How to soft launch a game on mobile in 2022

Google Play business development manager Nimrod Levy walked through the various steps involved from internal testing to pre-registration

How to soft launch a game on mobile in 2022

Soft launching a game can be a very long process and some games don’t ever make it to app stores at all.

Speaking at the Google x Deconstructor of Fun Istanbul Gaming Event, Google Play business development manager Nimrod Levy compared the traditional pre-launch strategy with how it seems to have evolved today.

Any new game launch on Google Play starts with a pre launch which is the phase that happens before the global launch. This is the time to test and optimise your game.

"Developers are testing earlier and for a longer time and they are focusing on the long term metrics. Before, developers used to focus on early retention and monetisation and going straight to launch. Now they are taking their time, thinking, and making sure that they don’t make any mistakes."

Focus on long-term metrics

Games are also being tested more broadly from the market standpoint, such as countries, and also for the devices, as Android spans across many devices.

Furthermore, games are being externally tested for a longer duration. From what was traditionally between a two to three month testing period has now increased to five to seven months. This can be seen from games such as Everdale from Supercell, which has been in soft launch since it launched last August.

Levy walked through the pre-launch process on Google Play and explained how it moves gradually from one phase to another, each with different capabilities.

Internal Testing

  • Can distribute APK to 100 users in "minutes versus hours"
  • Usually a short process that allows QA teams to assess and evaluate the games
  • Allows leveraging of Google Play features, such as Android app bundles and play in-app products

Closed Beta

  • "Extremely popular for big developers and developers with IP."
  • Allows up to 100,000 users to be invited, such as via email, to play privately
  • Developers typically spend a longer time on this stage to get more feedback and private feedback can be received after the full launch of games

Open Beta

  • The stage where developers stay in for the longest time
  • Games are publicly discoverable (e.g. Flash Party from X.D. Entertainment
  • Won’t be featured in any collections unless requested to be part of 'open beta' collection
  • Will be labelled as 'unreleased'
  • A track with "safeguards" - no public reviews or public ratings
  • Developers can cap the number of instals

Levy noted that developers often leave this phase too early and this can lead games receiving premature poor reviews as some issues, such as bugs, have not yet been addressed but the game is available to review. He stated that poor reviews are a signal to Google Play that it is a "low quality game" and this will cause "some organic issues".

Production testing

  • The traditional public testing phase - used to be used for the longest time, but now many have switched to open beta
  • Used one to two months before the global launch to pick a few main markets to test in
  • Reviews and ratings are public in this stage so Levy advised to make sure that the game is "ready enough"
  • Popular for late stage testing, such as monetisation
  • Allows understanding of how users are playing the game in a more natural way

Pre-registration phase

  • Not a testing track but is an option that is mostly seen with developers with big IP or in APAC region
  • More and more features being added, such as 'auto-instal' that automatically downloads the game onto users devices once live
  • Developers can see the number of pre-registered users
  • Often used to provide community with milestone rewards ("gifting the users back")
  • Combining with Google Play Instant allows users to understand the game before registering

Levy has stated that although effective this stage can also be risky. For example, you could get "stuck" with thousands of users that aren’t happy with the game and cause low reviews and ratings. Levy suggests that developers need to be "extremely ready and sure" that the game is the "one that you are expecting" it to be.

You can check out some of our most anticipated mobile games currently in soft launch here, such as Everdale, Tomb Raider Reloaded, Apex Legends, and more.

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