How to self-publish your game, from start to finish (Part 1)

Working with a publishing partner isn’t the only route you need to take when launching your game. Each studio and development team are unique. And depending on your studio size, your experience, and your resources, there are other ways you can get your game out into the world and into the charts.

We actually created a training programme, called Golden Cohort. It’s where we teach and train studios exactly how to self-publish their game, giving them the tools they need to become independent, while offering them support and guidance from a team of publishing specialists. You can learn more about this here. But everything we’re going to chat about today is cherry-picked from this programme.

We’ll talk more about Golden Cohort later. And, as there’s a lot to cover here, we’ve split this topic into two posts. This one is all about getting yourself ready for your soft launch and launch.

Let’s get to it.

Step 1: Speed up your ideation stage

It all starts with an idea. Which you probably already knew. But coming up with new ideas for your game isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Finding a viable concept can take up a huge chunk of your time. Typically, you need to tackle around a hundred prototypes to find a marketable idea. So 100 fresh ideas. And it usually takes around two weeks to create a prototype for each one. I’ll let you do the math. But that’s a lot of time and money spent just to find one idea with potential.

So there’s a few ways you can speed this process up.

  • Research market trends: There are tools out there you can use (like our Market Intelligence). They’ll help you spot trends and give you a place to start with your ideas.
  • Mix trending elements within or even across genres: Rather than copying the best games on the market, mix and match mechanics and genres from those titles. It’ll give your game a fresh spin and a competitive edge.
  • Never lose focus on clarity, satisfaction, and fun: Sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how easy this is to overlook. You may be so lost in the data and research, that you forget to ask the simple question of: “why would I play this game?”. It’ll help you bin the bad ideas and build on the good ones.

We’ve built a concept store for this

We appreciate how tedious the ideation process can be, and how much time this stage can take. So we built a concept store – a place with hundreds of proven concepts for studios to start with. It’s for our Golden Cohort and publishing partners at the moment. But you can learn more about it here.

Step 2: Make sure you perfect your testing stage

You’ll need to test your ideas first, and be quick about it. We recommend you test:

  • All of your concepts.
  • The potential of its gameplay.
  • All inside a controlled environment.
  • And iterate on promising concepts, until you see the results you need. (Keep in mind, you’ll need to react to market shifts and adapt to changing benchmarks. So keep an eye on current benchmarks in the industry.)

It’s important to keep your test design consistent. So pick a couple of popular networks, set a budget and duration, and stick to two campaign types. If you’re inconsistent with what you’re testing, then your results will be unreliable, and you may invest more time on a game that isn’t actually a winning idea.

Step 3: Get your creatives in shape for soft launch

When a game passes through the first set of marketability tests, there are several creative practices to make sure it’s successful during your soft launch and launch period.

You’ll want to work twice as hard on this stage. To get yourself ready for your soft launch, you’ll need to:

  • Follow trends and get inspired: There are tools you can use to help you here (like our Creative Insights). But make sure to keep your eye close on trending creatives – these have already been through rounds of testing, and could help you go in the right direction.
  • Research different specs for networks: Each one has their own requirements. It’s best to get familiar with these to optimize your creatives.
  • Iterate your creatives: Try out different colours, environments, user interfaces, banners, filters and more.
  • Get interactive: This one is a must. Interactive ads are the perfect companions during your soft launch and launch period.

Step 4: Know your metrics

You’ll need to know what benchmarks you need to hit for each key metric. Ideally look at retention, playtime, IMPU, ARPU and LTV. Make sure you know what these are for your genre. They can change drastically, even per sub-genre.

Analyse your levels, understand your churn rate, and optimise your level structure. Throw away levels with high-churn rates, and perfect your onboarding experience. You’ll want to get your players hooked within the first few levels. But be careful with level difficulty. Too easy? Then it’s boring. Too hard? Well, that’s just not fun.

Now, you should be ready to soft launch, and then eventually fully launch your game. There’s quite a bit to cover in these steps, which we’ll talk about in our next article.

Golden Cohort is the stepping stone to self publishing

Like we said, we’ve cherry-picked out top advice from Golden Cohort. It’s our training programme to get you ready for self-publishing. This programme will:

  • Give you the tools you need to find, validate, test and fine tune your games.
  • Teach you how to brainstorm ideas and use market insights to test your concepts (and let you run as many tests as you like).
  • Help you hire and onboard your own team.
  • Have our experts on hand to help you every step of the way, from publishing managers, UA and Monetisation experts, even through to marketing artists.

You’re not on your own in this programme. Our aim is to give you the tools and knowledge you need to become independent. If you’re interested in learning more, get the info and get in touch here.


Access hundreds of hyper-casual creatives to spark your ideation

We’ve been busy-bodies here at Coda. Over the last few months, we’ve released a few new products to help developers and studios research, develop, and publish their own games. (Check out our last blog to get the details on our mission and changes.) 

A couple weeks back, we chatted about our Concept Store. Now, we want to shine a light on Creative Insights. It’s a suite of ad creatives from the top-charting games (think of it like a library). And it’s specifically for hyper-casual creatives.

Our goal is to make your research a heck of a lot easier, power your ideation, and help you spot key trends to give you that competitive edge. And give you that power, for free.

So let’s go over the details.

It’s a hyper-casual ad library

We’ve rounded up all the top creatives that leading studios have made, combined with those that are currently trending in the top charts. We add hundreds of new creatives each month, and give them a data-driven score. So you can filter through and create a killer creative yourself. 

What’s great is that it’s the only place you’ll find a library dedicated to hyper-casual creatives. We’ve built the Creative Insights with that mission in mind. You can search by specific games, whether they hit the top charts, release date, even ones that have under-performed (knowing what works is half the battle, researching what to avoid is vital, too).

It saves you time testing and polishing concepts

You need to test concepts to see if they’ll be successful. Brainstorming, crafting the creatives, and testing each one in itself can take weeks, if not months, of your time. 

Creative insights can help you cut corners with each stage. Here’s how: 

  • Brainstorming: Rather than playing hundreds of games, you can review ads from the top-charting games instead. Each ad is usually a simple and quick summary of what that game is. So this is an effective way to get your creative juices flowing. 
  • Crafting creatives: Say you have an idea. Now you need to whip up the creatives to test it. By researching good (and bad) creatives, you can give yourself a starting point of what to avoid and what to focus on. You can spot key trends among the great, which’ll give yourself a better chance when testing.
  • Testing: Finally, looking at the most successful ads can help you figure out how to test your own. Perhaps you’ve spotted a couple of great trends? Or maybe you have a hunch about an under-performing one? This will help you narrow down what to test, and how.

It helps with the psychology behind ads

It’s no secret that psychology plays a big role in gaming, and specifically hyper-casual games. This is even more important in your ads. For example, there are trends like showing a player get two wins and then a fail, or showing a win, then two fails. These spark off emotions in the reader, and make them think: “You know, I could do better than that.” 

People can’t help but want to fix something or do it correctly when they see someone doing it wrong. So even if it’s obvious, this psychological trend of watching someone win, win, and then fail can be irresistible.

But trends are fleeting

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. The win-win-fail sequence might be hot today. But tomorrow, it could be someone failing three times instead. These trends can evolve or die out quickly. So you’ll need to be on the ball if you want to stand out in the crowd.

A new concept can shake things up

We touched on this above a little. But this really deserves it’s own section. 

Just like a new psychology trend can mix things up, so can an entirely new concept. It’s ever changing. And an ad that worked for your previous game may not take off for your next one. 

Creative Insights solves this issue. It helps you keep on top of these trends, and let’s you stay on top of your game. Creatives can take a while to create, and the last thing you want is to be drafting up a beautiful ad that was never going to succeed.

Creative Insights ties into our Interactive Games Brief

The Interactive Games Brief is where it all starts. It brings together all of your moving parts (every step of your journey) into one place. You don’t lose your way. And project management suddenly becomes easy. 

Creative Insights is a part of this. You can learn more about what’s there in our last update.

Join our partner program to get started

Creative insights is one of the many features you can unlock by either joining our partner program, or applying for our Golden Cohort program. Submit your game here and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Coda Concept Store

Shop for gold with the concept store

The ideation stage of your game dev journey is arguably the most important part. It’s the starting point of months of development time, where you invest all of your money and resources. And if your idea isn’t going to bite? Well, all of the effort goes down the drain. Which, for some studios, is something they just can’t afford. 

That’s why we’ve created the Concept Store. It’s a place where you can browse different proven concepts to work on. But the best thing about them is either every creative has been tested through our marketability testing, scored by our machine learning, or actually created by one of our experts. They’re all solid concepts which you can use and iterate on.

How long does the ideation process take?

It depends. How many resources do you have? What research tools do you have access to? And how many tests can you run, as quickly as possible? 

Typically, the ideation process can take up to six months. This includes researching competitors and trends, initial brainstorming, visualising creatives, figuring out its main unique selling point, and testing them – before you even found a marketable game idea. 

It’s a problem for any studio or developer team, especially if you lack the team. It eats into valuable development time, resources, and money. 

Challenges when coming up with ideas

A lot of ideas come from trends, and they move quickly

As the name suggests, trends are fleeting. So if you’re not fast to scoop it up, develop, test, and get it out, then another studio may beat you to the punch. And take that top-charting spot.

Unless you’re staring at the top charts and social media for the next trend, and have a team under your belt to dissect each trend and smash out creatives to test on the fly, being ahead of the curve and your competition can be near impossible.

A bad idea can cost your months

It takes a while to see if any idea is plausible. You’ll need to research, design creatives, and run rounds of tests just to find out if it’s a good concept – before you get to the prototype stage. And if your concept isn’t hitting the KPIs you need, then you’ll likely need to cut your losses and go back to the drawing board. A core concept is not something that you can easily fix without reworking everything. 

Which means you could be spending all of that time on a game which was never going to sell in the first place.

How the Concept Store works

It shortcuts all of the above problems by giving you a shop of concepts you can choose from. We whip up and sort the ideas in three different ways:

1. Either we test them

Using our tool, Marketability Testing, we’ve pulled apart and pushed around different concepts. So a chunk of the ideas on the concept store have passed this test and meet certain KPIs. 

We do this by testing different video creative across a range of platforms, and then iterating on these until they’re great. 

Concept Store

2. We take public data to score trends

We research the market by scanning new trends on both platforms, and then automatically give these trends a score. You can use these scores as a good indication to just how successful we reckon this concept will be, and how much work you can expect to put in.

3. Or our experts whip up new concepts

Although our testing and scoring is all based on data and trends, we don’t always want to fully rely on automation. Our in-house experts research the industry and brainstorm fresh, new ideas for you. 

So every idea on the concept store has gone through a rigorous vetting process. And while we can’t make any promises, it means you’ve got a great starting point for your next title. Rather than blindly guessing and getting stuck on the first level of your game dev journey.

You can also sell ideas

We’re big on recycling. You may have a cool concept of your own, but it’s something you just don’t fancy working on (or don’t have the time). We’ve made it so you can sell any unwanted ideas on the concept store. 

Or you can buddy up with other studio’s and share the workload. We’re making a community that not only encourages each other to do better (with a bit of healthy competition), but also to support each other.

Pick the ideas, and we’ll help you evolve them

Once you have a strong concept that ticks all of the boxes, you’re still in for rounds of iteration, testing its retention, prototyping, and more. In this sense, the concept store only answers so much. You still have a lot of ground to cover after phase one. 

Publishing managers play a key role at this stage. They help you refine and develop an idea further, while planning next steps and coaching you through the process. Alongside them, Marketing Artists help supercharge and speed along your creatives, so there are no blockers stopping you from making the game. 

They help keep things moving along at a good pace. Which is crucial in an ever-changing and fast-paced industry.

How to get started

At the moment, we’ve opened up our concept store to our Platform Partners and our Golden Cohort programme. You can register and get in touch with us here to learn more. We’d love to hear from you. 

Once signed up, it’s completely free. And you can pick and choose as many concepts as you’d like.


How to find fresh ideas for hyper-casual simulation games

Simulation games are no new thing in the industry. From a random goat terrorising a town to an oddly realistic truck simulator, these peculiarly satisfying and relaxing titles have been a favourite among the gaming industry for years. 

Over the last year, we’ve seen an influx of simulation games in hyper-casual. Painting nails. Sculpting pots. Even designing phone cases. Simulation has slotted itself neatly into the library of hyper-casual sub-genres. And it’s evident that it’s here to stay. 

But what’s with this sudden trend, and how do you find and come up with your own concepts for simulation games? That’s what we’re going to explore. 

Please note, we’ve suggested a few of our own tools in this article. You’re more than welcome to explore these (they’re all on our website). But whether you use us or not, we still recommend having similar tools in place when doing your own research and developing your masterpiece. 

Let’s get to it.

Emphasis on ‘satisfying’ 

Hyper-casual simulation games tend to take everyday tasks, and turn them into a fun, simple, and most importantly, satisfying experience. They’re not difficult at all, and sometimes they’re more like an interactive tutorial – ‘push this button to make something happen.’ The challenge is minimal. But the fun lies in the satisfaction. 

You could technically turn anything into a simulation game. That’s the beauty of it. But when coming up with your own concepts, you’ll mainly want to either:

  1. Make it relatable. Something people can identify with or they’ve had a similar experience. You can go niche with this (a great way to beat the competition), but you want to make sure a large audience can relate to it. If it’s too obscure, you might not have a big enough pool of players to get your return on investment.
  2. Follow a trend. This is probably the most common route with simulation games. Don’t underestimate the power of TikTok or Instagram when it comes to new trends. A soap-cutting game a few years back probably would have seen little to no success. Now? It’s trending. Even the hashtag #ASMR has taken off, and the idea of watching satisfying videos is a fan favourite. You can easily find ideas on these platforms.

But keep them simple

That’s one of the biggest challenges with this genre. Turning a satisfying video or idea into a simple mechanic and game. But you’ll need to keep it intuitive and easy to play. The emphasis for this sub-genre really is satisfaction. 

Take Acrylic Nails! as an example. You can pick different colours, gems, cutouts and molds. But the mechanic always comes down to swiping. And the levels are always around 30 seconds long. The motivation and satisfaction is behind painting perfect nails. 

Current trends in the market

Like we said, you really can make a simulation game out of anything. Here’s a table of the top-trending games on the app store, and what theme they’ve picked:



Downloads (US)


Jelly Dye



A recent viral trend of injecting colour into jelly to create jelly art has hit social. These videos tick the box for both creative and satisfying, and have made for the perfect simulation game. Each level is quick and simple, not too complicated, and satisfying to complete. 

ASMR Simulation 



A collection of essentially ASMR videos turned into a game. You can arguably turn each level into a simulation game of its own. But the reason why it works is because #ASMR is a popular fad at the moment. 

Acrylic Nails!



Running your own nail salon. There are quite a few features to this game, but the core mechanic is simple (just swiping), and the levels are short and sweet. You can argue this is following a trend as well, as more nail art videos have entered the social space. 

Fidget Trading 3D: Fidget Toys 



A combination of trading and popping levels. This simulation game has a couple of different approaches to satisfaction. The trading element is all about getting the best deal, so requires some level of thinking. They then balance this with the satisfying element of popping things. But the mechanics still remain simple and easy. 

Makeover Studio 3D

Relatable /



A combination of trend and relatable. Makeover videos have been around for years, but have recently skyrocketed on social media. This game takes the elements of a makeover, layers on different parts, but again keeps the mechanics simple and intuitive (just swipe the screen). 

Hair Dye

Relatable /



Similar to Makeover Studio 3D, but this game purely focuses on haircuts. Again it sticks to one mechanic, swiping. The rest of the game is layered with different haircut options, colouring, etc. 

How to find fresh ideas for Simulation games 

So how do you find the next chart-hitting hyper-casual simulation game? There’s a few routes you can take. Aside from brainstorming about relatable everyday tasks or activities (and guessing whether or not they could be good), we reckon you should do one of the following, if not all.

1. Research your competitors 

It’s always a great start to take a look at what your competitors are doing. From ideation, ad creatives, to app store descriptions, you should have a look at what the best trending games are about and dissect them. 

There are tools out there to help you with this. We have our own, called Market Intelligence. It’s free, and lets you filter down by sub-genres and top trending games. 

2. Get on social media 

This is where all of the new trends are. We recently wrote an article on this, which you can read here. But in short, you should be following hashtags like #ASMR, #TrendingTikToks and #OddlySatisfying to get an idea of the latest trends. And keep an eye on that trending tab on Twitter.

3. Research the best simulation games 

As mentioned, simulation games have been around for ages. Head on over to Steam or the console shops, take a look at the larger simulation games, and experiment with pocket or bite-sized versions. It’s already been proven that people like the idea. You’ll just need to experiment as to whether it’ll work on mobile. 

4. Cheat and have a gander at different concepts

This one specifically applies to Coda Games, if we’re honest. We have a concept store, which is a shop full of tested concepts. You can browse through and pick and choose one or use it for inspiration when brainstorming your own ideas.

Find out if they work 

It’s one thing brainstorming a bunch of ideas, but next is to find out if they’ll work. Typically, you’ll want to work on a prototype as quickly as possible and get it out before the trend disappears (or gets scooped up by a competitor). We’d recommend building prototypes and testing them. But you can take it a step further. 

We have a tool called Marketability testing, which lets you test gameplay videos rather than prototypes. So all you need to do is build quick videos of all of your different simulation ideas, send them out to test, gather the results, and then start prototyping. 

This may sound like an extra step, but it can save you time in the long run. You may be working away on one idea, when actually another idea in your scrapbook may be the winner. And as these trends are so quick and fleeting, it would be a shame if a competitor picked it up, just because it was lower in your queue of ideas. 

KPIs to target 

If you do decide to test out the gameplay videos, then we recommend hitting a CTR of at least 5+, before you take the game through to the prototype stage. 

What are you waiting for? 

Hopefully this has been a good guide in helping you get started. If you have any questions, or want to learn more, get in touch with us here. We’d love to have a chat. Also we do share a lot of content regularly, so if you don’t want to miss our next update, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter (head here and scroll down to get there).