Events are among the most critical – and profitable – tactics to deploy in your game. If you don’t have them, you can’t compete. Let me show you why.
For mobile games, events can run the gamut of shapes and sizes. From concerts to battles, independent challenges to guild-wide takedowns, the list of possibilities is just about never-ending. In today’s industry, if you don’t have events, you can’t compete.
By now, LiveOps is a household term. It’s the defining characteristic of today’s era of games, and it’s the underlying philosophy that’s pushing developers to look further into the future.
But you already know that.
You already know that the LiveOps mandate is simple: to excite and engage players through the long-term. You already know that LiveOps is rampant, effective, and required to keep your game alive. But we’re not here to talk about LiveOps as a whole. Today, we’re here to talk about one of its most lucrative elements: Events.
You’ve heard of the exclusive in-game concerts. You’ve played in a Christmas tournament or two. You’ve felt the surge of excitement from a limited-time challenge, and you’ve felt the pang of urgency to re-enter a game for a special — and fleeting — occasion.
For players and for developers, the allure of events is strong. It promises unique content and supercharged returns, and it threatens the one thing players despise most: missing out.
In today’s era of games, events are among the most critical — and profitable — tactics to deploy. But what can they look like? And what can their real, practical impact be — in quantifiable terms?
Today, we’re breaking it all down — so if you’re ready for a front-row seat to the madness, let’s dive in.
What Are In-Game Events?
For mobile games, events can run the gamut of shapes and sizes.
They can be server-wide and heavily-promoted, or they can be locality-specific and seemingly spontaneous. They can be related to an external holiday or season, relevant to everyone, or they can be driven by in-game storytelling.
But the definition of mobile game events is actually quite simple:
In-game events are any time-limited opportunity to play the game differently.
From concerts to battles, independent challenges to guild-wide takedowns, the list of possibilities is just about never-ending. To understand the vastness of options, let’s take a look at the five overarching categories for events:
Types of events:
4. Promotional Collaboration
5. Brand Collaboration
Since brand collaborations are not common, here’s an example of one of the more successful ones we’ve seen:
Genshin Impact goes all in on Christmas with KFC, the American fast food joint. It’s a two-week event which rewards every player — for buying an in-game bucket of fried chicken — with a red, white, and black KFC wing skin.
This type of collaboration is exclusive to Chinese players due to licensing agreements. Plus, not many other countries (save Japan) celebrate Christmas with a bucket of chicken.
If you want to know more on the history of KFC and Christmas, you can read all about it here. Because it’s just interesting.
While you take in those event categories, keep in mind that they’re not mutually exclusive.
One event can be Easter-themed and annually recurring, and it can feature the same non-gaming brand in every instance. Another event can be Christmas-themed and happen just once, in a crossover event with another title.
The point is, events can look like any number of things. The variability is massive — from game-to-game and even from season-to-season — reminding us that there’s infinite potential on the table.
And just like the overall LiveOps strategy events are apart of, an event — regardless of its traits — should be working with one primary objective in mind:
To further the engagement potential of its audience. To keep players coming back.
The final note I’ll make about what events are — and what they shouldn’t be — is this: they’re not an abstract pipe-dream. They shouldn’t be some fantasy vision of the hugest, greatest, most expensive framework you can think of — unless, of course, your game can pull it off.
What they should be is reflective of a game’s resources, its audience, and its goals. Events don’t need to be the most intricate setup or the most recognizable brand promotion to be successful; most of the time, they just need to feel authentic to the game.
So, whatever your game type, player composition, and wallet size, there are events that can work. But why am I so adamant about hitting that home? Why am I so steadfast in emphasizing that big or small, complicated or simple, events are crucial to have?
Because that’s the truth. In today’s industry, if you don’t have events, you can’t compete.
Now, I’ll show you why.
Examples of events
If we look at the past five years, our industry tells a story of event-oriented obsession. And for good reason: the event element of LiveOps has consistently earned titles extraordinary returns.
From hyper-casual to RPG games, North American to Japanese markets, the revenue accrued from events has spoken for itself. And games smart enough to be listening have doubled-down on the tactic — formulating new events, repeating old ones, and doing it all with an eye on player excitement.
In 2021, of the 100 top-grossing mobile game titles, 90% integrated seasonal events into their arsenal. In the same year, of the 100 top-grossing U.S. iOS titles, 40% leveraged the appeal of promotional collaboration events — welcoming more non-gaming brands into the gaming sphere than ever before.
One game used an event to increase revenues from $200k to $1.25M — in just over a day. Another game used an event to earn its highest revenue spike in a calendar year. A third game used an event to surpass $1M in daily revenue, and a fourth used its event to implement two new gachas and — you guessed it — drive revenues way up.
What are those games? What are their events? We’ll take a look at the breakdowns in a second, but before we do, here’s what I want to underscore:
Events create real opportunities for real revenue booms for real games…
…which is exactly why our industry is so taken with them. (And why you should be too.)
Here are the event types in practice
Now you know that events are more than just a baseless trend — and that they can look like a lot of different things. To paint you a clearer picture of that diversity, let’s break down some real-world examples.
While each of the following four events contains its own distinct set of frameworks and features, they all share one thing in common: their show-stopping success. From surges in engagement to massive uptakes in revenue, their diverse approaches have led them to idyllic common ground.
Let’s dive in.
Example #1 Genshin Impact
Genshin Impact ran a Seasonal Event called the Lantern Rite Event. The event is based on the Lunar New Year. This event provided players with original challenges, a new way to play the game, and a limited-time store with its own currency.
But the real sense of excitement was born from the event’s introduction of a brand new character — which was only available through an event-specific gacha.
A dramatic spike in revenue — reaching heights of over $1.2M a day.
Example #2 Sky: Children of the Light
In this event, Kizuna AI — a “virtual YouTuber” known for livestreaming — was integrated into the game in two different ways.
First, the artificial intelligence influencer played the game in one of her YouTube videos, applying her famous humor to the play experience (and exposing her audience to the title).
Second, the game incorporated a ‘Kizuna AI accessory set’ into the in-game event, selling it to interested players for $20 USD.
Though simple, the merging of two brands — and their audiences — incited substantial payoff over the course of the event.
The bottom line? Sales were hitting the $1M mark every day.
Example #3 Puzzle-RPG Gotoubun no Hanayome Itsutsugo-chan ha Pazuru wo Gotoubun Dekinai
To celebrate Hanami — or the National Cherry Blossom Festival — this anime-based puzzle RPG game went social.
Its first-time seasonal Hanami event incorporated teams into its gameplay, permitting up to 5 players to join together to earn daily event points.
Teams were able to communicate through a new chat function, and there were two event gachas — plus updates to the game’s IAPs.
The combination of the event framework (based around team earning) and the chat function (reminding players to join in) caused engagement to soar.
The result of that engagement? Monetized through event gachas and fresh IAP options, revenue skyrocketed — hitting its highest daily numbers in the first half of 2021.
So what does all this mean? It’s pretty clear:
Events create dramatic spikes in engagement.
A clear lane for earning potential that soars. When it comes to the value of events, the proof is right there in front of us — and whether you’re extracting that value from topical national holidays or well-known brand collaborations, the point is, the value is there to extract.
Smart games know that, and they’re acting accordingly. But the smartest games know that heightened revenue isn’t the only benefit they’re getting.
Let’s explore the effects happening behind the profitability.
The Event Impact
For many, securing higher revenue is the be-all and end-all of achievement. But that achievement doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it’s actually the result of two different channels of impact, both made possible in the first place by events.
Ready to break them down? Of course you are.
Impact #1: Attraction
Here’s the thing: if your game’s been around for some time (that is, if it’s not just entering the game landscape on the curtails of ramped-up, big-spending anticipation), then it’ll need some sort of centerpiece to inspire attention.
Sure, traditional promotions might work. You can try your luck at clever advertising, spending with abandon to get your title’s name out there on the streets. But the truth is, if you’re not pinpointing a specific time-limited reason for new players to play, then you’re not lighting a fire under their behinds to act.
Like I told you before, events work because they double down on players’ biggest fear. Missing out.
Their fleeting nature means that if players don’t buy in quickly, they’ll lose the opportunity to buy in at all. And what if all of their friends make it in time? What if their whole network — or better yet, the whole world — gets to derive never-to-be-had-again delight from the event they missed?
Events combine the excitement of freshness with the urgency of avoiding regret — and that’s an intense combination. Imagine this: you’re going about your day when…
- A friend tells you about a new weekly quest in a game they love that’s driving them crazy
- A post on social media gushes about the ruthlessness in a cross-game collaboration
- A presentation at an industry conference covers the absurdity of a non-gaming brand — like KFC — getting seasonally, surprisingly involved in a game’s universe
Whether you’ve already heard of the game or not, something about the event pulls you in. You feel the sparkle of intrigue, of attraction, and because you have a strict time frame for the opportunity — you’re more likely to act.
Smart games leverage that human instinct: the instinct we all have to not get left out. By offering events that are fresh, exciting, and temporary, they evoke a sense of exclusivity. And that attracts new players (and new engagement, and new earning potential) to the game.
Impact #2: Re-Engagement
Here’s a scenario most of us can identify with: you download a new title you’ve been excited to try. On Day 1 of playing, you’re totally immersed — everything is new and exciting, and you want in. So you return on D2 and D3, and then the first week soars by, and you’re still hooked.
It becomes D9 and then D15 and then D36… and something changes. You lose the pull of the freshness. The gameplay stays the same, you know what to expect, and the allure of other titles you haven’t yet tried gets louder and louder. So you switch. You leave the game — and as days pass, you forget about it altogether.
For the games that aren’t offering you a constant influx of freshness — of new ways to play the game — that scenario is a real threat. They might be engaging players at first, but when those players have seen all there is to see, they drop off.
Unless there’s something to pull them back in. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where events enter the picture.
While a strong game concept alone might not be enough to keep players coming back for months and years on end, doling out fresh events for them to sink their teeth into is. Why? Because it gives them that spark of energy — that need to return — in a way that regular gameplay can’t.
It’s no secret that retention in today’s era of games comes down to holding attention. You can’t hold attention with the same old — but when you incorporate exclusive, time-limited, special events into your offerings, players take notice. And they become invigorated to re-immerse themselves — and re-appreciate — your game.
The Reality of Making Events
Alright, so you get the significance of events. You can see why they have the reputation they have — because they bring predictable impact and predictable returns.
Whether heightened revenue or increased downloads, greater virality or rejuvenated engagement, events have a direct hand in generating traction. Understanding that potential is half of the battle. The other half comes down to equipping your game with the tools it needs to act on it.
While the implementation of events can seem daunting, expensive, or dizzyingly complicated, the right tool can circumnavigate those issues — giving you an entirely simplified, affordable, and manageable experience. But what does that kind of tool look like in practice?
Great question — let’s take a look at what it can do:
- Segment: Giving you the ability to separate players by shared traits (region, play history, purchase history, etc.), you’ll be able to understand which event types and features will land for each subset — and craft events accordingly.
- Target: Once your events have been crafted (with those segments in mind), you’ll be able to direct relevant events to relevant players — making selections based on location, climate, time-zone, and more.
- Edit: In the interest of evolving with your findings, you’ll have the ability to tweak an event’s content, change its media, and adjust its timers whenever you’d like to — entirely “over the air.”
- Schedule: From timing the entry and exit of each event to swapping schedules, changing run periods, and rescheduling past events, you’ll be able to plan your events calendar with ease — in advance and in the midst of things.
- Analyze: After each event has run its course, you’ll be able to assess its performance through metrics on participation, completion, and more — all displayed clearly for the sake of quick, detailed analysis.
- Save: After evaluating the performance of your events, you’ll have the ability to ‘save’ the templates that led to high returns for quicker re-implementation later — or you can, at any point, start an event from scratch.
All of that’s to say: the right events-oriented tool won’t just make your event implementing experience less stressful — it’ll actually make the events you create more meaningful for your audience. And where there’s meaning, there’s impact. (And where there’s impact, there are returns.)
Because remember: there are huge returns on the table.
And those returns can be yours.
But first, you’ve got to excite players with what you’re offering — through events that matter to them. Through events that intrigue them, surprise them, and get them talking.
And then, you’ve got to keep doing that — creating, integrating, and promoting events — for weeks, months, and years.
Because the implementation of events — just like the crafting of your LiveOps strategy as a whole — should be constantly evolving. It should be meeting your audience where they are today and looking ahead to where they’ll be tomorrow, and it should be doing all that while keeping its eye on industry trends. While keeping its finger on the pulse of what players want.
I’ll wrap this all up by saying: events are diverse, but their impact is singular.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.