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How to Launch a Game On Facebook

Martin Kilp May 6, 2019 10:58:10 AM

A successful game launch is a complex task that is equal parts science and art. It requires careful coordination across all channels that make up your marketing mix - both paid and free. In this blog post, we’re taking a closer look at Facebook and Instagram acquisition and guide you through the three stages that make up a launch cycle:

  • Pre-launch
  • Launch
  • Post Launch

Pre-Launch

Keep in mind that each game is unique, as is each player. Even if the older games in your portfolio are somewhat similar to the game you’re launching now, leave most of your assumptions at the door. Learnings from previous games don’t age well - what might have worked six months ago may no longer guarantee success now.

Here’s what to keep in mind before your launch:


  1. Dig deep in Facebook analytics for treasures - you’ll most likely find more granular data than you thought you would. This is especially helpful for smaller studios who are launching their first game and don’t necessarily have the backend infrastructure built out in full - Facebook analytics is a great shortcut.

  2. You only get one shot at launching a game. Don’t underestimate the importance of a soft launch and rush to market. Invest in marketing once you see satisfactory results from your retention and monetization metrics.

  3. Pick a soft launch market. Prioritize market fit (similarities between the test market and the main market, language differences, users’ devices, monetization models) over cost efficiency - don’t pick a cheaper market just to save on cost. Also, as games can perform very differently across regions, another approach is to enter both markets for a better read on global performance.

  4. Soft launch against a broad audience as you are assessing marketability and viability of paid user acquisition as a growth avenue vs. skipping ahead to look for efficiencies. If you target against specific audience segments, you won’t get an accurate read on mass marketability in the wild.

  5. Make sure your analytics are in place to maximize learnings. You want to attribute users with enough granularity and thus be able to draw reliable conclusions across several different parameters (demographics, cohort maturity, devices and operating systems etc.).

  6. Start building your email lists. Have a pre-launch campaign collecting emails and use that list for creating buzz before your actual launch.


The Launch

We define the launch stage as the time when your game is released on the app stores worldwide, hopefully after a successful soft launch to a few diverse testing markets with plenty of product and marketing learnings to boot.

While pre-launch is usually a fairly limited engagement with few paid marketing channels, the launch itself is an entirely different ball game. Gaming advertisers typically go full throttle on a large number of acquisition channels - aiming to drive as many players to the game as possible. This makes coordinating the launch a daunting task. Let’s take a look at what to keep in mind when locking down launch dates:


  1. Co-ordinate your Facebook launch with other channels to maximize your momentum. Facebook provides unprecedented scale right at launch which in turn typically results in an uptick in organic traffic to the app as well. Launching your game simultaneously across your entire marketing mix can help further boost discovery and app store exposure.

  2. Use a 7d view + click attribution window regardless of what your attribution distributions look like. You want to give Facebook ample data, and early on click-throughs are significantly more arbitrary than for a mature title.

  3. Time your launch right. As an advertiser, you compete for user attention in entertainment in general, not just with other games. Launching in the summer can be a good idea as TV shows are in-between seasons and your users don’t spend time watching TV. CPAs are also lower in the summer, and conversion rates are the highest. Note that monetization may not be that high, though. Therefore, you may want to soft launch in the summer and launch in the winter when you benefit from new activations and gift cards/high monetization (these are the two optimal times to launch).

  4. Hold off on retargeting - it’s hard to reliably and accurately account for retargeting activity right at launch, which is why we advise our customers to hold off on paid retargeting throughout the initial launch period.

  5. There’s never enough of creatives. If you plan on spending a lot, make sure to have a lot of creative at hand. It would be a shame not to scale just because you didn’t prepare an adequate supply of creative. Learn more about Smartly.io’s modular video approach here and get ready to scale your video ads.

  6. Don’t do any unnecessary splits. The performance gap in monetization between Android and iOS is much smaller than for non-gaming apps. If your soft launch metrics are similar for both platforms, you’ll benefit from consolidation as you give Facebook more data to work with.


Post-Launch

The post-launch phase usually receives the least amount of attention, although it’s arguably the most important. Your post-launch marketing decisions will ultimately define the growth and viability of the new title. This is where you transition from running a limited time campaign to a more evergreen, always-on approach. What needs to change in your strategy for the investment to continue sustainably?

  1. Start retargeting. First, define retargeting for your app as days of inactivity since last session launch. This so-called “blackout period” should be suppressed/excluded from your retargeting campaigns. This is the only way to make sure no investment is wasted on a cohort of people that are likely to return to your game anyway.

  2. Have a creative refresh cadence in place with a production pipeline that leaves some buffer in case the game scales unexpectedly well. For most casual games, we recommend injecting a few creative every two weeks. For mid-core titles and social casino, the cadence between cycles can be a bit longer at three to four weeks.

  3. Objectives: start moving from higher funnel objectives (MAIA) to lower funnel objectives (first AEO, then VO).

  4. Audiences: Go from broad audiences to more specific audiences (first app event LAL, then conversion LAL).

  5. Periodically measure incrementality to quantify diminishing returns and re-assess budgets/investment.

Every game is unique, and so is each Facebook campaign. There is no one-size fits all approach to launching a new game, but we hope you’ve found these pointers useful. If you want to discuss gaming in more detail, our Gaming Team will be happy to help you.

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Author
Martin Kilp

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