INTERVIEW: Chris Wright on digital sales in the holiday period

Leigh Harris
INTERVIEW: Chris Wright on digital sales in the holiday period

Retailers always have sales over the holidays, so we spoke to Chris Wright from Surprise attack about how to take advantage with mobile and digital titles.

What kinds of opportunities present themselves for indie and digital titles over the Christmas and NYE break?

Pretty much all of the digital platforms go into sale mode in this period so that's the primary opportunity. Steam had a big sale over Thanksgiving and is now doing a daily promotional title and a lot of games on iPhone / iPad are getting discounts. The challenge with this of course is that pretty much everyone is doing it so it's still really hard to stand out.
One good local initiative is the Aussie App Sale - http://www.aussieappsale.com/ - which brings together a number of Aussie independent developers and promotes their sale prices. you can get some great bargains at the moment including various Game Book Adventures titles, Battle Group from Bane Games, Star Hammer Tactics from Black Lab Games and EPOCH from Uppercut Games.
Another opportunity for indies is the festive update or festive games. There are a lot of Christmas themed updates on the App Store right now as well as Christmas specific games. That's a good way to take advantage of the seasonal market, especially when development costs are so much lower. 
Finally, January is a great time for indies to think about promoting or launching their games, especially on the App Store - all those people unwrapping their shiny new iPod touches, iPads and iPhones will be looking for content to fill them with in January.
Are there traditional brick and mortar retail tactics for driving customers in during holiday periods which simply don't translate to the digital sphere? Would they have a near corrollary?
The major bricks and mortar tactics at this time of year are catalogues and TV advertising, neither of which really translate to the digital sphere. Certainly you can run advertising and use other promotional channels but TV isn't a great medium for driving sales of a digital product - you want to be able to click and purchase in as few steps as possible.
The closest thing to catalogues would be the best of 2011 style features on the App Store or the big Steam sales like the one they ran for Thanksgiving. This is one of the challenges the digital space faces - it's not particularly good at editorialising the vast amount of content available as yet. 
Is it harder for digital properties to capitalise on the Christmas period? Is there a risk of being lost amidst the physical-good madness?
Generally I think it is. The primary issue here is that digital games are not really bought as gifts. Even though it's possible to gift a game on Steam or the App Store I think people still want to give a physical gift. I think there's an opportunity here that's not being fully explored, however. The great thing about digital is it's environmentally friendly and really quick to deliver. If there were better options to present someone with a digital gift in a physical form I think it would probably be more popular.
One thing I would expect to see is a lot of kids getting iTunes vouchers to use on their iPod Touches, however. That doesn't help specific games but it does help the overall App Store market. A $20 gift voucher goes a long way on the App Store, especially when everyone is in sale mode.
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Tags: interview , ios , Chris Wright , Surprise Attack , Digital games

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