Tips for launching a mobile game: Part 1, Soft launch

Original author: Warren Woodward, NEXON M
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In mobile games, soft launch is often crucial - especially now that app stores are oversaturated and have to invest a lot of money to attract users. Using soft launch, you can understand how well the game will be perceived by users in the event of a global launch, and approximately estimate the costs of its marketing.

However, soft launch can be a time consuming process - it’s not always clear what to do and what to avoid. Only in 2017 we had a soft launch in Nexon about a dozen games. In the process of trial and error, we realized that it is best suited for our games. We offer you some of our best practices.

What is soft launch?

Soft launch occurs before the official launch of the game around the world. The developers release the game in separate regions, similar to their target market, in order to ensure the success of a global launch. It can be regarded as training or testing.

Soft launch checklist

Define the main tasks.

It is important to understand that a soft launch is primarily a learning process. At this time, you give priority to speed and clean data as opposed to ROI, which you can focus on later during the global launch. Your main goal is to collect fast and clean data to make the right business decisions afterwards. This data will help you determine your betting strategy and map out the LTV game curve .

Select traffic sources

It is better to use from 3 to 5 sources of traffic with which you have already worked a lot, and they have proven their effectiveness. The purpose of traffic at this stage is to minimize fluctuations and get an idea of ​​the typical behavior of the user. Traffic sources with fraud or low quality settings will only distort the data.

Higher CPIs

Consider that at this stage you may have to pay higher CPIs . There are two reasons for this. First, you need to compensate for potentially weaker creatives with higher rates. Secondly, time is of the essence, and since you only have a few days or weeks on a soft launch, you may need higher rates to guarantee top positions in waterfall in the ad network.

Less targeting

Minimize soft launch targeting. Of course, you can target a segment of gamers, if you have a mobile game, but do not exclude too many audiences. Again, your task is to understand the behavior of an ordinary player.

Life motto

"Do not let the bad games!". Be honest with yourself about the improvements that really make between soft launch and the official release. Maintaining a mobile game is incredibly expensive. If you do not see prospects for a high LTV, then most likely you will not be able to compete with the top games of the UA to bring a large number of users cost-effectively.

The perfect creative strategy for soft launch

During the soft launch, the 3 + 3 rule is beneficial - use at least 3 unique promotional videos and 3 static concepts (they can double in both ads and in the endcard).

If you have your own creative team, give them at least 6 weeks to develop advertising creatives. If not, you can ask your ad network to help create them. Since this is only a soft launch, creatives should be simple and clear and focus primarily on the gameplay.

Three stages of soft launch

A typical soft launch consists of three stages.

Stage 1: Server Stability

At the first stage, your goal is to check the stability of the server. In other words, can your game fall? In order for the check to make sense, you must have about 1000 players. Do not use key markets for verification. For example, if your target market is the United States, you should stick to regions such as Southeast Asia, where you can cheaply check stability due to low CPIs.

Stage 2: Testing Retention

In the second stage, you check retention. Look at the first, the seventh and the 30th day retreats - how many users continue to play? Many companies spend this stage in the Nordic countries - there is similar to the US behavior in terms of retention, but the impact of the market is less. Thus, if the game still has serious problems, you do not jeopardize your target markets. 3-5 thousand users are a good base for this stage.

Stage 3: Monetization Testing

In the third and final stage, you will test the monetization strategy. How do your users interact with in-game economy and in-app purchases? Here the necessary base is 10 thousand players. This stage of soft launch makes sense to transfer to Canada or Australia, where players are most similar in behavior to the United States.

How to work with ad network during soft launch

There are a number of advantages in working with ad networks during soft launch. First, they can help build a launch strategy and achieve the right KPIs. Also, ad networks can develop creatives for free - share in advance an early version of the game with them so that the ads are in the spirit of your game. In addition, you can use the experience and data of the advertising network to predict which sources of supply are best for your game.


By the end of the soft launch, you should have enough data on the players' behavior so that you can make the necessary changes to the game before the official launch. In the second part, we will talk about the best practices of a global launch and about what to beware of when organizing it.

About the Author

Warren Woodward is director of UA at NEXON M, the largest mobile gaming company in Korea and one of the ten largest in the world in San Francisco. Their hits include games like DomiNations, Titanfall: Assault and Battlejack.

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