Hitting that big, red ‘publish’ button can feel like the end of a long journey. But it’s also the start of another. To stand out in such a competitive market, you’ll need to be constantly monitoring, promoting, and improving your game.
We recently launched our GameDev Toolbox – our at-a-glance directory for partners and services that can help your game reach the peak of its potential. And it got us thinking about all the great games we’ve never played, or even heard of, because the developers simply sent it out into the market and put their feet up.
To help you make sure your game doesn’t suffer the same fate, here are eight tasks to place on your pre-launch to-do list – and the tools you’ll need in your kit.
Task 1: Use attribution tools to understand your players and your marketing
Attribution helps you to see who’s playing your game, how you attracted them to it, and which ones are making you the most money.
If you’re not using attribution tools
You’re essentially standing in a big room full of your players, saying “well, I don’t know how you all got here or what you’re doing, but I’m just glad you’re here”. This would be fine if you weren’t spending time and money to bring them to you, with no idea of which tactics are working and which aren’t.
Attribution helps you max out your marketing revenue and budget
Attribution gives you a somewhat Darwinian model for optimizing your marketing. When you can see what marketing channels are working well, you can use them more and further improve them over time. And the marketing channels that aren’t working well? You can either adapt them to overcome their weaknesses, or you can stop them altogether.
Either way, you make sure your marketing time and budget is going only towards the strategies that are proving themselves successful.
An attribution partner can put this all into practice and help you create new marketing ideas based on the results. Case studies can show some pretty spectacular outcomes – like dropping cost per install by 82%.
Where to start
That case study we just mentioned came from Adjust. They’re an integrated partner on our GameDev Toolbox, so you can get a special deal when you partner up with them.
Task 2: Use a Consent and Preference Management Platform (CPMP) for data privacy piece of mind
GDPR, CCPA – laws like these exist to make sure we’re being responsible with users’ data and privacy. If you’ve ever looked into the specifics of these laws, you’ll know they’re very complex – and falling foul of them can leave you with a hefty fine.
If you’re not using a CPMP
One of two things is happening: Either you’re risking a big fine (which can be up to $20m or 4% of your revenue) by not taking data privacy laws seriously, or you’re devoting a lot of time and effort to taking it seriously when it actually can be quite simple.
CPMPs cover everything in one place
A good choice management partner can give you a platform to collect, trace, and manage all your user consents. They’ll make sure you’re ticking all the right boxes for GDPR and CCPA and getting the best consent rate you can.
Data compliance isn’t just about avoiding those nasty fines. It’s also about building a high level of trust with your players – because that, if you lose it, can be very difficult to get back.
Where to start
Ogury Choice Manager is the only CPMP with over five years in the market. And they place an emphasis on getting the most out of your ad revenue, as well as data compliance. Another benefit? Ogury Choice Manager is free of charge, for life.
Task 3: Use mediation tools to get the most from your ad revenue
Ad mediation makes sure the ads appearing in your game are the ones that’ll make you the most revenue. Instead of taking all ads from the best performing ad networks (like the traditional waterfall system), weighted network mediation takes only the best performing ads from across all networks.
If you’re not using ad mediation tools
Well, firstly you’re spending a lot of time managing your ad networks. And secondly, you’re letting average-performing ads onto your game, while much better ads stand further back in the queue, shouting “hey, I can make you much more money than that guy!”
Weighted network mediation typically boosts your ad revenue by 40%
This is the benefit of making individual ads (rather than just ad networks) compete for access to your game. It all works automatically and a good mediation partner will give you a dashboard and reporting system that shows everything in action. They’ll use A/B testing and segment management to find your optimal monetization model.
This becomes especially valuable if you’re releasing your game in unfamiliar markets, like APAC.
Where to start
We recommend partnering up with TopOn. They’re the fastest-growing mediation platform and, crucially, they’re the undisputed market leader in China. So if you want your game to succeed in the world’s biggest gaming market, you’ll be in the best hands.
Task 4: Use analytics to see how your players are playing
Ahh, our specialist subject.
Your players give you a constant flood of useful data. Collecting that data is one thing – but to see it clearly, understand it and use it to make the right improvements, you’ll need analytics.
If you’re not using analytics tools
There’s probably a whole dimension of your game’s performance you’re not seeing. Where are players most engaged and where do they lose interest? Where are your difficulty levels spiking above or dipping below the exact curve you want? And even if you are collecting this data, you’ll need to slice and dice it into clear graphics that show exactly where you could improve.
Our analytics service is already top-notch – but it’s getting even better
Since you’re already on our website, you probably already know about our analytics platform. You know it’s free, that it comes with all the data-delving tools you could ever want and that we can scale from single games to large portfolios.
But we have some new toys for you to play with.
We’ve just released our A/B testing tool. We’re all in favor of a good hunch, but there’s no substitute for being scientific. Our A/B testing helps you create and manage tests, optimize on the fly, and put some solid data behind your next big idea.
We’ve also released our latest version of Benchmarks+ – the tool that serves up all the data you need to see exactly what’s happening in the global gaming market. We’ve added new filtering options (region, platform, and spenders), more metrics (D1-7, D14, session count, and playtime), and now even more quantiles (Top 2%, 3%, and 4%).
Where to start
Well, you’ve already come to the right place. If you want to see our analytics in action, you can play around with our free demo.
Task 5: Build a buzz with social and community channels
When we enjoy something, we want to talk about it with others. Players will build little communities around a game naturally. But they’ll build much quicker if you take the lead and make it easy for them.
If you’re not using social and community channels
Then you can almost totally rule outgrowing your game by ‘word of mouth’ factor. And you’re also relinquishing any kind of control you’d otherwise have over the online fan communities that spring up organically.
Shared content is very effective (and free) advertising
Pretty much any social media channel can be a good place to build a community – Discord, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit are the obvious choices, but there are plenty more. If you create pages and groups on these platforms and regularly post interesting content, players will congregate and share their own.
You can still take it a step further though. Partners like Megacool can give you SDKs for in-game features that create more clickable content – like GIFs, highlight recording and screenshot sharing.
And partners like Matchmade can match you up with social media influencers who can share your game’s content with huge audiences.
Where to start
Check out the case studies on the Megacool and Matchmade websites. They have some pretty impressive results – like ‘1.7x higher conversion rate to paying users compared to organic users’.
Task 6: Optimize your way to the top of the app stores
App Store Optimization (ASO) is pretty similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). An app store’s algorithm will look for specific things to decide how prominent your game will be in that store. ASO is about giving that algorithm everything it’s looking for.
If you’re not using ASO tools
You’re not speaking the language the app store algorithms want to hear. And your game’s not getting the exposure it deserves. Roughly half of all downloads come directly from app store browsing – dwarfing both word-of-mouth and marketing. If you get your ASO wrong, you could end up spending big on marketing to drive up your downloads, when some simple tweaks to your ASO would get far better results.
Standing out in the app stores starts a lucrative, virtuous cycle
The Google Play Store and the iOS App Store both have well over two million apps on their virtual shelves. In an e-jungle that big, even outstanding games can languish in obscurity.
App store algorithms look at pretty much all the information they can get to decide how they present your game – title, images, URL, reviews, keywords, downloads, ratings and plenty more.
Get your ASO right, and your downloads can grow exponentially. More visibility equals more downloads – and more downloads equals even more visibility. Partnering up with an expert ASO service can boost your downloads by 30%.
Where to start
We have plenty of ASO experts in the GameDev Toolbox. Some partners, like App Radar (the source for that 30% stat), focus specifically on ASO. Others, like AppAgent, offer ASO as part of a broader marketing service.
Task 7: Test, reiterate and experiment with creatives
Just because your game’s officially hit the e-shelves (or about to), doesn’t mean you should stop testing. Experimenting with different ads, monetization models, and gameplay features can give you valuable data and help you coax in new players more effectively. If you don’t have time to do this in-house, there are plenty of ad creatives who can help.
If you’re not testing, reiterating and experimenting
Any improvements you make to your game will be shots in the dark. If you haven’t tested them and gathered solid data to confirm they’ll work, you don’t know what effect they’ll have. You could even find your changes drop your revenue, rather than raising it.
Playable ads will help you test quickly and easily
Usually, your artist will work on your creative output, including your ads – which is fine. But with your game about to launch, you need to be really scientific with any changes you make. Maybe you want to try rewarded ads, extra mechanics, or new IAPs. Playable ads can help you run A/B tests to see exactly what results your changes are likely to bring.
With the right testing, reiterating, and experimenting, you can feel confident that any updates you make will achieve exactly what you’re hoping for.
Where to start
AppOnboard is a top platform for creating playable ads. It’s quick and simple because you don’t need to write any code yourself. They also have a partnership with Buildbox – a free game engine that, likewise, works without you needing to code anything yourself.
Task 8: Consider adding a competitive element with e-Sports
We’re competitive creatures, by nature. Allowing players to compete with one another in your game can give you a whole new way to develop and monetize it. 2020 has arguably been the single biggest year for e-Sports popularity – albeit mostly due to the sudden, total suspension of all real-life sports.
If you’re not using e-Sports
Your game could have huge potential you haven’t even explored yet. You might even be thinking your game isn’t well suited to competition. If so, rest assured that e-Sports games go way beyond FPS and driving games. Even solitaire games have e-Sports tournaments.
E-Sports can supercharge your game’s retention, session lengths, and revenue
You can turn your game into a competitive e-Sport fairly easily. Platforms like Skillz can give you a free SDK to get you started. You can organize head-to-head matches, tournaments, leaderboards, and live events. And any streamer can broadcast the action.
It’s a circular eco-system that drives players to engage more, gets your game more exposure and gets you extra revenue. There are lots of ways to optimize your e-Sport too. You can use rewarded ads, IAPs or even betting to open up new ways to monetize.
Skillz says their partners see averages of double the usual session lengths, four times the revenue and 24% higher retention after 30 days.
Where to start
Check out some of the case studies on the Skillz website.
Look on our GameDev Toolbox to learn more about all these tools
Well, that was a lot of words. And we’ve really only covered a few of the services you need to look out for. Our toolbox can connect you with plenty more top partners and services for all stages of game development.
We’ll have more tips and tricks coming out soon. So don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to stay in the loop 👇