A soft launch is a valuable way to see how well your game performs before launching it for wider distribution. It allows you to isolate and optimize successful factors and problem areas strategically. Our friends at deltaDNA share their top tips for ensuring your soft launch is a resounding success.
Spoiler alert: it starts and ends with analytics.
Deciding on your soft-launch’s timeframe will vary slightly depending on resources and cost, however the ideal length is between two to three months. According to deltaDNA, soft launches more than a month long lead to a 20 percent increase in D1 retention and a 24 percent boost in In-App Purchases (IAP). However, there is also such a thing as too much time spent. Therefore, strategically consider the best use of time and focus initially on early retention such as D1, then look towards monetization and finally late retention. This sequence will ramp up the number of players considerably.
Don’t launch on bad metrics
It is always better to spend a few more weeks in soft launch to make sure your metrics are the best they can be. D1 and D7 are vital, so run multiple A/B test to test out different messaging and player segmentations. To help maximize the time you have available, look at testing specific messages for a couple of hours or days to see what their impact is. For larger-scale soft launches, test in-app purchase offers to see if they are ready for monetization.
Segment your players
The threshold of engagement for players is between boredom and anxiety. If they cross the threshold, it will cause them to leave the game. The tricky thing for developers is keeping each player segment within the threshold by personalizing and adapting the gameplay. For instance, novice players may be anxious and unsure about what they must do, and require additional support to keep them in the game. Expert players, on the other hand, can become bored as they race through the early levels, and will need to get to a stage where they feel challenged. Both types of player segments are playing the same game but require different player management. When you understand the different types of players, you can tailor messaging accordingly in order to create an enjoyable and engaging player experience no matter the skill level.
Onboarding is vital
There is a high correlation between initial onboarding and retention. It needs to be clear and engaging so that players stick around, and easy to follow so they know what to do to be successful in the game. Combining gamification with analytics and personalization can help create outstanding onboarding. Consider what the player’s initial experience will be like and incentivize the tutorial to help them to proceed to the first mission with ease and clarity. Key onboarding questions developers should ask are:
- Do players know what to do?
- Are they given clear direction?
- Have they achieved something early on?
- Are they equipped to play the game and succeed?
- If not, is there on-going support available to them?
You will know your game in-depth, so it will take extra effort on your part put yourself in the mindset of a novice player and ask if the tutorial is fun and engaging. Onboarding provides lots of opportunities to intervene with players and the right messaging can have a dramatic impact on retention.
Nearly 50 percent of players will leave gameplay because the difficulty level is not balanced, therefore it is best to err on the side of caution and make your game a little easier rather than too difficult. Use data mining to segment players for targeting such as number of missions completed, resource levels etc. If novice players are running low on resources, send gifts or provide opportunities to unlock the resources needed to complete the level. Create player segments that identify where players are content and progressing well, and where you need to intervene by tweaking the level difficulty. You can analyze and pinpoint player’s skills based on how successful they were completing levels and the time taken to complete them.
Similar to game difficulty, approximately 38 percent of players leave because there aren’t enough rewards. To help retain these players, offer incentivized rewards such as daily bonuses to give a sense of achievement. Additionally, some players return to repeat missions they enjoyed, even after completing the game, which leads to even more potential monetization opportunities and ways to incentivize these players. Send compelling personalized offers and rewards based on a player’s gameplay; for instance, weapons and ammo bundles for aggressive players in first person shooters, boosters for more strategic players, and health potions and extra lives to novice players.
In summary, focus on retention, especially in the first 60 seconds, as you can always monetize a fun game once you have them hooked. Make sure you create an environment that is fun for all players through segmentation, use a funnel tool to analyze progression and show which areas are acting as blockers and overlay best practice gamification and personalize strategy for each segment. Soft launch allows you to move on with confidence towards the full launch. However, once you have launched, don’t rest on your laurels, continue to tweak and adjust the game accordingly to retain current players and gain new ones. Test and test again!
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