How to Soft Launch (GDC 2016)
This year at GDC I spoke about how to soft launch games. A deep dive into how Wooga looks at soft launches, and specifically what you can expect in terms of Cost, Learning and Growth.
Summary & Takeaways:
- Soft Launches have changed significantly
- Soft Launching in 2011 was much easier — especially because of the free traffic through facebook virality
- Soft Launches are more important than ever
- Wooga learned this the hard way with Agent Alice. You have to validate your LTV & CPI before launching if you want to launch with an effective marketing budget.
- Soft Launches aren’t cheap
- Futurama and Max Ammo’s costs were around $250,000 for 5 months of soft launch. This is user acquisition costs only.
- Wooga Soft launches now typically take 4-6 months, this is mainly to give time for both Validation (ensure LTV > CPI) and Growth (attempt to improve metrics before launch).
- You can use Low CPI Countries, but only to test, not to validate
- Don’t use the KPIs ( LTV, Retention ) in your Low CPI test markets to validate your game. Wooga has found that these KPIs change unpredictably from country to country. You can only predict a hit in your key markets (usually Sweden and Canada)
- Retention is more influenced by Marketing User Quality than Features
- Don’t just look at your day-to-day or week-to-week retention to see the impact of your changes. It’s very easy to inflate or deflate your retention profile by adjusting your marketing mix (what % of your users come from which acquisition source).
- The only way to see real impact of your changes in Soft Launch is to A/B test
- If you NEED to see the real impact of features you need to A/B test. But because Soft Launches have such low DAU, the time needed to get real results from this will drag your soft launch timeline out.
- Growth of Retention is SLOW
- We at Wooga typically see an average growth of our retention numbers by 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points per month (1d/3d/7d). So if your retention numbers are far off your target, its going to take a long time to get them up.
- Large Retention Jumps are usually improved with: Funnel Optimization, Tutorials and Difficulty Adjustments
- Large Retention jumps don’t typically happen, unless your game is fundamentally broken.
- The largest bumps in retention that Wooga has seen have come from 3 things:
- Funnel Optimization: looking for where users drop out
- Tutorials: optimizing and paring down the tutorial
- Difficulty Adjustments: looking for frustrations and smoothening progression
- Growth of Monetization can be done
- We at Wooga have seen that monetization can grow, especially during post-launch.
- So if you’re LTV CPI equation is not working only because of monetization, you can still grow monetization during post-launch
Soft Launches will not save your game.
If you don’t see strong metrics during Soft Launch, then don’t expect the Soft Launch to give you the clear learnings of how to fix and grow your game to be a hit. Costs are high, Learnings are difficult, and Growth is slow.