Launching Them Softly
Before launching a game, developers have a wide range of questions from monetization strategies to tuning game loops. Outside of family and friends, it’s often difficult to find unbiased criticism. Soft launching in small territories that reflect core audience characteristics can be a great way to get honest and impartial feedback.
A soft launch is when a game is released to an exclusive market before it’s showcased to a global audience. Soft launch countries are selected because they are smaller in size but still provide similarities in monetization, time zone, and in-game behaviors, allowing developers to tune and optimize the overall experience.
If you decide to soft launch, choose the goal. Do you want insight on tutorial experience? Retention rates? Backend stability? Whatever it may be, it is crucial to maintain the scope of the test by determining your own set of metrics that you can track to assess the results.
It’s worth keeping in mind, since the game is not in the primary market, factors such as cultural sensitivity can differ from expectations. Findings from a soft launch should be not be considered absolute, as it may not be a complete representation of what you will see in the global launch. However, it can provide valuable guidance for your full launch strategy.
Figures from December 2013
Soft launching has become common practice in the mobile gaming industry. Polygon revealed that PopCap soft launched Plants vs. Zombies 2 in New Zealand and Australia for a month to assess different cloud functions. TouchArcade also found that NimbleBit and Disney tested Tiny Death Star in Australia for over a month prior to its worldwide release. Countries like Australia and New Zealand have become increasingly competitive due to the high demand. As the graph above shows, higher demand in popular countries has pushed the costs above $1.50, reaching almost $3.00 on campaigns targeting iPad.
We did some analysis to find alternative markets that you could consider for your soft launch. They include some surprising countries such as Jordan, Malaysia, Philippines and Pakistan that provide for a good number of installs and have manageable costs below $1.00 per install. While these countries may not provide the same monetization and time zone behaviors, the gamers are familiar with the English language and will allow you to gain insight to specific facets within your title, such as: tutorial funnels, game loops, and virtual economy balancing.
Soft launching your title provides an opportunity to test hypotheses and to calibrate different elements of the game before showcasing your game to a broader audience. With that in mind, we are excited to see all of the new titles that will be launching this year. Be sure to to refer to our Insights Page for the most recent CPIs around the world including your next soft launch destination!
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