll be difficult to get them excited. Tailor content to cultural preferences as much as possible.
2) Plan ahead. It takes time to develop and get assets together and ensure that you run a cohesive campaign. Give yourself ample time to create, iterate and test your features to deliver the best experience to your players.
3) Don’t fall back on new game development. This is especially true for a company like Storm8 since we have a portfolio of games that we support. Developing seasonal campaigns shouldn’t take time away from creating new experiences and games that last outlast the holidays.
ADM: What is your method for de-activating holiday themes in your apps, and how long do you let them run?
Tam: In most cases, special events or regions developed around holiday themes remain in the game as long as players are enjoying the content. Seasonal packaging (like icons, splash screens, etc.), if any, is usually removed a few weeks after a specific holiday is over.
ADM: What holidays do you see the biggest jump from?
Tam: They vary, but the Christmas season is typically a huge driver for the mobile games industry given new device activations.
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