The importance of updating your apps at Christmas

With families at home relaxing for the holiday season, there's no better time to update your app. Sometimes, renewed success only takes a hat.

The Christmas period is particularly intense for app developers. People all over the world will be playing with new mobile devices, and a rush across every app store occurs. This is where the Christmas update can come in handy; prevent losing users over the holiday period, while encouraging net new users. Here are a few examples.

Pokémon GO needs no introduction after six months of success. However, after several months of unprecedented popularity, usage has been waning. It's still a huge financial success, that's not up for debate, but players are dropping off. The lack of substantial updates coupled with colder weather has meant that more and more people are keeping their phones in their pockets.

After a well-received Halloween event, eyes were on Niantic with the expectation of something big for Christmas. Such was the thirst for news that people were digging into the app's code for new additions, and even internal memos from Pokémon GO partners were being leaked. The update eventually released on the 12th of December, alongside an announcement on the official website.

More Pokémon and a limited edition Pikachu are coming to Pokémon GO

While it's not a secret that die-hard fans were expecting more, this update seems tailored to bring people back into the game for more than a day or two. It starts with the limited edition Pikachu:

Charge those battery packs!

The phrase 'limited edition' is a surefire way to engineer increased interest in a product. There's plenty of research out there for you to dig into on this subject, but this blog is good for a general overview. This update tells users from the outset that there is something that will only be around for a set period of time. Note that there's no clarification about whether the special Pikachu will show up again for Christmas in 2017, but it doesn't need to. The fear that you might miss out on something 'limited' is enough to get people talking about the game en-masse once again.

This is a great example of Niantic's strategy to renew interest in their game. A lot of Christmas updates often stop at a few freebies for loading up the app during a certain time frame. In this instance, you have to play the game again to get the reward. People have their phones back out to catch one of these Pikachus, being sucked back into the gameplay loop.

Add onto this that there are new pokémon in this update, too. These can only be obtained in eggs, or by walking while the game is active. If you're walking around looking for a limited edition Pikachu, you're also hatching eggs. You hatch something new, you tell your friends, and more and more people are coming back to the game.

Another example can be seen in the game Crossy Road. This game shares similarities with the arcade classic Frogger, tasking you with moving your character as far forward as possible, without hitting or being hit by obstacles. One of the ways the app makes money is by offering users different player characters (known in-game as 'mascots'), which also change up the aesthetic of the game itself. For example, the basic chicken character presents the world as sunny and colourful, where as many of the Halloween-themed characters make the world dark and gloomy.

For Christmas, Crossy Road offers up one of these characters for free: the Festive Chicken.

Can't get more festive than this

It's a relatively small gift, but it adds a Christmas spin to your game by changing the world to one full of snow, Christmas trees and jingle bells. Players save on the 89p it would normally cost to buy this character, and Crossy Road gets more players checking in to play over the holiday period.

This isn't limited to games, and you don't have to give anything away. You can stand out just by changing your app icon, as fans of VLC will be able to tell you. It's the only way I know that Christmas is coming up nowadays.

It's Christmas!

It's easy to write this off as only something that an app with this much popularity and such a large player base can do, but the same strategy can be applied to most apps. For a lot of people, there's a significant period of down time across December, and you can take advantage of that. If you've ever caught yourself flicking around your home screen looking for something to do, then you know there's an opportunity here. Here are some points to consider:

  • Exclusive items are highly sought after. It doesn't matter if your app is a game or not - can you offer your users a new UI skin? New audio? You don't have to think big, either.
  • Look at your app's loop. Can you introduce this item in a way that encourages players to get back into your app? Can you get them to try a new feature? Don't be too demanding, but look at ways that may keep the interest of your users.
  • Spread the word. Let your players know that there is an update coming, in case they drop off in the meantime. Let them know that the update is here. Think about incentivising ways for them to share the news for you, with a 'Christmas bonus' or access to a new feature for those that do.
  • Don't stop at Christmas. Keep the ball rolling throughout the new year, even if it's with small updates. Think about holidays, niche or not, that you can use to add more value to your app.

If you give your users a reason to use your app during the holiday period, they'll come back. In some cases, all it takes is a Santa hat.

Comments (1)
  1. Cindy says:

    This is so inspiring and useful! Love the ideas! Thank you!

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