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Unwrapping the secrets of seasonal content

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The holiday season is imminent, and it’s another marker in the year where retailers, service providers, and other industries tailor their offerings to fit in with the seasonal holidays. But why exactly is seasonal content so important, especially for mobile games? In short, it can boost session lengths, retention, and monetization because it gives players new and fun content for games they’re already playing and it provides new ways to entice new players to your game. Here are some examples where mobile gaming has used different holidays to their advantage.

Fresh content always works

Whether it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, or Halloween, developers can engage players or even acquire new ones for their games by releasing seasonal content. This October during Halloween, Hooked Inc., added Halloween-themed items and characters as well as new seasonal challenges. These themed additions drove a 50% lift in IAP revenue during their Halloween event.

Even simple changes to reflect the time of year can make a difference and impact engagement. For example, if you have an elf costume available for a player’s avatar, spooky special discounts for Halloween, or red, white, and blue decorations in your in-app store — players will have incentive to engage with the limited-edition content you’re offering.

Above: Hooked Inc.’s Halloween content was a huge success

It’s not just about what’s in the game, it can also provide new ways for your game to get noticed. Both Google Play and the App Store also have seasonal lists for apps where games are routinely featured, but you’ll have to make sure to nail your app store optimization (ASO) to have a chance to be featured on any holiday list. Make sure you update your game’s description and keywords to make sure your game appears in searches for holiday content.

Beyond nailing the text-based options for ASO, you’ll want to take into consideration the factors like the most influential conversion rate factors from this year: icons and screenshots. While it may seem like a no-brainer, game devs need to remember to update these visuals to match holiday-themed content so that first-time players don’t have a jarring experience jumping into the game for the first time.

Remember, these changes need to be in before you get too close to the holiday season. This is especially important as we head into the winter holidays as the Apple App Store closes for several days right before Christmas, so it’s essential you get any updates (holiday or otherwise) submitted ahead of this closure.

Obtain and retain

Mobile game developers should also make a bigger push on their user acquisition strategy during this time of year as monetization from ads is going to be better. Game devs will need to stay at pace or ahead of the game by upping budget for their ad spend. This can help keep them competitive, during a time when acquiring users is more competitive, climb the charts (and if that means getting a top chart spot when the Apple Store freeze, even better), and often result in a nice seasonal bump in revenue.

In addition to obtaining new players during the holiday rush, holiday content in mobile games is also a great way to retain players and even bring players back to your game. Players who have downloaded and stuck with your game are likely craving or expecting new content during this time of year. By releasing holiday content, you get to add new mechanics and refresh visual assets. In these ways, holiday content satisfies both your loyal players and can entice new ones to jump back in.

‘Tis the season for new devices — and engaged users

One of the major reasons every mobile game needs seasonal end-of-year content is because mobile devices are consistently one of the hottest gifts every year. For Apple the iPhone has been, and continues to be, the main source of revenue for the company, with iPhone sales in the fourth quarter sitting at $33.7 billion. While Apple hasn’t specified how much iPhone 11 sales contributed to this number, there’s no doubt that it will be a major revenue driver for this year’s holiday season. Further to that, we know holiday sales of smartphones and the apps that power them go hand in hand with spending on mobile games is estimated to hit $68.5 billion this year.

Sure, users might already have their favorite apps downloaded on an existing phone, but there’s a level of excitement that comes with a new device that gets users to download new apps. eMarketer reports that this year, U.S. adults will spend a whopping 3 hours and 43 minutes a day on their mobile devices. With more adults taking vacation time to spend with family and kids out of school for the holiday, this number could be even higher at the end of the year.

While it may seem effortful for game developers to update their games for the holiday season, it remains a critical time for them to level up and potentially drive their game to the top of the charts. Keeping content seasonally relevant benefits mobile game developers year round, but it is especially important during the end-of-year holiday season when players will have more free time, and more new devices they’re excited about. More often than not, it’s worth the work as fresh content is expected from players and when done well has the potential to help acquire new players.

Carl Livie is Senior Director of Business Development, EMEA at AppLovin. Carl Livie is responsible for growing the AppLovin presence across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.



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How Google’s Founders Slowly Stepped Away From Their Company

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SAN FRANCISCO — About a month after Donald J. Trump was elected president in 2016, Larry Page, the Google co-founder, was summoned along with other prominent tech executives to a meeting at Trump Tower.

It was a rare public appearance for Mr. Page. He sported a tan suit and shifted in his seat as he introduced himself and noted (incorrectly) that his company was probably the youngest in the room. “Really glad to be here,” said Mr. Page, who did not look glad to be there.

By the time he was again summoned in 2018 — this time to testify to Congress on tech’s various problems — Mr. Page had all but abandoned the roles typically associated with leading one of the world’s richest and most powerful companies. He didn’t show, and senators placed an empty chair and his placard alongside the other speakers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Page and Sergey Brin, his Google co-founder, said they were stepping down from day-to-day executive roles at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. While the move seemed sudden, it was the culmination of a yearslong separation between two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent founders and the company they began 21 years ago.

For some time, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin have drawn down their daily involvement in the company, ceding managerial tasks to deputies so they could focus on a variety of projects, including self-driving cars, robotics and life-extension technology. They left the often messy business of running Google itself to Sundar Pichai, a trusted deputy who became Google’s chief executive in 2015.

Tuesday was the capstone of that split. The founders named Mr. Pichai as the chief of both Google and Alphabet, while they will remain on Alphabet’s board of directors. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin still hold 51 percent of Alphabet’s voting shares, giving them effective control over the company — and Mr. Pichai, if they wish.

In a letter announcing the change, Mr. Page and Mr. Brin compared their 21 years at Google to raising a child, saying now was the “time to assume the role of proud parents.”

Mr. Page and Mr. Brin helped unleash the modern internet and Silicon Valley as cultural and business phenomena. Over the past two decades, they oversaw a company that was central to one of the most consequential periods in the history of business.

That singular innovation gave rise to a company and product that functions as an effective tax on the internet. Billions of people navigate the web through Google’s search box, and it charges a toll in the form of tracked and targeted advertising.

Google has grown to be dominant in several markets. Its search engine handles nine out of 10 internet searches, and the company’s Android software powers roughly three-quarters of the world’s smartphones. And for a generation of young people, YouTube, which Google acquired in 2006, has all but supplanted television.

But to some observers, the more powerful Google became, the less interested its founders appeared to be in running it.

“They’re accidental entrepreneurs,” Mr. Greenstein said. “Given their origins, it’s not surprising. They probably still harbor a desire to be a professor with a lab.”

After Mr. Page and Mr. Brin formally founded Google in September 1998, they turned out to be skilled businessmen. Still, investors worried that they were not ready to run what many rightly believed could become one of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.

By 2001, Google’s board pushed the founders to bring on an experienced executive to lead the company. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin picked Eric Schmidt, a former chief executive of the software company Novell, as Google’s new chief executive, in part because the three had bonded at Burning Man, the arts festival in the Nevada desert.

Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

While the founders were initially wary of having a boss, they quickly warmed to Mr. Schmidt. One of the benefits of no longer being chief executive, colleagues told Mr. Page, was that he would no longer have to perform tasks like talking to advertisers and investors, according to “In the Plex,” a book about Google’s beginnings by Steve Levy.

Instead, the founders sought out new efforts, such as mapping the world, digitizing books, developing artificial intelligence and creating new smartphone software to rival Apple’s iPhone.

“I didn’t think of Google as a transportation company,” Mr. Thrun said. “But Larry thought of Google as a company that pushed innovation in any area.”

Mr. Thrun led Chauffeur under Google X, the so-called moonshot lab where engineers were encouraged to build science-fiction projects they thought might never work. Many of their projects did fail, like space elevators, jet packs and teleportation, but others are still in development, like delivery drones, energy-producing kites and internet-beaming balloons.

Like most of the futuristic projects at Google, the lab was the brainchild of the founders. Mr. Brin particularly wanted something to work on because he was getting bored in management, said Michael Jones, a co-founder of Google Earth, who spent 11 years at the company.

In 2011, Mr. Page retook the chief executive job atop Google, getting something of a hero’s welcome. Yet the pattern — wanting to be in charge but not wanting to deal with the day-to-day job — would quickly repeat itself.

He seemed no more interested in the menial aspects of the job. He was frustrated by having to deal with things like executive infighting and turf wars that are an unavoidable part of corporate life, according to three former executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Even then, well before the recent employee uprisings, he had grown disillusioned with what he saw as entitled behavior from Google engineers, said two other executives who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. He also started to experience health problems, most notably paralysis of his vocal cords. Executives who met with Mr. Page, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he sometimes used an electronic speaker to amplify his strained voice.

“Larry is like a professor who’s a business star. I don’t think he has any appreciation or love or desire to run a company actually,” said Mr. Jones, the former Google executive. “The thing he cares about is pushing toward innovation.”

“I’ve also delegated this question to Sundar,” Mr. Page responded. “I help him think about it. But I don’t have to answer this question now.” He smiled, and the crowd laughed.



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Four fresh SNES games are coming to Nintendo Switch Online next week

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Things have been quiet on the Nintendo Switch Online front ever since the company dropped 20 classic SNES games onto its wildly popular hybrid console’s $20 a year subscription service back in September, but that’s about to change. Four more SNES games and two fresh NES games are coming on Dec. 12, Nintendo revealed Wednesday.

The SNES selection includes Star Fox 2, Super Punch-Out, Kirby Super Star and Breath of Fire 2. The tale of Star Fox 2 is pretty fascinating: It was planned for a summer 1995 release but canned because Nintendo didn’t want it to be overshadowed by Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. We finally got the chance to play it in 2017, when Nintendo hid it on the SNES Classic retro console.

screenshot-2019-12-05-at-11-12-04.png

If Kirby’s dances don’t warm your heart, I’m sorry. Maybe playing Kirby Super Star will help.


Nintendo/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

If you want to go a bit more retro, the NES games — action RPG Crystalis and sci-fi platformer Journey to Silius — are both from 1990. The latter game was originally supposed to be a Terminator tie-in, but developer Sunsoft lost the rights.

Japanese subscribers get a different selection of games this time — no Super Punch-Out, Breath of Fire 2, Crystalis or Journey to Silius in that region. Instead, people in Japan get NES games Famicom Wars and Route 16 Turbo.

On Thursday, Nintendo said it sold 830,000 Switches and Switch Lites in the US over Thanksgiving weekend. It also plans to launch the console in China — a market of 1.3 billion people — on Dec. 10.

First published at 3:27 a.m. PT.
Updated at 4:09 a.m. PT: Adds more detail.



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Adtech firm Ogury raises $50 million to build data-privacy tools

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  • Five-year-old Ogury has raised $50 million to help marketers prepare for data privacy laws like the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • The firm sells consent-management software that apps use to collect consumers’ consent to show them ads. It also sells ad-targeting data to advertisers.
  • Thomas Pasquet, cofounder and co-CEO, said that Ogury is working on a product that will let consumers pay for content through money or data to access a publisher’s content.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Ogury, an adtech company that sells software to help publishers and advertisers collect data, has raised $50 million led by private equity firm Idinvest Partners as the ad industry grapples with new privacy laws. The new round brings the total raised by the London-based firm to $92 million. 

Ogury sells consent-management software that apps use to get consumers’ consent to share their data in order to view the apps’ content. Ogury then sells that data to advertisers for targeting. The company’s clients include game publisher IsCool, music-streaming app Audiomack and advertisers like Ralph Lauren and Bose. According to Ogury, 50% of consumers opt-in to share their data. 

Thomas Pasquet, cofounder and co-CEO, said the new funding would be used to invest in the US as marketers prepare for the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act that will restrict how marketers use data to target ads. Ogury also plans to open overseas offices in areas like Asia and create new data-privacy products.

“The entire industry is just waking up from the GDPR hangover and not realizing that CCPA is around the corner,” he said. “We’re aiming to build the first company where advertising is chosen and not imposed on users.”

Ogury is working on a product to open up new revenue streams for publishers

In the first quarter of next year, Ogury plans to launch a product that would allow publishers let users opt out of advertising if they pay for content with money or data. The product will also help publishers collect consent from users who view ads instead of paying.

Pasquet wouldn’t share Ogury’s revenue but said that the company made $100 million in 2018. This year, the firm will increase revenue by double digits, he said. Ogury has 400 employees and plans to add another 100 next year.

Pasquet also hinted that Ogury was open to acquiring other adtech companies.

“If we see a company that fits perfectly in our roadmap, we can choose to either build or buy it,” he said.



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