Soft Launch On Shoestring Budget? Here’s How!

With massive attendance and a hugely positive response to a program chock-full of themes and topics aimed to help indie developers seeking out a little inspiration and a lot of good advice, Pocket Gamer Connects in London last week was a great platform for me to deep-dive into the ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ around the best ways small developers can soft launch successfully — and on a small budget.

Why is soft launch a must for your game app?

The short answer (and hard truth) is simple: it’s the make or break time for your app. It’s also the phase where you can validate your app and double-check if your assumptions about who your target audience is, how they prefer to interact/engage with your app, and if they *really* like your app in the first place, are on track or missing the mark.
You want to know upfront where you stand and what effort you need to put into your global launch — and you want to avoid mistakes that can cause the momentum and revenues around your game reduce to a trickle.

iOSApps-AggregateMeanGraph

Successful games see a very different pattern. My own work and experience with some great game developers (marketing hundreds of casual and mid-core games) I’ve seen that these games go from good to great because the companies purposely used the soft launch stage to test, implement and measure improvements sure to move the needle.

Where should you soft launch?

It’s all about choosing key markets that will allow you to conclude with high certainty that your app covers all the bases to go global. To get you started, here’s a checklist (pulled from my PCG talk) highlighting the questions you need to ask before you make your move.

  • Does your market have an audience that has a high affinity with your particular game genre? (It makes no sense to target markets where users don’t play your kind of game. Space games aren’t so hot in Asia, where they excitement centers on fantasy fighting games — so do your homework.)
  • Is the market cost-efficient? (CPIs are rising through the roof, so check and monitor the prices to make sure you get the most for your money. For more tips on this topic check out my post over PocketGamer.biz for data and examples that show just how CPIs have shot into the stratosphere over, turning up the pressure on you to be precise.)
  • Is there a language fit? (You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that you probably can’t make your mark in a French-speaking marketing with an English language game.)
  • Finally, does your game match the OS and device requirements of the country you choose? (If you don’t know, then use market and business intelligence data from companies like Priori Data to find the answers.)

 

How should you soft launch and what is ‘best practice’?

This could be a blog on it’s own. In the meantime, let me distill all my learnings into three targets you need to keep top of mind in this critical phase of your app.
Begin by making it your goal to validate your app with a core audience group, one whose feedback really matters because the characteristics and demographics of this audience matches the audience segments you want to go after when you go global with your game. (Even better to get real feedback from real users!)

User feedback from users familiar with your game is like black gold, so let it power key improvement to your app so that you can be sure you produce an app with hit potential.
In the soft launch phase you also want to focus on validating the market potential. But you also want to be realistic about the number of users that really constitutes a statistically relevant sample, a group that will allow you to be prove or disprove what you think you know about your app and appeal.
For now, I’ll leave you with a ‘sample’ of the shocking data our Sample Size Calculator yielded (and which blew away the audience at PGC).
In order to validate a Day Retention of 36% with a margin error of +/- 5% (so 31-41%) and 95% confidence you only need…

355 Players

Yes, that’s right. Play around with the calculator HERE and get in touch. We like to look at promising games and give feedback.