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Four Important Soft Launch Metrics

What is a soft launch and how it relates to games? What analytics metrics to track on soft launch to make your game more successful and profitable.

A soft launch of a game is a relatively new concept. Just a decade ago no one thought of it. Developers could just make a game, release it to the market and then make updates. Developing a game didn’t cost that much money and they could afford to take a risk. Nowadays the situation has changed dramatically. Prices for making a game (developing, marketing, post production) have skyrocketed and developers now choose to take a safe route and produce fewer games but make them successful. They also more and more often decide to soft launch first and then release (or not) the game to the market depending on its results.

Soft launch in gamedev

Soft launch refers to the process of launching a game to a section of users on selected markets. It is usually limited to a small number of developed markets like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Singapore, Philippines (the latter two countries you can use to test Asian markets along with traditional markets with large English-speaking population).

It allows the development team to gather the actionable data, find bottlenecks and change the product based on real data to maximize the chance of marketing success. At the very least, developers and publishers can predict the future success of their new product.

Analytics metrics

To analyze the game you should keep track of metrics like retention, conversion, ARPU and ARPPU (check out this useful key metrics map). Their high values before the full launch predict the future success of your game.

Retention

Retention metric if your team’s primary growth focus. It is a measure of how many users return to your product in a certain number of days. Retention impacts many important metrics - LTV, engagement, number of active users and so on.

Day 0 retention (fraction of players who returned to your game within 24 hours after the installation). In successful games, it’s around 60-70%.

Day 1 retention. An average Day 1 retention in games is around 30%.

Day 7 retention (number of users returning to the project on exactly 7th day) after installation. In popular games, it’s around 20%.

Day 28 retention (number of users returning to the project on exactly 28th day).

These are standard periods, but you can calculate retention for any time span.

Make sure that you only use one method of calculating retention because different companies use different default methods. 

In order to improve retention you often need to put a lot of effort in optimizing the game’s quality and even introduce some drastic changes.

Conversion

Conversion is the measure of unique users that made the desired action like registering, clicking an ad banner or making a payment. The latter is called “paying conversion”.

To calculate it, you need to divide the total number of paying users by the total number of new users (for a certain period).

In order to improve your game’s financial future, you need to work on improving the conversion rate i.e. increase the number of players who make in-game purchases. You can divide all uses by various parameters, compare them and find the reasons for the users to pay or to avoid payments. For example, you can look at the behavior of people, who made a payment on the day of installation and people who made it after some time. You can also compare first-time payers and repeat payers. After doing that you may find some similar behavioral patterns and try to let non-payers follow the same route.

ARPU

Average Revenue Per User is the measure of the revenue generated by one player. To calculate it, you need to divide the total revenue by the total number of players (or for the sake of estimation and comparison you can do it for a certain period of time).

You can calculate ARPU for one day (ARPDAU) or for one month (ARPMAU, often used by subscription-based games) or for any period of time which you need.

After you calculate ARPU of your game, you can estimate the revenue of your project and if it is not satisfactory, you can work on improving it during the whole soft launch phase, 

You can also use ARPU to estimate the effect of the changes you make during the soft launch and analyze the traffic quality.

You can use other games ARPU numbers as a reference for the soft launch start but keep in mind that the values can be very different for different game genres. That’s why you need to find out ARPU of a game that is similar to yours.

ARPPU

Average Revenue Per Paying User is the measure of the revenue generated by one paying player (a player who made at least one purchase in your game). Almost always ARPU is much higher than ARPPU.

It’s a great metric for the projects with a large number of repeated payments as they do not increase the amount of paying users but still increase your revenue.

Analytics on the soft launch is crucial for the process of improving your game before the full launch. Only this way you can make it successful and profitable for years to come.

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