Dev’s Guide to Post-Launch

post-launch-metrics

DEV’S GUIDE TO POST-LAUNCH

The post-launch period is crucial for maintaining and growing the game.

For console and PC games, development is over when the game is packaged and shipped to stores, but for mobile games the launch is just the beginning. The post-launch period—crucial for maintaining and growing the game—is often lengthier and more complex than the pre-launch production.

While some studios create a detailed post-launch timeline and others prefer to stick to the basics, all experienced studios have one thing in common: they put a mobile game plan in place from the start.

A growth and maintenance plan is usually not created all at once. Rather, it’s developed over time as a studio gets an idea of what the mobile game—and more importantly—its audience will look like.

The point of creating a list early is simply to help guide development decisions. “You’re welcome to plan all you like, but you won’t really know performance until the product launches,” says Neil Haldar, who founded advisory firm Haldar+Co after working at several small and large mobile game studios.

Early in production, a studio may just have a list of content, features and promotional ideas they plan to produce after the game launches. But as the game takes shape, product managers or designers should begin to offer educated guesses about key performance indicators (KPIs). Pay attention to near term and expected targets for retention, conversion rates, and current and projected stats on who players are, where they come from and how they play. These will help shape initial ideas into a more concrete plan of action for content and feature releases.

The big push to flesh out a growth plan comes during the soft launch, when a studio will (hopefully) collect several thousand users in a few test markets. Haldar says at this point, devs should find answers to the following questions: Who are the spenders? And what are some of the anchoring pivotal moments in gameplay that are making spenders return?

With this data, a studio can make thorough projections of live operations—down to the day that content releases should happen.

One big difference emerges here between big and small companies. Large, well -funded companies will build much of their post-launch plan around mobile game user acquisition (where and when the company will buy more users). Since user acquisition is constantly changing along with the market, this limits projections to about 90 days, Haldar says.

Smaller companies, without the budget to buy users, will have to plan organic outreach efforts. But this restriction may be a strength: small studios can think more about their players. “It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of work, but this is the new marketing. You have to find your own audience,” Haldar says. “The big guys, it’s just noise to them, they’re busy executing a plan they approved two years ago.”

Separate from the build document, the product or project manager should maintain a timeline of all planned minor and major releases, game-oriented events, holiday events and other updates. Haldar says devs should consider including the below in a timeline to stay ahead of the game and delegate tasks to different departments (even if it’s a one person department) ahead of time.

  • Design: Plan for features in future builds (including builds for current events) and maintenance of in-game content like levels and balance.
  • Engineering: Prepare new features, cover bug fixes, monitor quality assurance. Handle other miscellaneous takes like adding advertising SDKs or planning for platform OS updates.
  • Art: Prep all in-game art for new content, upgrade current assets and marketing material.
  • Marketing: Oversee current acquisition channels and collect target metrics. Own any alternate traffic sources like promotional partners.
  • Community and customer service: Create messaging around events and monitor external channels like forums and app store reviews.

For staffing purposes, this should be planned out as far into the future as possible—at least three to six month and up to one year or more if the soft launch shows promise.

For staffing purposes, this should be planned out as far into the future as possible—at least three to six month and up to one year or more if the soft launch shows promise. So, do you have a post-launch growth and maintenance plan for your game? 

This article was originally published on Chartboost.