Soft launching is an excellent test to your game, as it offers a more controlled environment for developers to get feedback at an early stage. So-called worldwide release in rehearsal it is the only way to save money and time in perspective.
Let’s escape from talks on how to conduct the soft launch campaign itself and find out what countries are better to choose. Your decision making should respond to the markets you are hoping to penetrate.
It’s well known among people involved in the sphere that Canada continues holding the leading position in soft launching in 2017 due to its play and monetization policies which set this country off from the US. But let’s investigate whether this tendency may change in 2018.
As suggested in the recent study set out to examine the effectiveness of soft launching in 20 the most popular and apt countries all gaming world can be divided into three big regions:
Europe, the Middle East, and Africa;
North America and Latin America;
The comparative analysis is based on the most important criteria for successful mobile app soft launching: cost per install (CPI) for different genres, device prevalence, revenue per user, a system of settlements.
The first region on the above-mentioned list which includes Europe, the Middle East, and Africa is the biggest and culturally diverse. Being number one to soft launch for the majority of developers it traditionally attracts more attention. The UK and the Nordic countries form the top markets, on the other hand, the big enterprises such as Rovio and Kabam tend to soft launch in Finland, Norway, and Sweden despite the high expenditure in terms of CPI.
For better comprehension of statistics, let’s define three main groups which all genres can be divided into. Trivia, card and dice, puzzle can be attributed to one category Casual, adventure, racing, and sports – Midcore, action, RPG, and strategy – Hardcore.
The second region includes North America and Latin America and is considered distinct for its big mobile game percentage in the whole video game market of the region. While it’s all clear with Canada, the leader in the soft launch market, let’s pay attention to Latin America which tends to be a prosperous member of world game business. Brazil should be highlighted here as becoming keen on testing new games.
The leading countries of the third reviewed region are China, Japan, and South Korea. South Asia has been showing a rapid growth, contributing to the whole region. Here we can’t but mention Hong Kong and Singapore with its continuously growing paying capacity.
iOS platform is the most popular in English-speaking countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. Other countries where iOS platform dominates are Norway and Sweden in Europe, and also Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand in Asia. Apart from this, Thailand is attractive enough in terms of price for one iOS install. But it might be a hasty decision to soft launch iOS game in Brazil, India, or China.
Average revenue per user is the most significant criteria applied by developers for the investigation of mobile market conditions and the entire estimation of game indexes. The income depends both on genre and country selection.
Japan holds the first position in revenue rate owing role-playing games. The second is given to China which used to be a weak market for a long time. But recent studies have shown an impressive change for last three years, and now China is regarded as perspective not only due to a big audience, but also its growing index of revenue per user.
Sometimes it happens that the country is suitable for soft-launching by many characteristics except one – low credit card penetration which leads to the inability to test game monetization thoroughly.
For example, China, India, and Indonesia hold half of the world’s adult population without any access to banks. Grading these countries due to online transactions through bank accounts first place can be given to Indonesia with 5 percent of bank accounts involved, and then goes the Philippines with 3.5 percent, and finally India with over 1 percent. All things considered, it’s better to scrutinize urban countries such as Singapore or Hong Kong if your aim is to test game monetization properly. Above mentioned countries have online transaction rate of 28 and 36 percent respectively.
Let’s have a look at a real case to see how all discussed criteria can be successfully applied.
An example case: We have a team of developers from Belarus; their aim is to release their first puzzle game for iOS and get into the market of the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.
Goal: Designing and organizing a soft launch campaign in an English-speaking country.
Result: Finland, Denmark, Singapore, or Hong Kong is the most suitable for testing a new puzzle game for this team. These countries suggest a high density of players and reasonable CPI index, allowing saving 40 percent of your budget in comparison with soft-launching in Canada.
Analysis of the case: The first requirement is an English-speaking audience. Besides, the prospective country should have iOS predominance, a suitable online system of settlements, and finally, satisfactory cost for install (CPI).
Starting with the first point, the Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, which form the first region, will be the most convenient. For instance, 85 percent of populations in Nordic countries speak English. Also, it leads in iOS device penetration (Denmark is globally accepted as the leader on the market) and credit card online transactions.
What concerns CPI, the cheapest are Finland and Denmark (US$1.17 and US$1.83, respectively), and their revenue per user equals US$25.97 in Finland and US$30.70 in Denmark, which are quite high for this region.
Some experts may disagree and claim that a lot of developers will vote for the Philippines. Apart from the fact that this country’s second official language is English and about 93 percent of people speak this language, there are far more advantages such as the cost of install (US$0.80 to US$1 for both iOS and Android) and a low cultural barrier. But there’re two significant obstacles that make you think twice. South Asia traditionally use more Android devices than iOS. The amount of iPhone or iPod users in Philippines, for example, is 20 percent, so it hampers the process of iOS game implementation. In addition to that, the Philippines is regarded as the country with low credit card penetration. Whether there’s a burning ambition to soft launch in Asia, Singapore, and Hong Kong are worth consideration. Both countries are computer literate, a lot of people use smartphones, tablets, and online payments. They are multinational countries, so there’s no need for localization. What is more, Singapore and Hong Kong use widely iOS devices, 46 percent in Singapore and 34 percent in Hong Kong. CPI of a casual game is about US$2 in Singapore with average revenue US$78,34 and the same game in Hong Kong will cost US2,5 for install with average revenue US$64,82. Above-mentioned characteristics and figures set these Asian countries apart from Nordic countries, which are less attractive in terms of income.
According to Maria Neviosa, who works as a senior marketing manager at Wargaming, the good way to plan soft launch is to search for all possible information about your competitors’ experience. To find out which countries they’ve launched and what outcome it’s produced you can use, for example, AppAnnie. But it becomes hard to take advantage of some developers’ experience as they may use different accounts for a testing period before the final release.
The following action you should take is to adapt content to different countries and optimize your game taking into account cultural traditions and peculiarities of regions. You can try A/B test to find the right approach, and test the content with services such as Split Metrics even before the worldwide release.
Whether your intention is to work up an English-speaking market, you should be aware of three traditional countries to soft launch – Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. But if you delve deeper you’ll see that they would be successfully diluted or even replaced by other countries offering budget prices and high level of English.
According to Yulian Efremov and Olga Panina working for Barrete Technology, you shouldn’t neglect the obvious things before you start a soft launching campaign. Let’s see what they suggest on this matter:
Consider properly social mechanics and implement them in your game;
Define metrics (tutorial completion, retention, etc.);
Work on the integration of deep links, retargeting, look-alike.
Set a Beta test for at least 1,000 players to fix the problems before soft launching, as it’s proved that users tend to quit the game within 1-3 levels;
Don’t hurry to release your game if it’s unfinished even though you missed the deadline. Remember that every fault may cost you a lot at this stage;
Widen your geographies when you think of your target audience.
But obviously that's not news to you, that the game industry will develop and expand even more, which is a big investment, and the Kapkan Games team will help you to realize all your desires.