Soft launch means to test the game outside the building, i.e. to get it into the hands of real players and evaluating their experience under normal circumstances.
It is essentially a process, not a simple stage of testing. It gives you that very important first chance to collect feedback about your game at scale and be able to change the trajectory of game accordingly.
It might take few weeks to collect data and make sense out of it. But the end results are worth the wait. Some features which initially seemed important to you might move down the priority list while some other elements prove to be vital that you did not consider earlier. Even the hard launch of the game may get rescheduled.
And that is exactly the whole point.
Soft launch can completely change your perception about the game. It tells you whether your game is up to the market or not. And what more you need to make it a great success.
The two types of soft launch
- The Commercial Test
The most commonly known version of a soft launch is called a commercial test. This focuses on the usability – first time experience of the user, their retention, task completion rate, and above all the monetary benefits of the game. Essentially it would help you understand the worth of the game. How much maximum amount of marketing resources/efforts you should invest in the title which can be justified either in the form of revenue or through the lifetime value of your users.
One common mistake that many developers make while carrying out these tests is to add the laundry features into the game before the soft launch. For example, Daily rewards, social share options and free gifts. These are retention techniques that everyone wants to add in their game. But by having these features in the initial test you might not be able to understand the actual strength of the core game to retain the user interest.
Unless such a feature is new to the industry or your game is multiplayer only where social features are essential, you can very well put them in. But the basic rule is to determine which features can obscure the true retention metrics of your game and leave them out.
- The Technical Test
This can be a part of common soft launch (commercial test) unless the game particularly works online, involves multiplayers, matchmaking, financial transactions or more. For example, virtual sports betting games launched earlier this year that let hundreds and thousands of users to remain online at the same time and participate through making cash transactions. Therefore such games need a technical test to check if the servers can handle the load without creating frustrating delays for the user.
Not all games require a separate test to check the problems with the technical aspect of the game. But because a game like virtual sports betting involves big money, the users would only trust a game if it gives 100% uptime and creates no technical errors while playing or making payments. So, in order for you to understand what all technical assurance you need to give to your users, it makes sense to invest time in researching about the theme of your game. Like checking out the online sports betting websites to better understand how ‘virtual sports betting’ works and who are the leading competitors in free to play games.
Time for the Hard Launch
You have spent too much time, money and scarce resources to build this game, which is tested and seems perfect for the hard launch. So why wait longer.
It is sensible now to invest money on whichever marketing channel you can, like getting a featured listing from Google or Apple. Consider all different marketing tools you have at your disposal, for an effective marketing launch. That is what the main benefit of soft launch is – to be sure you are spending every dollar efficiently.