The second of two videos on the Soft Launch Process, TreasureHunt's Janos Perei takes a look at the Soft Launch Entry Gate and the critical components that are needed to make a soft launch successful.
My name is Janos, I’m working at TreasureHunt and I am responsible for marketing as the de facto Chief Marketing Officer.
The entry gate, when talking specifically about the soft launch, would be comprising a couple of building blocks. These building blocks based on the soft launches I was fortunate to participate in were the key common characteristics for soft launches that have succeeded, or the pain points where the soft launches might not have run successfully. We have identified that this was a key learning point if we would have invested a bit more time, a few more resources and maybe just a bit more thought into some of these, we would have been able to get a really
good result and a commercially successful product out in the market.
To start out with we will be looking at a couple of obvious pillars.The game needs to have a relatively polished state of look. You should definitely not be putting out a work in progress out on the market. Because, again, whenever you're out on the open market, you’re compared against the market itself, irrespective of whether you're out in a single market for a soft launch test market or if you are out globally. Technically, you need to meet the competitive bar.
The second pillar here would always be the key features. We need to make sure that you have all the key features implemented, so the game is full and enjoyable and the game is something that you would be able to rely on in terms of an experience for the player. If you have a really amazing game, really great graphics, but the game essentially ends after half an hour of playtime, then there's not much to measure. There is not much from a long term perspective for the player. Why would I return? Why would I keep playing the game?
My general rule of thumb is to have about seven days worth of content. I do know that there are a couple of people who have different ideas. The idea between seven days worth of content is that if a player is really engaged, kind of a core user, he would be able to play for seven days straight, at least. When we talk about an average user who has a couple of sessions a week, still enjoys the game, returns and is still relatively active – who might not be the prime user base – they would still have about two, three, maybe four weeks of content and enjoyment of the game, without you having to produce additional content.
The very moment we get into soft launch, we get into live operations, hat usually means that we really need to be fixing certain bugs, certain items that are the learnings from the product that you need to correct. Usually the impact is that the feature development side of the business and the development cycle is slowed down. If we already have the content prepared, we might not even need to ship them at once. Technically, you can also start by putting out three days worth of content and then holding back a little bit. Technically we need to have it ready to get started. Then when we have the content and the features in place, the next pillar would be making sure that we have the future, the prospective ideas on lockdown.
As a general rule of thumb, I would always recommend having about six months of production timeline on lockdown so we know that once we have successfully completed the soft launch, we have a commercially viable product. How do we make it a game as a service? How do we essentially extend the life cycle of the product? For that, it is really good to have, at least at design level, a lockdown on what we are planning to build. When talking about software engineering, it's not good to have the software engineers waiting around for somebody to design a feature.
Software engineering is usually the most costly resource in the whole production. This is a human resource intensive industry. Because of that, having these things on lockdown from the very beginning is really crucial and critical. This would be the founding four layers.
When taking a step forward from this, the next scale would be making sure that there
has been some initial testing. Play testing is pretty much an industry standard process inside
the gaming industry, also certain simulated scalability testing. There are tools and systems where you can simulate 100,000 concurrent users. Will we actually even be able to support it? If we are building a multiplayer game and it turns out that when we have more than a hundred people playing the game crashes, that's an inherent market blocker. Why would we start the soft launch? Why would we go public without being able to conclude that?
The next pillar would be all the support infrastructure that we've been talking about previously.
We have mentioned that there are user acquisition, user engagement and analytics tools. All these systems are usually the things that make the developers cry because it's very boring and unfortunately, I take inventory of that. Having said that, these tools and systems are required
because they will be the very foundations of a successful commercially viable product. Game design and game production is part art, part business, part engineering. Having said that, if engineering and art takes over then we're talking more about an art piece and not a viable product. Because of this, unfortunately, the square-headed business people need to come into the picture and we do need to have certain tools ready and available to us to make
sure that we are successfully working.
There are a number of marketing activities that essentially intertwine with the core product itself that needs to be done and also since we're talking about soft launch and testing, these need to be proven and tested beforehand. The worst thing that could happen is you quickly mock something up, put it out on the market and it completely doesn't resonate with the target audience. That would be kind of the final step.
The final two requirements that I'm usually one of the strongest advocate of trying to push for is the actual soft launch readiness. From our product as well as from the marketing side, I usually require that both of the teams have at least three tests prepared and that it's ready to go live the very moment we hit the go button. One of the things I have noticed, is that a couple of companies have failed some of their products because they were not sufficiently prepared for the soft launch. Like I said, through competitive benchmarking, through internal historical records, you can expect certain thresholds and you can expect certain issues to come up. For instance the typical first hurdle for a soft launch is ensuring that your day one retention is high enough.
From a marketing side, we can design two, three different layouts or sets of creatives that will talk to people that are essentially focusing on different features of the product. Likewise, when we get into the product we can design and A/B test multiple different tutorials. Let it be something really long and explanatory for more novice users, and maybe something short and compact for the very experienced players that are used to the basic UI and mechanics – or maybe something in between.