(Part 2) Soft launch: our key tips to succeed in launching a mobile game
In our first article, we explained the importance of a soft launch for the release of a mobile game: how to correctly identify goals and KPIs to track, define the budget and timeline, and ultimately optimize the store page to maximize conversions. This second article focuses on which countries to choose for your soft launch, depending on your objectives and the insight you want to obtain. In the third part, we will cover the analysis of KPIs during the soft launch and the decisions to be made accordingly.
Based on its experience with over 35 soft launches, including games like Supercell’s Everdale, Bandai Namco’s Tekken, Gnejoy’s Tuscany Villa, Jam City’s Cookie Jam, Sandsoft’s Rambo Strike Force, and more, Addict Mobile shares its advice for a successful soft launch.
Avoid audience burnout
The choice of the country for conducting a soft launch is crucial. It is recommended not to test the game in the country where you intend to officially market it. This is because the game is far from perfect in its initial stages. The goal is to avoid launching the game in the country or countries where the audience is most qualified.
If a large number of qualified users are acquired for a game that is not enjoyable, not engaging, or does not monetize well enough, these players will not be “profitable” and simply won’t return. Therefore, it is preferable to expose the game to these same audiences once the version is advanced on all fronts.
This approach helps avoid targeting the best geographical locations (those that monetize the best), which is more relevant to keep intact for the hard launch. Additionally, these locations monetize strongly with a large population, such as the United States, and to a lesser extent, the UK, France, or Germany.
However, there are exceptions where these high ARPU countries may be relevant to test the viability of monetization and the game’s economic model. For example, hyper-casual games that heavily depend on CPI and retention on Tier 1 geos, especially the USA, may conduct soft launches directly in the United States briefly to gather insights on the game’s quality and make quick decisions.
Your objectives will determine the target countries for your soft launch
The choice of target country will depend on your objectives.
- UX & resolution of bugs: countries with inexpensive users (low CPI).
- Retention: countries exhibiting similar behavior to your target audience. “Tier 1” countries.
- Acquisition: opt for a country close to your target audience to assess CPI/ROAS. However, if the goal is to observe targeting, creatives, etc., almost all countries will exhibit similar behavior (pay attention to language, see the explanation below).
- Monetization: countries exhibiting similar purchasing behavior (IAP) or eCPM (IAA) to your target audience. Top countries in terms of ARPU with a limited population.
Another important point to consider: the language of the game. If the game is only available in one language – usually English – you will need to consider two separate strategies.
1) If the game has minimal text or a simple gameplay: the language will have little effect and can be launched in almost any location.
2) If the game includes text or more complex mechanics: the language will have a significant impact. It will be necessary to choose a country with an affinity, either English-speaking or with a large population that speaks English.
Finally, if you are contemplating soft-launching your game on just one operating system, remember that KPIs can differ slightly from one OS to another. The iOS penetration rate in certain locations is also limited.
What about the OS?
There is also the issue of the OS. Should the soft launch be conducted on both OS or just one and which one?
As seen in the analysis below, app developers tend to prefer testing on Android or both OS, but rarely on iOS alone.
The reason is often related to the flexibility provided by Android in terms of production, allowing for faster updates to the game and thus being more responsive to the insights gained from the soft launch. However, most game developers work on both OS simultaneously.
It is worth noting that KPIs by OS can vary significantly, with acquisition costs, retention, and monetization generally being lower on Android. Conversely, iOS users are often highly engaged and represent a significant source of long-term revenue.
If we take the example of hyper-casual games, which is quite unique, the soft launch will typically focus on iOS to benchmark the game in terms of CPI, retention, and monetization.
What do big players do?
Addict Mobile compiled a list of countries chosen by the most anticipated games for their soft launch as of March 16, 2021, and then again on October 9, 2023.
It’s noteworthy that the top 4 countries chosen for a soft launch remain the same over the span of two and a half years.
Which countries should you prioritize for your soft launch?
Below, Addict Mobile, which has executed more than 35 soft launches in recent years, shares its tips on which country to use for your future soft launch.
Focus on UX & bugs
- Philippines: ideal for testing UX and bugs as the CPI rate is very low and the volume of users extremely high. This market should be avoided for monetization or retention.
- Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia: same principle as for the Philippines but slightly more expensive so it is better to opt for the Philippines.
Focus UA, retention and monetization
- Canada / Australia: traditionally, these are the top countries for soft launches, used to simulate the behavior of American users because they are English-speaking with a higher ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).
Addict Mobile recommends finding alternatives to these two countries because they are highly competitive and, therefore, expensive (as most developers launch their games there). Ideally, reserve them for the hard launch. Other countries may offer interesting opportunities:
- New Zealand: Same principle as for Canada and Australia, but more advisable. It is indeed a smaller and less competitive country.
- Sweden / Finland / Denmark (Nordic countries): Same logic as New Zealand. These are countries with a smaller population but high monetization. Addict Mobile favors New Zealand, but Sweden is a good alternative—unless the game is very text-heavy and not well-suited for Nordic languages
- The Netherlands: Addict Mobile strongly recommends this country. User behavior in the Netherlands strongly resembles that of “Tier 1” countries with a much lower CPI than Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. English is also more common, reducing the risk. Belgium is also an excellent alternative with low CPI and attractive ARPU rates for games using simple English.
- UK: The UK, like the US, represents a key target market for mobile games, so avoid testing it in a soft launch unless there are specific circumstances.
Finally, what about the United States, as mentioned earlier? This country generates over 50% of lifetime revenues for most games—it’s THE key country. However, conducting a soft launch in the US could deplete the audience with a non-optimal game. Nevertheless, it also provides the best benchmark for the game at every level: user acquisition, monetization, retention, and more. Therefore, some game developers are inclined to conduct tests in the US to gather tangible information. Most do so on limited volumes, always with the goal of not “burning” their audience.
In conclusion, it is important to define the strategy you will implement before launching campaigns to avoid the risk of missing the official launch of your game.
Do you need help launching your game? Feel free to contact us for further help with your launch strategies.
Author: Manuel Pacreau, User Acquisition Director @Addict Mobile
With more than 10 years of expertise in Mobile acquisition, Manuel has managed Addict Mobile Adops teams since 2016
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