The golden days of publishing a mobile game then sitting back and waiting for installs are long gone. You might be convinced that you've got a killer game on your hands, but that's no longer enough to achieve runaway success across global app stores.
There are no guarantees in this highly competitive industry. You'll need a high probability of success before validating a project with your audience. That's why in recent times we've been hearing a lot about soft launches.
A soft launch is when a developer or publisher launches a prototype app into a small sample test market, prior to a full launch across a wider primary target market. The key objective is to predict what will happen when your game officially launches.
A successful soft launch will inform whether or not a game will generate significant revenues, traction and acceptance. Soft launch data is also useful if you're courting the financial and marketing support of publishers, as developers can use it to demonstrate probability for success. So, after working with thousands of mobile game and app developers at Tappx, the advantages of a soft launch are very evident.
1. Product validation
One of the main reasons for conducting a soft launch is to ensure your game will have a successful reception upon full launch. But sometimes companies forget about their baseline, i.e the assurance that a game works effectively.
So, first and foremost, product validation involves the identification of game crashes and bugs. It's also important to check the performance not only for your game, but its user Interface, in-app features or any third-party integration. Gathering this vital information gives you an optimal gauge of the scalability and stability of your project.
Product validation also links to a behavioural layer, i.e. how well an audience engages with your game. It's an opportunity to collect quality feedback from real users discussing the high and low points of a game. By analysing audience reactions, developers can draw a better picture of ideal target users. This will have a direct impact on your chosen monetisation model. A soft launch will greatly inform where to invest marketing budget when it comes to a full hard launch.
2. Tune your monetisation model
Whatever your monetisation model, you don't need a large audience in order to test how users engaged with the economics of a mobile game.
The central idea is to determine the effectiveness of the chosen model, i.e. how long does it take for users to turn into paying customers, what the ARPU data is, what are their lifetime values, how the monetisation model affects retention rates, or testing different mobile ad formats if you are using mobile game advertising. This ensures that you will generate as much business revenue as possible, without affecting user behaviour or retention.
3. Test different acquisition channels
A soft launch allows you balance and allocate your user acquisition investment, i.e. it provides intelligence on the best place to fish for the best users at a lower price, and the best marketing messages to engage prospective targets.
Don't forget to check that your page store is completely ASO optimised. It's important to gather reviews and ratings, so when you're launching into your primary target market, you will be best positioned to encourage and persuade users to download your game.
Don't worry if your plans go upside down - it's quite common for well respected companies to abandon projects due to poor performance during a soft launch.
Don't be frightened; manage your expenses assuming there's a risk of failure. The important thing is that a effective soft launch provides you with a golden opportunity to "fail better", as Samuel Beckett once said.