Confidence is key: How to make your mobile game stand out

February 2, 2023
Jai Dâvé
5
min read

Let’s get something out of the way first - most games that launch are going to fail. That is a product of the industry we are in, it being challenging, but also because the necessary homework often hasn't been done properly, or at all. To set the scene for this post, I’m going to state something obvious: launching a successful mobile game is hard, really hard.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Saturated market: Every month, tens of thousands of games are released and they’re all battling for the same pockets of users.
  • Competitive UA landscape: Virality is extremely rare, which means you need to spend money to acquire users. Performance marketing strategies have grown more complex, prices have been driven up and that means that getting a decent return is difficult.
  • Player expectations are higher: Players expect quality, engaging experiences that (almost automatically) inherit hygiene factors of games they’ve previously played. Plus, our mobile devices are capable of a lot more these days.
  • Monetisation models: Balancing a fun experience whilst also making enough money to support the game is also challenging.
  • Long-term opportunities: The market is ever evolving, so how do you build a product pipeline and ensure new features can be integrated easily.

There’s a lot of upfront thought that is required before production even begins and it is tough to predict. However, there are techniques that can be employed to help build confidence in your chances of success, when the odds are stacked against you.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of each technique, l need to mention: this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more to talk about with each of these techniques, and I'll be unpacking all of that in future posts.

Market Research

This may seem obvious but it’s surprising how often this is not done properly. The fact is, research does help. It helps you understand where you are, where you are going, how best to get there, what the potential USPs are and what the possible stumbling blocks may be.

Make sure your research involves key aspects like:

  • Genre and assessment fit: How has the genre evolved? Who are the major players in your chosen genre? What do they do well? Why have some entrants failed?
  • Market sizing: Researching the potential size of a market helps you set realistic goals and targets such as, possible users or revenue you may generate.
  • Install scenarios: Researching install scenarios gives you an idea of the type of launch you might go for -  a front-loaded big bang with a big initial marketing push, or a slow build that enables a more gradual product pipeline build out?

Having a robust market research strategy will put you in a good position to identify the areas that have potential to differentiate your game from what already exists and enable you to mitigate any potential risks.

Differentiation

There are thousands of games out there that are largely carbon copies of other titles, just with a different skin. Like many things in life, the imitation is seldom as good as the original.

Being smarter about the environment you’re working in and doing the necessary research enables you to spotlight what makes your game unique. Perhaps it’s a new core mechanic that is more fun to play, an underserved theme, or using a relevant IP that can help drive acquisition.

Knowing your USP is vital, but knowing how you stack up against similar titles is important too. That being said, I prescribe benchmarking with caution.

Benchmarking

Remember that just because something happened a certain way for another game title, it does not mean the same will occur for your game. You’ll hardly ever get the full picture from just seeing the numbers of other titles - there are too many unknowns like what their marketing strategies entailed, what tech stack they used, what financial muscle they had etc.

This is the reason I recommend researching a variety of titles and using multiple data sources - even if this is just to validate that you are in the right ballpark.

You’ll also want to consider a range of values. The game will not be complete on day one, so it's prudent to look at low, medium, high ranges when building business models and investigating what kind of results these yield.

However, it’s a process of constant refinement. Looking at other titles gives you a starting point but then it becomes an iterative procedure. I prefer to look at target setting as more of a ‘what do we need to believe, in order to hit our targets’. Then, as development progresses and you become more confident in the actual performance of your product you can start to narrow the focus of these targets.

Product and Marketing Alignment

These two teams should be helping each other throughout the process. If this doesn’t happen, it could result in major misalignment which means wasted time, unnecessary expenditure and tension between teams.

There are things that need to be agreed upon upfront by both teams in order to avoid disaster. These are things like:

  • Early artwork and style
  • Target market
  • Positioning
  • Objectives
  • Early UA results


And speaking to that last point, we need to talk about testing in order to get those results.  

Testing

How will you know if things are going to work if you don’t test it? Testing frequently, to the point I mentioned under benchmarking, can help you not only in the beginning stages of developing your game but it can also help you to refine it and stay ahead of the curve with time.

Naturally, testing will raise questions. For example, you might start thinking along the lines of, “If we believe we will land between x and y for retention, what ranges of monetisation make sense for our product and what install scenario would be needed to hit this?”

This is where smart forecasting comes in.

Smart forecasting

Forecasting accurately is difficult and time consuming. The tools required to do this at scale are often not readily available - this leads to missed targets, wasted time, poor resource allocation and wasted money.  

So what does smart-forecasting include?

  • Highly-granular daily calculations, with robust back testing methodologies, to monitor performance vs expectations accurately.
  • Simple scenario planning - as part of the refinement process, you will start to narrow down what the actual output is going to be and smart-forecasting allows you to manipulate the input parameters easily in order to answer the “what if”.
  • Rapidly identify growth barriers. Pick up potential risks before they happen. For example, looking at things on a granular level can help you pinpoint the country, platform, channel that could pose an issue later on.


This is the problem we are trying to solve at Kohort.

Kohort is a SaaS solution that makes it easy to forecast smarter, with speed and ease. Ask our team for more information on how we can make your mobile game’s #future known.

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