A Quick Guide to Launching a Mobile Game Startup

The most important steps in launching your mobile game projects.

According to Statista, 2019 was another successful year for a growing Mobile Games segment. The revenue of it currently amounts to $53.6 million. This means that the average revenue per user is $30.02. It is almost the same between the two top app stores – Google’s Play Store recorded about $22 billion in 2018 and Apple’s App Store got $34. And it’s the revenue from mobile games only – the 38.3 billion mobile games that were downloaded from both of the stores, 29.4 billion of which were attributed to Google Play. 

 

It sounds very appealing, doesn’t it? Well, then let’s define a path to the gold mine and point out the main steps of launching your mobile game startup!

 

It sounds very appealing, doesn’t it? Well, then let’s define a path to the gold mine and point out the main steps of launching your mobile game startup!

 

Indie Game Development: Where to Start?

 

Do a Research

 

An important step that must be made once you decide to create something new is market research. If you want to find the success you need to hear the needs of consumers and create something that they want, something that will cover a particular demand and not just a random thing that came to your mind which you hope will collect some attention from the audience. That’s why first of all after you decided to launch a mobile game startup you must check app stores: top paid/free games (based on your monetization strategy), top grossing games, games recommended by the store, top categories. 

 

If you’re reading this article not long after it was posted, then we can surely tell that the most popular games on app stores now are casual games like Color Bump 3D and Fun Race 3D that are basically hurdling of some sort and a never-ending list of .io games. Also, you can find decent puzzle games in the top paid games section alongside the timeless Minecraft and GTA which seem to be here forever by now.

 

 That’s why first of all after you decided to launch a mobile game startup you must check app stores: top paid/free games (based on your monetization strategy), top grossing games, games recommended by the store, top categories.

 

Pick 3 to 5 games similar to the one you’d want to create and analyze them thoroughly. How many daily downloads are they getting? What monetization strategies do they use? Do they use any marketing techniques? What are the features that make the game successful?  There are a bunch of tools like AppTweak and AppAnnie that can help you with it. 

 

Remember that trying to reinvent the wheel and create an exact clone of some very successful titles like Clash of Clans is not a good idea. Your research must provide you with some ideas of what’s yet undone but in demand on the market. We strongly advise you to choose a less competitive genre and style for your game. The one that can be done using simple mechanics and on short notice.

 

Proceed to Mobile Game Design

 

Let’s look a little bit closer to selecting your game’s genre and theme. Of course, with the help of professional game developers, you can choose any genre you like for your mobile game startup. But if you’re an indie dev, the best start is a simple hyper-casual game. A theme you choose is also an important step in concept development. Maybe it will be a movie-/book-themed to generate a whole fandom to your project? Or maybe some kind of dress-up or a post-apocalyptic shooter? Or something neutral like a memory puzzle? Think well about the game’s genre and theme because it’s one of the main steps that form your target audience.

 

In case you decided to go for a light-/hyper-casual game,  your main focus is making an eye-appealing visual. The plot, environment, and characters are secondary. But if the genre you chose is different, make up a story. What’s the plot of your game? Who are the main characters? During this step, a scriptwriter from the game design studio you hired or, if you haven’t done so, you personally need to create an explanation for the game’s environment, characters, sounds, music, all the details, and actions. As it’s your first project, you don’t need to create dozens of levels and characters, a couple will do. Anyway, you will have an opportunity to add more and more details to your game with regular updates.

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Also, never neglect planning. Break your project into several stages, monitor everything and make changes promptly, make a plan of what you should get in the end, what functional and visual performance should it have, what is the monetization strategy, what is the tactic of future updates, etc. On this step, you also need to decide on your marketing campaign and start it off. What release strategy you are going to use? How will you monitor the game’s analytics? Think about it carefully as it is a very important issue and is closely related to the tech aspect, e.g. Unity provides its own analytics tool; thus, you need to decide on your marketing tools on the stage of choosing an engine for your game. We’ll get back to the marketing later in this article and talk about it more specific.

 

When it comes to game’s visuals, what you can do is choose a couple of successful games that you like and that have appealing graphics and show them to the game development team you hired. Anyway, these are more of technology questions so let’s jump to the tech stack aspect.

 

Choose a Game Development Software

 

First of all, you need to choose between 2D and 3D. While both of the approaches are great for making a decent game, it’s much easier to go 2D. Moreover, it’s your first project! As they say in Japan, Muri Shinai De, which means don’t overdo it and take it easy.

 

Now let’s talk about software. We won’t touch on the native game dev here as it’s not a common practice anymore. The top-3 cross-platform game development engines nowadays are Unity, Unreal Engine and Cocos2D. Each one has a lot of useful tools that make game developers’ lives easier every day. We advise you to choose the one that will help you make the whole process more convenient and faster.

 

Some popular examples of Unity projects are Assassin’s Creed: Identity, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Plague Inc. Great games made with Unreal Engine, besides the Unreal Tournament 2004 which it was initially created for, are Spec Ops: The Line, Gears of War 3, Bioshock and Mass Effect 2. Cocos2d helped create chart-topping mobile games like Clash of Lords 2, Hill Climb Racing and Castle Clash: Age of Legends.

 The top-3 cross-platform game development engines nowadays are Unity, Unreal Engine and Cocos2D. Each one has a lot of useful tools that make game developers’ lives easier every day. We advise you to choose the one that will help you make the whole process more convenient and faster.

 

After your game development company is done with the production phase, there comes a time for testing. Besides professional testers that are working in the company you hired you can also delegate this authority to your players (if they don’t mind, of course).  You can start an open beta test, which means that any volunteer will get access to your game’s beta and will be able to send his feedback or a closed beta test which is overall the same but you are the one who decides who’s getting the access to the beta out of all wishing to. 

 

Now that all the testing is done and your game is polished it’s time to submit it to stores! And here comes an important step most indie game devs miss – game’s marketing.

 

Always Do Mobile Game Marketing

 

It would be quite upsetting if the project you worked so hard on just flops. That’s why it’s important to make sure it reaches the audience – and this is where marketing is irreplaceable. 

 

Perfectly, you need to start your marketing campaign months before the game’s release. A relatively small percentage of mobile players find new games to play by browsing millions of app store games. At best, they will just browse through their feed and pay attention to the games recommended by the store. That’s why when you submit your app to it, you should think about ASO, which stands for app store optimization and basically means optimizing your app’s page on a store. Create a bright and appealing icon, make screenshots that will generate interest, make up a short, simple and clear title, write a great and catchy description and don’t forget to use the juiciest keywords (once again, tools like AppTweak and AppAnnie are great helpers).

 

What’s the most comprehensive summary of your game? Right, it’s the trailer. So make sure you have one and that it’s good. Upload it to YouTube, to all your social media, submit it to app stores with your game. Attach it to your pitch letter to game reviewers and they’ll answer and post a review more likely. And yes, it’s also a bit of very good advice – reach out to reviewers! There are a bunch of them, so it won’t be a hard thing to do but surely will attract an audience to your game. 

 

Be active on social platforms. In order to create a fanbase, you need to have constant two-way communication with potential players. Create Twitter, Facebook, Instagram pages and post regular updates on your project. Generate interest in your followers so that they get excited to finally play your game. Follow your fellow indie devs and make new connections, discuss your projects, ask for feedback and share your thoughts on others work as well. And when your game launches, you will already have a number of people that know about it and are eager to play it!

 

The last important step of mobile game marketing we are going to touch on is monitoring analytics. There are a lot of different metrics that you need to track regularly after you launched your game: retention rate, engagement score, sessions per user, session duration, drop-off rate, daily/monthly active users, etc. Compare them to the pre-install rates like click-through rate (clicks/ad views), click to install (installs/ad clicks), installs per mile (installs/1K impressions) and in the end, you’ll get a clear image of your marketing strategy’s performance which will help you when launching your next projects. All the described metrics can be tracked with the help of special tools like AppAnnie, Appsflyer, Apptopia, Google Analytics or built-in features of your game dev engine. 

 

Thus, in this article, we outlined the major steps you’ll need to make in order to launch your first mobile game project. We talked about the pre-production, production and post-production phases and pointed out the most important tasks of each one. Of course, if you find a game dev team that is professional and experienced it will be an easy one for you. But if you decide to face all the challenges by yourself, we hope this article will be helpful. Just remember that your first game doesn’t have to be flawless, so don’t give up and one day you will surely succeed!

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