The global games market is becoming ever more competitive, with increasing numbers of developers, publishers, and games all competing for attention. But in such challenging market conditions, how can game creators make sure that their hard work and creativity is supported by a robust launch strategy?
To answer this question and more, the PocketGamer.biz team spoke with Jen Lui, Senior Product Manager at Google, who leads Google’s advertising solutions for games.
“What’s the saying - you only get one chance to make a first impression?” Lui said. “The same can be said for mobile game launches, particularly today. With mobile phones, everyone’s a gamer, pretty much anyone can play any game anywhere, and switching costs are pretty low - if you don’t like one game, you can move onto the next one just like that. Because you only get that one chance, it’s critical to have a strong launch strategy to set up your game for success and get a headstart towards driving installs and revenue within the first week or month after game launch.”
Develop your pre-launch strategy
A robust pre-launch strategy can help developers tap into the golden cohort of gaming - that group of initial installers who are more likely to spend money and help evangelise your game. These early players are highly engaged, and overall they tend to deliver a much higher return on ad spend (ROAS) than later users.
It’s important to ensure that your game is stable and that its gameplay mechanics and graphics are compelling enough for these early adopters. To help accomplish this, Lui recommends weaving the following tools and solutions into your pre-launch strategy:
The Firebase SDK gives you access to two particularly helpful features during the launch period:
- Firebase App Distribution makes it easy for you to distribute pre-release versions of your games to trusted testers and receive valuable feedback before a wider release.
- Firebase Crashlytics gives you insight into stability issues and bugs that could be degrading the app experience so that you can resolve them and ensure that players have a great, smooth first experience. Pre-launch reports also offer data on your game’s stability, performance, and more.
Google Play’s pre-registration feature and the complementary App campaigns for pre-registration solution help to build hype and capture early interest to get users excited about the upcoming game launch. It also helps generate installs and critical mass on day one in order to build up your user base quickly.
Test in diverse markets
Lui also highlighted the importance of testing your game in diverse markets to ensure that global feedback is being taken into consideration.
“Certain game mechanics, storylines, or characters might resonate in one market, but not another, and it’s helpful to know that before soft launching a game so you can adjust accordingly,” Lui shared. “In addition, localisation of the game is a key component. For example, it is helpful to plan ahead for language localisation for the game and ad creatives, particularly if a huge opportunity lies outside of English-speaking markets.”
To help developers determine which markets make sense for their game, Google offers a tool called Market Finder, which provides recommendations based on a few key areas of consideration such as:
- The business and revenue model of the game
- The type of audience a developer is looking for
- The language(s) the game is available in
- The level of flexibility the development team has in localizing the gameplay experience
- The region’s average revenue per user
- The region’s monthly active users
- The region’s cost per acquisition (this can vary depending on the type of game or gaming category)
Optimise your ad campaigns
Given that advertising is another key component of a successful launch, Lui described some ways for developers to optimise their ad campaigns.
“We talked about the Firebase SDK earlier, and specifically for user acquisition with Google App campaigns, we recommend developers install the Firebase SDK early on and make sure to use Google Analytics because it provides all the first-party data that you need to measure in-app events and understand player behaviour beyond the install.”
Google Analytics conversions also provide rich data for App campaigns’ machine learning algorithm to improve performance. For example, Google Analytics enables you to take advantage of features like target return on ad spend (tROAS) bidding in Google App campaigns. When you bid to target ROAS with a focus on in-app purchases, you can directly optimise the revenue earned from purchases, and dynamically pay more or less depending on how likely a player is to spend on items in your game.
In addition to the tROAS bid strategy that optimises towards in-app purchases, Lui discussed the new tROAS for ad revenue product that is now also available to help developers acquire high-value users who are more likely to engage with in-app ads.
“Over the last few years, we’ve started to see a shift in how games and apps are monetising, and we had a recent launch that’s really helping developers acquire a more diverse set of users that monetise not just from traditional in-app purchases (IAP), but also from in-app advertising (IAA),” Lui said.
Maximise your monetisation strategy
Lui also offered three pieces of advice for developers on maximizing their monetisation strategy outside the initial launch period:
- Setting up a holistic monetisation strategy that incorporates both ad revenue through AdMob and in-app purchases can help maximise a game’s revenue potential over the long term. According to the Google for Games 2022 Puzzle Mobile Genre Report, 73 percent of puzzle mobile players believe that in-game ads have a positive or neutral effect on their gameplay experience.
- Testing in-app ads on a segment of users or a specific market can help boost overall revenue. For example, Gungho first ran rewarded ads in select markets before implementing an in-app ads strategy into their match-three title, “Puzzles and Dragons,” which relied primarily on in-app purchases. The result was a 300 percent lift in ad revenue in their largest market.
- Enabling Firebase Remote Config allows you to personalise your game experience, optimise your ad strategy, and even test different monetisation strategies to increase revenue.
When it comes to the most valuable piece of advice for developers planning the launch of their next game, Lui was very clear:
“I’m going to go back to the first comment I made in our discussion today: you only get one chance to make a first impression. Since you only get one chance to make an impact when launching a new game, make sure that your first impression counts!”
To listen to the whole interview with Jen Lui, check out the PocketGamer.biz podcast.