In today’s iDevBlogADay post I wanted to discuss a little bit about the 22nd Dec phenomenon and why we are not going to participate in it. Currently we are creating a huge update to Soctics and creating a separate HD and a Mac App version of it and our original plan was to release all of them around 17th Dec, no later. Now that we have missed that window of opportunity (still haven’t submitted our binaries for review) we could have aimed for a 22nd Dec. release date but we chose not to. Although the app-buying frenzy of the new iOS device owners during the holiday season is admirable, I think the concentration of great and well known apps / brands on sale just makes the App Store an even tougher battleground for the small developers.
A few years ago it was easier to get a sales spike going on if you managed to time your update / release on the 22nd Dec as you secured your reasonably visible spot for a whole week on the App Store. Ever since the EA Xmas massacre though (making all games $0.99 and totally dominating all game category top lists) I am very sceptic of any Xmas targeted strategies. As there are several big publishers present on the App Store already they can outbid you with their better known brands and huge perceived-value discounts.This year, instead of rushing to finish our game to be able to put it out on the 22nd for the holiday shopping spree, we decided to take a step back, conduct a long beta test, try to polish our gameplay as much as it makes sense, and release the app sometime during January. Choosing our own release date and not rushing the release is like choosing our own battlefield.
Another popular strategy is creating a Xmas themed app and releasing it shortly before Xmas. I also believe this is not a viable option anymore, same reasons as I have already mentioned. Don’t get me wrong, if your app is amazing, go ahead and release it! But if it’s just a re-skinned version of your already published game on the bottom of a category don’t get your hopes too high up – most probably your costs for creating the reskinned version of the app will not be recuperated. We have tried Christmas themed apps before but they obviously lose their appeal very quickly.
So in short, what’s my advice? Grab a popcorn, lay back and watch as the sales go live on the 22nd. If you were in a rush to release your app by that date, take the sudden extra time you have and polish your game! Make it look even more awesome. Balance your levels / enemies / pets / whatevers you might have. Improve the ambient soundtrack and your dynamic sounds. Take your time and do a beta test! You WILL be surprised by what people say about your app. And usually it is much better to hear these first impressions before you appear on the Store. Then choose a release date where you should not be expecting heavy-hitters to appear so you can gain customer focus easier!