iOS Pre-order Launches: a predictable pattern?

Pre-ordering is one of the top mobile app and gaming trends this year. Despite Google being the first to test this feature, Apple was the first to make pre-orders available to any developer.

Previously, release days were quite a leap of faith. After a preparation process, the app or game would go live with the art and metadata that the developer had initially thought best. However, it was impossible to be 100% certain that the main audience of the game or app would be targeted correctly. Any further changes made to the app or game after it had been released would be done via an update, however if the app or game could not support the new art and metadata combination then this would result in a decrease in both downloads and possibly revenue.

A pre-order period enables developers to be one step ahead of those possible modifications and obtain better launches with thousands of accumulated downloads during the first day. This not only means a great boost in terms of revenue, but also in rankings too. Bearing this in mind, what if we told you that there was a pattern that enables you to easily calculate how many weekly downloads you could get during the first month? Keep on scrolling!


The rule of the third and the decrease pattern


A couple of days prior to the launch, we will have a very close approximation of the total number of pre-orders that we will get on the big day. What if we could calculate the average number of downloads during the first month with just that number? What if we told you that there’s a hidden decrease pattern that will help you figure out how many downloads to expect? No, seriously, we haven’t gone completely nuts. Here at Lab Cave, we love to be one step ahead in the latest trends and we are experienced in the pre-orders field, which has given us the opportunity to investigate these new features before anyone else.

After studying the performance of nearly 40 games since the beginning of 2019, we have made an astonishing and unexpected discovery: the average number of installs during the first month and the total number of accumulated pre-orders are linked! The average number of installs is very close to a third of the total pre-orders.

This way, a game with 40,000 accumulated pre-orders will record an average of 13,000 weekly installations. Of course, this weekly split is not symmetrical, and we will see how the number changes each week.

As we have seen, a pre-order has 3 stages: preparation, pre-order, and launch. On launch day, all pre-orders will automatically turn into installs, which are then added to the other installs just because the game is live in the App Store.

When we first started studying the launch and focusing only on the first four weeks, we saw a very similar behavior in almost all of the games and apps regardless of how many pre-orders they had accumulated. They decreased at the same pace! As a matter of fact, the closer the average number of installs of a game was, the more similar the decrease pattern was.

With this in mind, we could establish the following rule: from the moment a game is launched until the end of the first week, the game’s sales will approximately increase 15% more than the number of accumulated pre-orders. This is the least stable percentage, since it seems to depend on the total amount of pre-orders: the more units that are accumulated, the bigger the increase.



It will all be downhill from this moment on: from the first week to the second, the number of installs will decrease by 94%; 22% from the second to the third week; and, lastly, from the third week to the fourth, just a slight 3%.



It is precisely during the third week when the decrease stabilizes and the number of weekly installs evolves into a more static pattern. 



The field of mobile gaming is one of the most ever-changing fields, but it will be one of the main economic drivers in the near future. At Lab Cave, we are on top of all the latest trends and can offer the best solutions for your games or apps. Got an idea? We’ve got a plan for you!


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