7 Holiday Tips for Procrastinating Developers


For large developers, the holidays are a time for extensive, painstaking preparation. Months of work go into holiday content. Significant portions of funding are set aside for acquiring players during the expensive days leading up to Christmas.

Smaller developers, on the other hand, can’t fight on even ground in the holiday battle for players. As a result, some do little to prepare. Others consciously don’t do anything.

Yet some aspects of holiday planning, and holiday content, can be done even on a shoestring budget, or at the last moment. Here are 7 tips for developers who haven’t planned months ahead for the holidays.

First step: add festive details

Holiday Creative

In-game events are the gold standard for the holidays. For instance, Social Point’s special holiday event for the game Dragon Land let users earn currency by watching video ads. But even for developers with bandwidth to work on events or new features, they aren’t always a good idea. “Adding too much complexity to the design of any promotions to players has not always worked that well,” shares Saad Choudri, CCO of Miniclip.

Sometimes, it’s best just to decorate — adding details like flakes of snow in the tutorial screen, or a character reskinned in Santa’s clothes. Developers can make icons and screenshots more eye-catching by predominantly using red and featuring faces prominently on screenshots.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver in-game

If you do include snow in your icons and screenshots, make sure it’s reflected in-game, too. “In the past we have seen some examples where the value proposition did not match with the reality of the in-game onboarding and experience,” writes Tobias Knocke, a business development manager at Google Play. “Only a consistent holiday integration will keep up its promise and will give you the chance to secure an uplift in sustainable installs.”

Boost visibility by optimizing your app page

Don’t forget to optimize your app store listing, as well. Users actively search for holiday-themed games by using related keywords, like “Christmas games”. Testing company Splitmetrics recommends seeding holiday-related words through your whole app store page. In iOS, you can still reach users looking for holiday content by promoting holiday-themed in-app purchases.

Use your wishlist

The holiday season is your chance to make users really happy by granting a few requests. For instance, granting a higher chance of getting a rare weapon from a loot box, or cheaper items, if only for a limited time. The comments section of your app page is often a good place to look for requests you can do on a dime.

Emojis and notifications 🎄

EmojisDon’t be boring with your notifications. It’s the holiday season, and your app is going to be competing for attention in a hornet’s nest of sound. Use wit and color. This year, it’s smart to heavily feature emojis in seasonal notifications. For Christmas, you have a plethora of options, like the pine tree, gift, and even Santa emoji.

Plan for ad spend after the holidays

User acquisition costs skyrocket around the holiday season, but then plummet in January. This can be a fertile time for small developers, since activity generally stays high after Christmas.

The gift of a better game

Keep in mind that holiday cheer isn’t mandatory: some successful indies don’t do anything at all for the season. Phillip Stollenmeyer, indie developer of quirky games like Bacon and Burger, prioritizes gameplay instead of revenue, even during the holidays. “It would be super easy to make holiday updates for games like Bacon or Burger, but I want the gameplay to stay focused and not be watered down with compromises.”

The best part of the holidays is users with shiny new phones and an appetite for new content. Whether you add in cheery details or not, a focus on engagement can still make for a winning holiday. 🎄🎁🎅