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APP STORE OPTIMIZATION · KAREN BISCOPINK · JULY 2015

Two App Marketing Strategies Learned from the Great Card Wars Comeback

In this post, we'll conduct a close-up investigation of update, pricing and in-app purchase strategies successfully employed by developers of the popular app Card Wars.

What We Learned from the Great Card Wars Comeback

One of the best perks at Sensor Tower HQ is, without a doubt, unlimited access to data for all of our favorite apps. Okay, so maybe we're a little nerdy... but our team is always using Sensor Tower's Enterprise solutions to reverse engineer launch strategies, revenue trends, and more.

Cartoon Network's Card Wars is one of my best-loved apps, so I'm always checking in on them to see how things are going. I discovered two strategies their mobile team is implementing to great success (read: huge spikes in downloads and consistent revenue). Come along with me on a data adventure!

Before we get started, you should know that Card Wars isn't a new app. In fact, it's been around since February 2014 so it's had plenty of time to build up some buzz in the reviews section. For the past several months, the iOS app has been averaging around 1,000 downloads per day. The United States has consistently been the app's biggest audience.

Because Card Wars has been around for so long, I was surprised to see it in the number five position on our Top and Trending Apps by Growth. Time to investigate!

Strategic Pricing Changes

Using our Update Timeline feature, I noticed that Card Wars has done three experiments with pricing:

  • August 2014 - For one week, the price was lowered from $3.99 to $0.99

  • May 2015 - For ten days, the app's price was lowered from $3.99 to $1.99.

  • July 2015 - For ten days, the app was made FREE.

Seeing this indicated to me that the Card Wars team uses temporary price reductions to prompt download bursts. And which of these three price reductions do you think was most successful? Let's take a look at what our Store Intelligence product has to say:

Mathemagical! See the spike to the right? That's what happened while the app was totally free. At the peak, Card Wars was grabbing well over 200,000 downloads per day - a pretty sizable increase from their 1k daily average in previous months.

Despite the massive price drop, revenue remained steady during this period, bolstered by in-app purchases from the pre-existing user base the app has been nurturing. So the Card Wars mobile marketing team managed to drive increased downloads via a major decrease in unit price, without taking a hit to their bank account.

It's very important to note that ad campaigns are a likely consideration here as well. Making sure that knowledge of any price reduction is widely distributed can be crucial to driving these downloads as well.

Regularly Refreshing Art Assets

Our Update Timeline revealed another fantastic strategy Card Wars has adopted, which includes consistent, well-timed changes to visual metadata. For example, the team has taken advantage of Halloweeen and the winter holidays to update icons and screenshots. They also add seasonally specific in-app purchases to drive additional revenue.

One month before the temporary pricing change, brand new characters were added in an "original adventure" and the icon received its most dramatic makeover yet. It now depicts the game's new heroine, Fionna.

We've seen lots of gaming apps adopting the branding refresh strategy to up their retention and engagement metrics. Another notable instance includes the app Subway Surfers. Gaze upon their update timeline and be amazed.

If you haven't incorporated a steady, frequent update cadence into your app's lifecycle, you may be losing valuable customers along the way. As demonstrated by Card Wars and Subway Surfers, relying on holidays and other global events as inspiration for your media assets, and even in-app purchases, is an easy way to keep things fresh!

As always, we'll go even more in-depth on this topic in coming weeks. Our data science team is investigating other major, paid apps that have dramatically reduced their initial purchase fee. We'll show you what types of results they saw, and how long those results lasted!


Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?


Karen Biscopink

Written by: Karen Biscopink, Head of Content

Date: July 2015

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