3 Ways to soft launch your free-to-play game

You are putting too many features in your soft launch. Don’t worry, everyone else is too. But by doing so you are wasting time, spending money you don’t need to and jeopardising the long-term future of your game. Here’s why. What is the point of a soft launch? A soft launch exists to answer one question: Is this game good enough for a marketed launch? Perhaps at this point, it would be good to have some definitions. People use the phrase “soft launch” to cover a multitude of meanings. It might mean a technical test. It might be a minimum viable product. It might be a vertical slice. It might be a final “yep, we’re ready to go.” To my mind, the purpose of the soft launch is always to test. You want to use the soft launch to (in the word of Eric Ries, the founder of The Lean Startup movement), to get out of the building. To get your product (in our case, a game) into the hands of real players, using it in a normal circumstances (i.e. not in a moderated focus group), as soon as possible. I consider there to be three types of launch or test: A technical test – if you come from AAA development, you might call these a closed Beta, or even a closed Alpha. This launch tests if the technology works. It is particularly important for a game with significant online functionality, such a PvP game with matchmaking like Hearthstone or Clash of Clans. A commercial test – this is what is often thought of as a soft launch. The...