Are you launched? Have you launched yet? When are you launching?
These are questions you hear quite a lot when developing your first game. To be honest, I always dreamed of doing a big launch like Steve Jobs, dramatically unveiling our great product to the public and listen to the crowd cheering.
Ok, back to reality. The fact is that I'm always struggling with these questions. SOOMLA, my current company is doing a platform for mobile game developers - allowing them to add In-App Purchase Stores to their games. We are big advocates of 'Lean Startup' and so we had quite a few launch related events. Here they are in chronological order:
As you can see, the right answer for "when are you launching" would be "all the time".
The same approach should be applied to free to play games since they are also services rather than products. The reality of any kind of startups is that you haven't raised huge chnuks of money and you can't really attract big press coverage just by announcing something. In these conditions, it's much better to take a 'Continous Launch' approach as it allows you to avoid big and expensive mistakes. Try to reach the critical mass in order to launch quickly. Get feedback from users and iterate from there.
I have a friend who happens to be a game developer. He released one game after a year of development and prefected game play. The game tanked. He then released another game after a month of development with sketchy interfaces that feels like stock images. He then started iterating on this game and after 2 months it was doing better than the first one.
To those of you who dream on a big annoncment on Gamasutra. Think about who the readers are. Are they really your audience? If you are developing a game for kids, I can assure you they are not reading gamasutra. Same goes for casual games, action games and puzzle games. For us, the holy grail was TechCrunch but when we checked how many of the game developers using SOOMLA is actually reading TC, we realized that it's the wrong kind of publicity. Our audience is not there.
Some companies even go and hire a special PR consultant. This can cost you $3,000/month and usually more. These money could have been used for more iterations on your game and getting your users to become evangelists for your game.
So how are we getting noticed? For us, the answer is content marketing. Being able to produce valuable content in topics that interest your target audience is a great way to get your brand out there. Hubspot, Walkme and Flurry are great examples of doing it right. There are so many ways you can leverage good content to get traction. But that's a big topic by itself so I'll cover that in a different post.