Soft launch: our key tips to succeed in launching a mobile game (part 3)
In our previous two articles (part 1 and part 2), we talked about the key points to follow during a mobile game soft launch. In this third and final part, we will go into detail, analyzing all the KPIs, their corresponding action plan and the decisions to be taken to ensure the soft launch is a success.
KPI Analysis & Action Plan
What KPIs should be monitored?
During a soft launch, it is important to have a clear strategy, and in particular to implement the marketing actions that will serve to monitor the changes in the KPIs of interest to us.
The KPIs to monitor were set out in part 2 and are often similar to most games: retention, DAU, ARPU, ARPPU, buyer rate, CPI, ROAS, etc.
We can identify 2 types of KPI:
– Inherent to the quality or the drawing power of the game: DAU, retention, CPI
– Inherent to monetization: ARPU, ARPPU, buyer rate, ROAS
It should be noted that the KPI “1” are essential to the success of a game and KPI “2” can only be worked on if the game is attractive, and if it is possible to acquire a high volume of players at a controlled CPI.
The reverse is not true, as you can have the best monetization possible, via IAP or IAA, if the players rapidly “churn”, but if it is difficult to generate a lot of users through User Acquisition, if will be difficult to generate revenue.
Consequently, it is essential to work on the game and thus on retention, and User Experience, before focusing on optimizing the monetization. It is much simpler to work on the monetization mechanisms than the game design or core gameplay of a game.
3 key KPIs
This is the 1st indicator to monitor before moving on to the rest. The retention objectives will vary, depending on the type of game and monetization.
It is therefore important to set the D1, D7 and D30 retention objectives to be reached. Take care to be realistic about the objectives, as we often see excessive ambitions. It should also be noted that D1 retention is, very broadly, the reflection of D7 and D30 retention, thus actions can be taken very quickly to optimize these KPIs, even before having long-term data.
When we analyze retention, this must clearly be monitored by OS, country, acquisition source, organic, etc., and above all see how this changes with every game update.
It is also useful to adapt your acquisition strategy in accordance with this objective. There is no point seeking high value users if the game retention at D1 is < 15%. The challenge here is in improving player interest in-game before inciting them to purchase.
Another important KPI: the acquisition cost of a user and the potential volume at a reasonable cost. Even if the CPI is not an end in itself, it is a not insignificant proxy for gauging future high-volume acquisition campaigns during the hard launch.
If it is already difficult to acquire initial users during the soft launch, who are the cheapest users, the hard launch will then be very complicated as you will have to seek even more volume.
It is possible the creatives, game style, and showcasing method are not suitable. Consequently, this requires a thought process on the acquisition strategy and work on all these elements:
– Test different sources to benchmark, in particular Facebook vs. Google. Facebook is essential thanks to its targeting capacity and the granularity of the data available.
– Focus mainly on Android following the limits imposed by iOS 14.5 since April 2021. Android will allow you to have more detailed insights
– Test different geographies to see if certain cultural specifics generate performance differences
– Have a suitable creative strategy in order to analyze what attracts players:
. Showcase different game features
. Gameplay VS. trailer
. What are the pleasing graphic elements (characters, world, etc.)
The soft launch therefore allows not only for shedding light on player behavior and thus on the game, but also for refining the UA strategy in order to maximize the budgets invested.
Once the retention data is solid and the monetization is in place, you can work on the latter.
IAA (In-App Ads)
Let’s start with the games based on monetization through advertising. To maximize the IAA, you will need to work on the following points:
– Define the ad display: frequency per user/session, integration into UX, etc.
– Negotiate with the companies supplying the advertising
– Establish an optimal waterfall
– Optimize its eCPM, floor price, fill rate, etc.
Unlike IAP, IAA is simpler to manage. In fact, the success of a game under IAA mainly resides in its retention and its ability to generate a high user volume at a low CPI. The monetization stems from this.
IAP (In-App Purchases)
The challenge here is in best integrating in-app purchases into the UX in order to incite players to pay.
The KPI to check is the ARPU, which is the result of the ARPPU and the buyer rate. Addict Mobile has seen that the indicator to work on was the buyer rate, as it is this that allows for highly influencing the ARPU and thus revenue from the game. In fact, at a high volume, the user ARPPU is stable (with a constant scope), and what is important is the game’s ability to generate buyers. Exceeding a buyer rate of 8-10% will make a huge difference to high volumes.
In order to work on the ARPU, you must be methodical:
– Set clear objectives and a guideline
– Adapt your acquisition strategy according to the users to capture (OS, country, optimization on installation or purchase, targeting, etc.)
– Compare the comparable. For example: do not compare data from a campaign optimized for installation to one optimized for purchase
– Compare the organic vs. acquisition data: organic data allows for observing “natural” user behavior, without any interfering element: as a creative, targeting or algorithm would seek out a specific user
State the monetization and watch the development of the figures, and see which concrete elements of the game or offer allow for improving the results. To do this, avoid testing a lot of changes at the same time, as it will be harder to consider which modification generated a positive or negative impact.
Important: all too often, acquisition campaigns are called into question when the game doesn’t deliver satisfactory figures (ARPU, retention, etc.). However, the UA teams can’t work miracles if the game does not please players or does not monetize well.
Tips: benchmark the organic vs. acquisition data to see if the subject comes from the marketing or the product
Make hard decisions
The soft launch and its success will depend on the game, the strategy implemented and the reactivity of the teams in iterating, testing, and restarting.
Nevertheless, you must be able to make major decisions, as a soft launch delivers the truth about the game and allows for assessing its long-term potential and viability.
A soft launch duration depends on the financial capacities, human resources, and ambitions of each studio. Nevertheless, you must be able to make hard decisions, which could be:
Starting the Hard Launch (worldwide launch)
It is not possible to create a perfect game. However, when the game delivers satisfactory indicators, the UX is meticulous, the monetization is ready and the UA tested, it is preferable to move to the Hard Launch in order to reach a global audience.
The advantage of a mobile game is that the game will continue to be optimized, worked on, with new content, etc., thus the hard launch is not an end in itself.
And above all, this will allow for starting to really generate revenue and support the development of the game/studio.
Continue the Soft Launch
A soft launch is often planned for a limited duration as the revenue is low before the hard launch and thus this generates a major cost for the studio.
Nevertheless, it is not recommended launching a game for which the KPIs are too limited. In fact, the initial users acquired during the hard launch will be the most profitable. However, if the game is not sufficiently worked on or the monetization is failing, there will be a huge gap to make up.
In this case, it is preferable to extend the soft launch for a few weeks or months, depending on the studio’s financial capacity, in order to refine all this.
Kill the game
The production of a game very often generates high development costs. However, during the soft launch, little revenue is generated, thus the cost balance increases. And the longer this lasts, the bigger the hole created before the hard launch.
However, if after several iterations, the game is far from the KPIs counted on, and the estimated revenue is low despite all the efforts already made, it is preferable to kill the game rather than continuing to develop it. In fact, you want to avoid continuing to dig the hole deeper, but rather limit the financial damage, as continuing the development of a game that does not demonstrate potential is counterproductive.
This is a difficult decision, as a lot of time, energy, and love have already been expended, but it is often more opportune to start on a new project and learn from the failures, which are frequent in the world of mobile games.