How to self-publish your game, from start to finish (Part 2)

Welcome back to our series on how to self-publish your own game, where we’ll show you that teaming up with a publisher doesn’t have to be your only option. In part one, we covered how to come up with prototype ideas, test their marketability, create your adverts and track the right metrics. If you haven’t read it already, check it out.

All of this advice is a little taster of what you can learn from our training programme, Golden Cohort. This is where we teach studios on exactly how to self-publish their game and give them the tools to become independent. 

Now, let’s look at how to actually launch your ideas and make money from them. Launching, monetising and optimising. Start the countdown: it’s time to launch.

Step 5: Soft launch your game

Soft launching is where you release your game to a small audience, with less marketing. You’re testing your game out, dipping your toes in the water and seeing how far you might be able to go. But why not just immediately launch?

Well, before you release to the whole world, you’ll want to perfect your creatives, see how different networks behave and optimize your bids. This is the time to gather data and test out your theories. It’s your last chance to plan and prepare.

Explore the different channels

There are three areas you’ll want to get ready:

  • Social media: Have you got all your channels set up? Facebook. TikTok. Snapchat. Get them ready and familiarise yourself with how their advertising works. You can get a lot of installs by creating content and paying for space.
  • The ad networks: An ad network works on behalf of brands, like you, to buy ad space. There are plenty to look at, like Unity, IronSource, AppLovin and Mintegral. They’re the easiest way of getting your adverts out there.
  • Organic traffic. You’ll naturally get installs through the Apple and Play stores. But make sure that your descriptions are polished and enticing. The better your images, text and videos, the more likely someone will install. It’ll also improve the chances you come up in the search results.

Start big, ease off, find the balance

When you start your soft launch, you’ll want to make a big splash in your chosen geography to get the first chunk of installs. This also forces the ad networks to push your creatives. So bid high to make sure you secure those spaces.

But make sure you keep your budget low. You don’t want to overspend. You bid high, budget low. This means you end up with great ad placement, but don’t try and reach the whole world at once. 

Slowly increase your budget, lowering your bids, and work to find that sweet spot for each network. You’re looking for a return on ad spend for day zero (D0 ROAS) of around 85%. 

If you need inspiration or want to research what kinds of adverts to make, check out Creative Insights and look through the library of examples.

Step 6: It’s time to monetise your game

There are two ways to make money: in-app purchases and ads.

In-app purchases make a great profit, but most players won’t ever make a purchase. So for hyper-casual, you’ll want to focus on ads. You want to find a balance between showing enough ads to make a return, but not too many that you start irritating players. You’ll need to test the frequency and placement of those ads to make sure you’re getting it right.

You then want to introduce in-app purchases that encourage your long-term players to stick around and spend money. Maybe that’s a way to turn off ads or maybe it’s in-game currency or skins. Give them a reason to pay that feels rewarding.

There are a few key metrics to measure

  • Playtime. How long are people spending on your game per session? The longer, the better. But exactly how long is good, depends on the sub-genre of your game.
  • Retention. How many players are still active after a certain amount of time. You’ll want to track day one and day seven, at least. The more people return, the more likely they’ll spend money or the more adverts you can show them.
  • IMPDAU. Impressions per daily active user. This is how many ads you’re showing your players per day, on average. The more impressions, the more you’ll be making.
  • eCPM. The effective cost per thousand impressions. This is how much you’re making per a thousand adverts you show. Roughly.
  • ARPDAU. Average revenue per daily active user. This tells you how much you’re earning from your users every day. 
  • LTV. Life-time value. This is the average amount you’re making from your players from when they start playing until they stop.

There are three kinds of advert you can show

  • Banner ads. These are usually small, up the top (or bottom), and are pretty unobtrusive for the player. On average, advertisers will spend about 70% of their budget on these. But they’ll only make up about 5% of your earnings, with an eCPM of about $1.
  • Interstitial ads. These are the ads that take over the whole screen and interrupt the gameplay. About 25% of an advertiser’s budget will be for these, and they’ll make up about 70% of your earnings. The eCPM is usually around $30.
  • Rewarded video. These ads are where you give an in-game prize for watching a video. The player actively has to choose to watch them, so they’re quite effective. But advertisers only put about 5% of their budget towards them. Even so, you’ll make a good 25% of your earnings from these, as the eCPM can be around $40.

It can be an absolute headache to juggle all this, so you’ll want to look for a mediation platform to help you out. We can help you with this and help you find the best price and have the relationships you need to get set up with a mediator that’ll work for you.

Step 7: Acquire more players

Now it’s time to launch for real and spread out. In this phase, it’s a little like driving a car: you can either accelerate, brake or steer.

When you’re accelerating, you’re looking to scale your game and get the most installs possible. This will inevitably cost more, but lead to the most revenue. Aim to get as high on the charts as you can, as that will boost your organic installs.

Once your profit margin is looking healthy, it’s time to hit the brakes and balance out your return on investment. This is similar to how you’ll have approached your soft launch. It’s worth remembering that things will naturally slow down over time. Hyper-casual games very quickly change and players drop off all the time. So bear that in mind.

Lastly, you’ll want to start steering. Optimize your game to get as much value from your players as possible. You’ll want to focus on six areas:

  1. Look to increase your retention first. You want players to stick around.
  2. Refresh your ads and creatives to make sure that players don’t get fed up with them.
  3. Manage your budget for each network.
  4. Localise your game for each country you’re targeting.
  5. Analyse your competitors to see what they’re doing.
  6. Run brainstorms to come up with new marketing ideas.

Should you need any help with acquiring more users, our Golden Cohort programme provides a publishing manager, as well as access to user acquisition experts.

Golden Cohort has everything you need to self-publish

If this all seems like too much, we’re on hand to help. Join our Golden Cohort and get the advice and tools you need to make sure you’re getting the most value from your game.

Our Golden Cohort programme teaches studios exactly how to self-publish and become independent. That includes tools to automatically find you the best bids, test your ideas and research the market. You’ll also get help from your own publishing manager, user acquisition and monetisation experts, and marketing artists.

If you’d like to find out more, check out our Golden Cohort and apply to see whether you can benefit from our GrowthCloud technology.

Until then, good luck self-publishing your game.

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