Soft launch Mobile Game

A game’s soft launch is full of excitement and tension and is always eagerly awaited by the production teams. After months, even years of work, the result of their labor has finally reached the beta testers. They provide the first indications of the game’s attractiveness, quality and it’s monetizing potential.

A crucial step before launching your mobile game

Before launching your game on the market, it is necessary to test it for a number of aspects. This is the main goal of a soft launch. It gives a possibility to test on a small part of its potential audience the different components of the game that you want to confirm. User experience or FTUE (First Time User Experience), monetization, retention… for each step there is a soft launch phase.

It is essential to reserve for the bigger audience an advanced version of the game in order to maximize its income and sustainability. A soft launch aims to have a maximum of insights with limited cost, without losing its audience.

Note: As the world of mobile gaming is very vast (hyper-casual, casual, mid-core, hardcore), strictly speaking, certain actions are not always applicable. However, Addict Mobile’s recommendations cover the majority of cases.

Define the objectives, budget, and timeline of your Soft Launch

Before launching your soft launch, it is necessary to define what you want to track, analyze or modify.


The objectives will allow you to define all the stages beforehand as well as the duration of a soft launch. At the same time, in order to optimally analyze all generated data, Addict Mobile invites all publishers to install a tracking tool (Adjust, Appsflyer, Kochava, etc.) that is capable to analyze key KPIs. Here are some examples of analyzes for a Soft Launch.

UX & bug fixing (bug solving): the aim is to observe how users interact with the game and to correct the major bugs. The goal is then to ensure that the next steps of a soft launch will not be affected by a major bug or a deficient UX.

For example: if all players stop at level 3, it is likely that the difficulty is too high, so a correction should be considered.

KPIs to observe: Churn Rate, users behaviour, spent time, QA and bug report

Acquisition & Retention: “The acquisition will make it possible to involve users in the game and define the cost of a user and/or a buyer in order to assess the long-term CPI and profitability of the game according to the UA. “

KPIs to observe: CPI, ARPU, ARPPU, Buyers rate, ROAS, CPA

On this acquisition basis, retention will give an indicator of the game’s potential. Retention largely defines the degree of the game’s success or failure. You can have the best acquisition and monetization in the market if the retention is too low the game will flop.

KPIs to observe: retention rate on D1, D7, D14, D30 / sessions per user/time per session

Monetization: depending on the game’s business model, it will be essential to convert players into buyers (IAP) or to maximize your advertising revenue (IAA). By testing this aspect through a soft launch, you will be able to assess the game’s capacity to monetize and thus modify the monetization mechanisms to improve your income.

KPIs to observe:

IAP: ARPU, ARPPU, Buyers rate

IAA: eCPM, Fill rate


It is essential to define these two elements in order to anticipate the costs of a soft launch and manage the game’s production team accordingly.

The budget, invested in acquisition, is dedicated to recruiting users. It will depend on the number of users needed in order to collect data for KPIs analysis.

  • How many users do I need to recruit?
  • In which country and therefore at which CPI?
  • How long?

In addition, it is important to define the duration of a soft launch by using a detailed schedule describing the steps of the launch, iterations, etc.

A soft launch is often longer than expected since it is necessary to perform more iterations than initially planned. It is nevertheless important to plan a budget and a timeline beforehand. Indeed, a period of a soft launch usually generates little or no income and costs can be important for production and acquisition.

**Improve App Store Optimization (ASO) before Soft Launch your game

Before starting a soft launch, plan to test and optimize your game store’s page by focusing on the [[ASO]].

As its name suggests, ASO or App Store Optimization concerns the optimization of your page store on Android and iOS. This is an essential element that should not be overlooked.

  • It allows you to convert a maximum of users landing on your store page.
  • It helps to optimize the acquisition costs of your advertising campaigns: it encourages as many users as possible, who have clicked on your ad to download your game.

An app store page that gains 5%, 10%, 15% conversion means a huge boost in maximizing installations and their costs.

A soft launch is therefore the ideal time to test and manage different versions of your store page. You can A / B test the logo, title/subtitle, screenshots, and description.

You must then analyze the conversion rates of your app store page. There are several ways to do this.

1. Use the Google tool available for free on the Developer Consol to test your Android page: the Store Listing Experiments.

This tool allows A / B to test the store pages on a particular audience and thus collect the conversion results for each test. Addict Mobile strongly recommends any application publisher use this powerful tool. It provides precise A / B tests with integrated quick learning. Insights can be shared on iOS as well.

2. Analyze user conversion rates (install / clicks), coming from your soft launch acquisition campaigns.

Be careful, this method is less precise and gives less information than the Store Listing Experiments. It suggests testing on a similar audience: 2 different store pages over 2 distinct periods. Addict Mobile recommends organizing this test phase well. Here are some tips:

  • Facebook is the most effective source for testing because it allows precise targeting.
  • Take the test only on Facebook News Feed (not stories). You need an iso environment. For example, Facebook’s audience network has very different conversion rates (CVRs).
  • Select an affinity target that will be identical on the 2 tests. Avoid lookalikes, and focus on specific interests.
  • Prepare the same campaign setup (bidding, socio-demo…)

If possible, use only one design between each test and especially in the same format. Testing a static creative and a video will change your conversion rates.

3. Some providers offer A / B test your store pages with dedicated (and paid) services that offer a fine and detailed analysis.

The following section will explain how to identify relevant countries for your soft launch for more efficiency.

This second article focuses on which countries to choose for your soft launch, depending on your objectives and the insight you want to obtain.

Avoid audience burnout

The choice of country for soft launching your app is crucial. In fact, we recommend that you avoid testing in the country in which you intend to officially market your game. This would be far from ideal. So you want to avoid launching the game in countries with the most qualified audiences.

If you attract a large number of qualified users to a game that they don’t like, which doesn’t motivate them or generate enough revenue, these players will be “unprofitable.” They simply won’t come back. Therefore, it’s best to delay releasing the game to this kind of audience until you have an advanced version.

This means avoiding the best geographical locations (= those generating the most revenue) which are best left untapped for the hard launch.  Furthermore, these locations, featuring diverse populations, generate a lot of revenue. We are thinking in particular of the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK, France, and Germany.

Your objectives will determine the target countries for your soft launch

The choice of target country will depend on your objectives.

UX & resolution of bugs: countries with inexpensive users (low CPI).

Retention: countries exhibiting similar behavior to your target audience. “Tier 1” countries.

Acquisition: opt for a country with a population that resembles your target audience to evaluate the CPI/ROAS. However, if the aim is to observe targeting and creatives etc., nearly all countries will exhibit similar behavior (pay attention to the language, cf. explanation below).

Monetization: countries with similar behavior to the target audience in terms of purchasing (IAP) and eCPM (IAA). Countries with the highest ARPU, with small populations.

Another important point to consider: is the language of the game. If the game is only available in one language – usually English – you will need to consider two separate strategies.

  • If the game has minimal text or is simple gameplay: the language will have little effect and can be launched in almost any location.
  • Conversely, if the game includes text or is more complicated: the language will be very important. This means you will need to choose a country with ties to English: either an anglophone country or somewhere with a large population of English speakers.

Finally, if you are contemplating soft-launching your game on just one operating system, remember that KPIs can differ slightly from one OS to another. The iOS penetration rate in certain locations is also limited.

What do the big players do?

Addict Mobile has compiled a list of the most popular countries for soft-launching top, upcoming mobile games (as of 16 March 2021).

Which countries should you prioritize for your soft launch?

Below, Addict Mobile, which has executed more than 25 soft launches in recent years, shares its tips on which country to use for your future soft launch.

Focus on UX & bugs

– Philippines: ideal for testing UX and bugs as the CPI rate is very low and the volume of users extremely high. This market should not be used for monetization or retention.

– Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia: same principle as for the Philippines but slightly more expensive so better to opt for the Philippines.

Focus on UA, retention, and monetization

– Canada / Australia: traditionally, these are the top countries for soft launches, used to simulate the behavior of American users because they are English-speaking with a higher ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

Addict recommends avoiding these 2 countries as they are very competitive and, therefore, very expensive (since most players offer their games to these countries). Ideally, keep them for your hard launch. Opt for other countries instead.

– New Zealand: same principle as for Canada and Australia but more suitable. This is a smaller, less competitive country with a low overall impact on revenue.

Sweden / Finland / Denmark (Nordic countries): same principle as for New Zealand. These countries have smaller populations but a lot of monetization potential. Addict favors New Zealand but Sweden is also a good alternative -unless the game features complicated text and is inappropriate for Nordic languages.

– The Netherlands: Addict Mobile strongly recommends this country. User behavior in the Netherlands strongly resembles that of Tier 1″ countries with a CPI rate that is lower than that of Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. English is spoken widely here so there’s limited risk. Belgium is also an excellent alternative with low CPI and attractive ARPU rates for games using simple English.

– UK: The UK, like the US, represents a key target market for mobile games, so should be avoided for soft launch testing, except in particular circumstances.

To conclude: before launching any campaign, it’s important to set out your intended strategy to minimize the risk of messing up the official launch.

KPI Analysis & Action Plan

What KPIs should be monitored?

During a soft launch, it is important to have a clear strategy, and in particular to implement the marketing actions that will serve to monitor the changes in the KPIs of interest to us.

We can identify 2 types of KPIs:

– Inherent to the quality or the drawing power of the game: DAU, retention, CPI

– Inherent to monetization: ARPU, ARPPU, buyer rate, ROAS

It should be noted that KPI “1” are essential to the success of a game and KPI “2” can only be worked on if the game is attractive, and if it is possible to acquire a high volume of players at a controlled CPI.

The reverse is not true, as you can have the best monetization possible, via IAP or IAA, if the players rapidly “churn”, but if it is difficult to generate a lot of users through User Acquisition if will be difficult to generate revenue.

Consequently, it is essential to work on the game and thus on retention, and User Experience, before focusing on optimizing the monetization. It is much simpler to work on the monetization mechanisms than the game design or core gameplay of a game.

3 key KPIs


This is the 1st indicator to monitor before moving on to the rest. The retention objectives will vary, depending on the type of game and monetization.

It is therefore important to set the D1, D7, and D30 retention objectives to be reached. Take care to be realistic about the objectives, as we often see excessive ambitions. It should also be noted that D1 retention is, very broadly, the reflection of D7 and D30 retention, thus actions can be taken very quickly to optimize these KPIs, even before having long-term data.

When we analyze retention, this must clearly be monitored by OS, country, acquisition source, organic, etc., and above all see how this changes with every game update.

It is also useful to adapt your acquisition strategy in accordance with this objective. There is no point in seeking high-value users if the game retention at D1 is < 15%. The challenge here is in improving player interest in-game before inciting them to purchase.


Another important KPI: is the acquisition cost of a user and the potential volume at a reasonable cost.  Even if the CPI is not an end in itself, it is a not insignificant proxy for gauging future high-volume acquisition campaigns during the hard launch.

If it is already difficult to acquire initial users during the soft launch, who are the cheapest users, the hard launch will then be very complicated as you will have to seek even more volume.

It is possible the creatives, game style, and showcasing method is not suitable. Consequently, this requires a thought process on the acquisition strategy and work on all these elements:

– Test different sources to benchmark, in particular Facebook vs. Google. Facebook is essential thanks to its targeting capacity and the granularity of the data available.

– Focus mainly on Android following the limits imposed by iOS 14.5 since April 2021. Android will allow you to have more detailed insights

– Test different geographies to see if certain cultural specifics generate performance differences

– Have a suitable creative strategy in order to analyze what attracts players:

. Showcase different game features

. Gameplay VS. trailer

. What are the pleasing graphic elements (characters, world, etc.)

The soft launch, therefore, allows not only for shedding light on player behavior and thus on the game, but also for refining the UA strategy in order to maximize the budgets invested.

IAA/IAP (Monetization)

Once the retention data is solid and the monetization is in place, you can work on the latter.

IAA (In-App Ads)

Let’s start with the games based on monetization through advertising. To maximize the IAA, you will need to work on the following points:

– Define the ad display: frequency per user/session, integration into UX, etc.

– Negotiate with the companies supplying the advertising

– Establish an optimal waterfall

– Optimize its eCPM, floor price, fill rate, etc.

Unlike IAP, IAA is simpler to manage. In fact, the success of a game under IAA mainly resides in its retention and its ability to generate a high user volume at a low CPI. The monetization stems from this.

IAP (In-App Purchases)

The challenge here is in best to integrate in-app purchases into the UX in order to incite players to pay.

The KPI to check is the ARPU, which is the result of the ARPPU and the buyer rate. Addict Mobile has seen that the indicator to work on was the buyer rate, as it is this that allows for high influencing the ARPU and thus revenue from the game. In fact, at a high volume, the user ARPPU is stable (with a constant scope), and what is important is the game’s ability to generate buyers. Exceeding a buyer rate of 8-10% will make a huge difference to high volumes.

In order to work on the ARPU, you must be methodical:

– Set clear objectives and a guideline

– Adapt your acquisition strategy according to the users to capture (OS, country, optimization on installation or purchase, targeting, etc.)

– Compare the comparable. For example: do not compare data from a campaign optimized for installation to one optimized for purchase

– Compare the organic vs. acquisition data: organic data allows for observing “natural” user behavior, without any interfering element: as a creative, targeting or algorithm would seek out a specific user

State the monetization and watch the development of the figures, and see which concrete elements of the game or offer allow for improving the results. To do this, avoid testing a lot of changes at the same time, as it will be harder to consider which modification generated a positive or negative impact.

Important: all too often, acquisition campaigns are called into question when the game doesn’t deliver satisfactory figures (ARPU, retention, etc.). However, the UA teams can’t work miracles if the game does not please players or does not monetize well.

Tips: benchmark the organic vs. acquisition data to see if the subject comes from the marketing or the product

Make hard decisions

The soft launch and its success will depend on the game, the strategy implemented, and the reactivity of the teams in iterating, testing, and restarting.

Nevertheless, you must be able to make major decisions, as a soft launch delivers the truth about the game and allows for assessing its long-term potential and viability.

A soft launch duration depends on the financial capacities, human resources, and ambitions of each studio. Nevertheless, you must be able to make hard decisions, which could be:

Starting the Hard Launch (worldwide launch)

It is not possible to create a perfect game. However, when the game delivers satisfactory indicators, the UX is meticulous, the monetization is ready and the UA is tested, it is preferable to move to the Hard Launch in order to reach a global audience.

The advantage of a mobile game is that the game will continue to be optimized, worked on, with new content, etc., thus the hard launch is not an end in itself.

And above all, this will allow for starting to really generate revenue and support the development of the game/studio.

Continue the Soft Launch

A soft launch is often planned for a limited duration as the revenue is low before the hard launch and thus this generates a major cost for the studio.

Nevertheless, it is not recommended to launch a game for which the KPIs are too limited. In fact, the initial users acquired during the hard launch will be the most profitable. However, if the game is not sufficiently worked on or the monetization is failing, there will be a huge gap to make up.

In this case, it is preferable to extend the soft launch for a few weeks or months, depending on the studio’s financial capacity, in order to refine all this.

Kill the game

The production of a game very often generates high development costs. However, during the soft launch, little revenue is generated, thus the cost balance increases. And the longer this lasts, the bigger the hole created before the hard launch.

However, if after several iterations, the game is far from the KPIs counted on, and the estimated revenue is low despite all the efforts already made, it is preferable to kill the game rather than continue to develop it. In fact, you want to avoid continuing to dig the hole deeper, but rather limit the financial damage, as continuing the development of a game that does not demonstrate potential is counterproductive.

This is a difficult decision, as a lot of time, energy, and love have already been expended, but it is often more opportune to start on a new project and learn from the failures, which are frequent in the world of mobile games.

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