Making a game is one thing. An impressive, creative and wonderful thing. But a game really comes to life when it is released to players. Being played is a game’s reason to be – and the vital step in starting to generate revenues that let your studio grow, or allow you to begin work on your next title.
As such, getting the release of a game right is about as important as it gets. And in today’s connected era where titles so commonly exist as live, maintained entities, releasing is now about a lot more than making it available for sale.
With all that in mind, we’ve built up a checklist of all the things you need to consider before releasing your games. It’s a list that considers quality, performance, marketing, monetisation and more. Bear in mind that many of these elements take time and planning, so start to think about your release strategy long before wrapping up development happens.
1. Test Everything
Certainly, testing should be about ensuring they meet a certain quality bar – and you are very likely already carefully considering how to test your game’s fundamental performance and user experience. But testing doesn’t stop with squashing bugs. Consider that you can test how players feel the art style works as a compliment to the genre. It can be extremely helpful to test how the theme lands with players, or how subtly different themes connect with and engage your target audience.
It can be extremely helpful to ‘test’ your game against other success stories in the same genre of category by deconstructing those titles and seeing how they compare – so analyse their mechanical design, theming, monetization and release. You can even test your testing; feedback testing will let you understand why players have offered the insight they have. Testing is ultimately a mindset that can be applied to almost any element of your game.
2. Know Your Metrics – and Competitors
If you are to gauge the performance and impact of your game on release, you need a standard to compare it to. Before your release, analyse key performance indicators from a range of games that share the same genre, theme or even monetization model – these will let you understand what ‘success’ looks like. You should certainly check out our guide to hyper-casual metrics if you are working in that space – and it provides insight into the broad process as applied to any genre. Also consider your capacity and budget for promoting and servicing the game as part of that process.
Your studio and EA might have both made a football game, for example, but if they have scale and resources you don’t, a comparison of revenues and marketing strategy might not be meaningful. If you can find similar games by studios of a comparable size, they will offer far more relevant metrics. If those studios appear to be competitors, research how they have released and promoted a game. Our recently launched mobile intelligence platform GameIntel offers a remarkably impactful means to understand your metrics, rivals, the market around you, and much more besides.
3. Pick the Right Monetization Model
The golden rule of successfully matching monetization and gameplay is to build your chosen monetisation model into your game design from the start – perhaps at the earliest prototypes or documentation. Your monetization model’s depth of integration may be key to your success.
It may be wise to resist grand changes, but constantly consider how complementary the match is as you continue to develop your game, and keep an eye on evolutions and developments in monetization. If you’ve opted for an ad-based free-to-play model, for example, and later realise you want to integrate ads contextually into the game world rather than have video ads run, have that thoroughly implemented and tested before release day dawns.
4. Get Your Marketing in Place
You’ll want press or influencer coverage around the release date of your games (because both those groups tend to prefer covering recent and new releases) – meaning you’ll need to get marketing materials ready in advance. Screenshots, gameplay videos, dev blogs, gifs, video and banner ads, store page details and studio profile copy all works here. For a reliable example of what assets and content you need to offer press, influencers and others, we’ve penned a thorough guide to getting your ‘press kit’ right.
You can also build a schedule in advance for social media campaigns. Simply put, different audiences are attracted to different content, so get a broad range out there – video content, written content, social media and so on.
5. Backend Matters
If you have any kind of multiplayer, leaderboards or other online elements, you need a robust backend. You also want to have everything in place for complaints and bug reporting, and be sure that when the time for updates and additional content comes, your backend will be up to the job. The brave can try building their own, but it will likely be better to consider how to pick the right option from backends provided as services
- If you are releasing in multiple countries, make sure you understand the legal requirements and app store processes for each nation.
- Create a plan for testing the game regularly when live. Monitor how the price of in-app purchase items are impacting sales, and how content updates succeed or fail.
- Test your tutorial with players that are not familiar with your game, and make sure it not only makes sense, but gets players to a point where they stay with your game after the handholding ends. With so many games for players to choose from, smooth onboarding can be make-or-break in terms of your success.
- Make your game as accessible as possible to as many players as possible. Supporting those with visual impairment or hearing limitations can bring in a sizable new audience. And games should be for everyone!
- Have in place a clear roadmap (a plan) for the months and years following release. When will you deliver updates, add content or even release the sequel?
- Make sure all the written copy in your game has been thoroughly edited and proofread for errors. Do that twice if you can. Try to avoid proofing and editing your own copy – a ‘second pair of eyes’ will almost always pick up stuff you won’t.
- Check your calendar. You may want to avoid releasing your game on the same day as any major title – even far from your own genre or platform – so as to not be overshadowed in terms of what gets attention. The same can be true of releasing amidst the news storm of E3 or GDC.
That covers the fundamentals, and you can find plenty more specific insight across our blog. If your release is far away, keep this list in mind so you can refer to it when needed.
And we’ll give GameIntel one more nod here. It can help with a range of the strategies listed above, and particularly with building metrics, understanding rival games, analysing mobile gaming trends and changing user preferences. It even offers tremendous power as an ideation tool. GameIntel is available via a range of generous payment plans, keeping it accessible and powerful for developers of every kind.