EA’s App Store tactics lead to record holiday game sales

Feb 2, 2011
Games

The mobile division of Electronic Arts (ERTS) had a huge holiday season in 2010 in the iTunes App Store, and not necessarily because it released a bunch of amazing, high-grossing games. Instead, EA paid a lot of attention to the way the App Store works. Not only did they capitalize, they gave gamers what they […]

The mobile division of Electronic Arts (ERTS) had a huge holiday season in 2010 in the iTunes App Store, and not necessarily because it released a bunch of amazing, high-grossing games.

Instead, EA paid a lot of attention to the way the App Store works. Not only did they capitalize, they gave gamers what they wanted for the holidays. The result: the company boasts being the “No. 1 developer in the App Store” in Q3 2010, and the day after Christmas, its games occupied 14 of the slots on the top 25 apps chart for iPhone, and 15 of the top 25 slots for iPad.

You might remember EA’s massive sale from Christmas. It knocked down just about every game it had to a dollar, driving sales through the roof. According to a story that appeared on gaming site Joystiq, the timing of the sale, which happened in early December, was extremely significant: Apple (AAPL) freezes its app charts and the App Store during the holidays for about a week. During that time, developers can’t introduce new apps, start promotions, change their prices, or anything else. EA’s sale rocketed its apps to the fore in the App Store just in time for the freeze, and then it got to occupy great marketing positions on iTunes just as a whole mess of new users were plugging in their shiny new iThings for the first time.

EA also owns Chillingo, which published the original Angry Birds title — which remains the No. 1-selling app in the App Store.

“Needless to say, we had a record-beraking quarter on iOS,” said EA COO John Schappert.

EA pulled a similar trick on Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle, and its Scrabble game outsold all books for the platform from Christmas to New Year’s, solidifying it as the No. 1 application for that time period.

Masterful manipulation of the App Store on EA’s part is a good thing for all involved (except, perhaps, for EA’s competitors) because it shows that a big game company can use clever marketing to drive large sales on the iPhone. EA is one of the biggest video game publishers in the market, and through savvy promotion of strong games, they were rewarded with a big holiday season in the App Store.

That bodes well for other game developers, big and small. It’s a clear demonstration that sales, marketing, and strategic positioning in the App Store can have a big effect. Developers and publishers thinking smartly about how to get their apps in front of users can make a big impact. And hopefully, it’s another demonstration to other strong video game developers and publishers that the App Store is a place they want their games to be.

Apple’s iOS as a gaming platform is improving and becoming stronger every day — EA Mobile’s recent Dead Space is a great indication of the quality of games that it can help breed, and now EA’s performance in 2010 shows that developers don’t need a magic Angry Birds bullet to be successful. It’s not about getting lucky by creating an app that everyone loves out of the blue: just producing quality games and making them available at the right price, at the right time, can create a lot of success.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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