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...

How to get your game featured in the App Store

Apple recently launched a new Twitter account that’s completely dedicated to games! Yay! This is great for gamers, but, what about game developers? Well, one of the first things @AppStoreGames did was to shed some light on how you could have games featured in the App Store. They shared five areas where your game could stand out to get the attention of the Apple curation crew. These aren’t ground breaking, but they give you a better idea what their thought process is when they feature games in the App Store. These are 5 things that impact your chances at ‘featureship’. Why are games featured in the App Store Sometimes the simplest games can be the most profound. Take Leo’s Fortune, for example. http://t.co/i7xiv5zHq6 pic.twitter.com/cheSW5s8UC — App Store Games (@AppStoreGames) september 3, 2015 As DEVICE 6 taught us, the most stirring tales don’t always come from books and movies. http://t.co/9pJ38S0M5m pic.twitter.com/XCSH4aRtTE — App Store Games (@AppStoreGames) september 3, 2015  We love discovering music in games. Sword & Sworcery’s soundtrack is sublime. http://t.co/Q0wTWPzOND pic.twitter.com/LRyHgmzQIE — App Store Games (@AppStoreGames) september 3, 2015 The coolest art we’ve ever seen is in our favorite games. Just look at Monument Valley. http://t.co/I4OF5bysiN pic.twitter.com/2Gyr9jbXuB — App Store Games (@AppStoreGames) september 3, 2015 We love finding new ways to experience playing games, and that’s why we love Heads Up! http://t.co/crYGu7TixA pic.twitter.com/lCJoGjfzbf — App Store Games (@AppStoreGames) september 3, 2015   5 reasons why games are featured in the App Store Click To Tweet Because only a few games get featured, it’s really ahrd to hit the jackpot in the App Store. That’s why most developers rely on app...

What’s the best time to launch a game

No one wants to have their game blend into the mass of all the ‘other’ games. You want to avoid this, I get it. Because game development is such a complex endeavor though, sometimes unfortunate issues arise and delay the launch schedule for your game. To avoid getting caught up in time frames that may work subpar for the visibility of your game, the best remedy is to actually understand how the basics of the publishing periods work in the video game industry.   There are two best time to launch a game Basically, you have two different launch time frames when you may want to release your games. Beause the two are so differentiated they appeal to two very different visibility approaches. Luckily, this leaves you with two solid choices strategically. Do you want to actually… Ride the dragon, and launch when customers are more ready to spend? Big studios release during this period. Swim against the tide, and launch when customers may have other interesting recreational alternatives? Most big studios aren’t releasing games during this period.   #1 Ride the dragon The best way to understand this period is with a quote from the great article by Ulyana Chernyak at Gamasutra. “AAA Rush (September, October, November): When it comes to the AAA industry, September-November is the first major period for AAA releases. This is when we usually see annual series like Call of Duty or big name series like Grand Theft Auto or Mario released to the market.” This doesn’t have to be absolutely bad news for your ‘not so AAA’ game release. Look as if the glass...

7 Push Notifications Best Practices

Sending messages via push has become a business standard in mobile games. “Hey! Your pets miss you.” To which I reply: I don’t really care, don’t distract me with this messages again! *push notifications=switched off* This kind of messaging can be annoying most of the time, but it doesn’t have to be like this. There are proper ways to send the kind of messages players are craving for. Now, do you know how to do it the right way? It’s way easier than you probably think. The techniques I’ll share are based on common sense. Ultimately, what you have to be able to do is answer a simple question. Will this push notification be welcomed by the player? There are several things you have to keep in mind when you send messages to your increasingly harder to get players if you want them to become loyal players who genuinely enjoy playing your games.   Learn Push Notifications Best Practices   1- Good Push Must be Adaptable A message telling you that the “Air defense upgraded to level 3” might be not a pleasant way to wake you up in the middle of the night. So don’t do it. Whenever you can, give the player the ability to tell you if they want to receive push messages, and if they do, give them the power to easily control when the messages are delivered.     2- Good Push Matches your Needs Send them push that carry value for the player such as “Chief, our shield is about to run out!” to give them the heads up in case they want...

How to Make the Perfect Game Pitch (in 3 sentences or less)

Learn how to make a game pitch with Rami Ismail‘s presentation from GDC Europe 2014 held in Cologne. This text is a transcription of sorts of Rami’s presentation. He was very generous in letting us put his presentation into text. I hope this format suits people that are in a rush, or that prefer written to video. At the end is the source video of the actual talk, which is a 100% recommended view. Rami Ismail is the developer & business guy at Vlambeer. He also created presskit() & travels around the world to speak about game development and culture at events, schools and in emerging territories. This talk is about how to communicate ideas, thoughts or products. It’s about how to pitch your game.   Do you need any special skills to pitch right? You don’t need a degree for it and you don’t need a to be a gifted speaker. But you need to be able to figure out what you trying to say, practice that and then say it.   So, what is a pitch? It’s the most effective way to communicate a value proposition. It means you have something that will increase value for other people.   Ok, what is a value proposition? It’s a promise of value in any form, be it cultural, creative, intellectual or economical. All it matters is that it is value.   Why is pitching important? Because communicating properly is important, because communicating is important. It’s the most respectful way of offering a value proposition to somebody that hasn’t a lot of time.   To whom can I pitch? In...

Create your Push Notification Strategy

Earlier, I covered why it’s important to send good push notifications to your users and how to do it. Now you know how to craft valuable messages for gamers, it’s time to take a step forward and learn about how important the underlying notification strategy really is. Maybe you’re wondering: Why bother with push notifications? The answer is threefold. Having a push messaging strategy helps: to make the game experience more fun, to add another element to the game analysis, and to help you monetize your game Anyone can implement a winning strategy for push messaging. It just takes knowledge of your business and time to experience. Following, I’ll lead you along a ten step journey that will empower your video game communication strategy.   1- Design for Mobile from the Start Mobile design is a changing environment, constantly adapting new technologies. Getting it right the first time is rare, expect to have to test what works best for your game and to adapt to it.   2- Give what Gamers Want Every push notification must convey value to the user. The messages’ worth is determined by the users, not by what you wish them to hear you say. It won’t matter that your reach is astronomic when the messages are received with indifference. When push misses, so does your ability to leave players happy.   3- Message When the Time is Right Simply sending users the right content might not cut it. How annoying is it to get push at the wrong time? Imagine you’re at work and you start getting messages from events going on in your...