A successful soft-launch is the best way to optimize your game for widespread release. Generally, it allows game developers to save money and time by receiving early customer feedback and so on.
But today we are not going to talk about the way to start your soft-launch campaign. We are about to answer question is “Where?”. The principal point in your decision on where to soft-launch your app depends on the markets you going to shoot upon releasing worldwide.
The fact which is not surprising for most of people involved in the mobile game market is the dominance of Canada as the #1 soft launch country in 2016 - play and monetization patterns in Canada are very similar to US. But what about 2017 trends and does Canada works well for everyone?
In order to figure out it, we have chosen 20 the most popular countries for soft-launch and made a research. We were considering countries around the world from 3 geos: EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), NALA (North America and Latin America) and APAC (Asia-Pacific). And we have used some criterias in order to discover what country could be the best fit for specific developer or publisher in 2017.
EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).
EMEA is wide and fragmented region with more countries than any other region. Culturally and ethnically diverse and quite attractive almost for every developer. UK and the Nordic countries are considered as top tier markets in EMEA. But exactly Finland, Norway and Sweden - the most popular EMEA markets, where prefer to soft-launch such big sharks of mobile games, as Rovio and Kabam. But it seems like these countries are quite expensive in a subject of the cost for install. Isn’t it? Let’s find out what we discovered about EMEA region.
We have attributed every genre we were considering to 3 conventional categories: casual (trivia, puzzle, card&dice), midcore (adventure, racing, sports) and hardcore (action, RPG, strategy).
NALA (North America and Latin America)
North America is the second largest region in the world with estimated revenues of $13,8 billion in 2017. Mobile segment is the biggest and tasty part of video games cake. Here we have Canada, which was mentioned above as a leader on the soft-launch market. On the other hand, Latin America, which is the smallest region in terms of revenues ($1.9 billion of revenues in 2017), but remains one of the fastest growing. And here we should emphasize Brazil as a country, which become more and more popular for testing new games.
APAC now is the biggest and the fastest growing mobile games market with revenues of $24.9 billion in 2017. China, Japan and South Korea are leaders in terms of revenues, but Southeast Asia is growing so rapidly and urge growth of the whole region. Hong Kong and Singapore - very small, but extremely innovative societies with solvent audience.
Some countries have relatively low iOS penetration and soft launching an iOS-only game in them would negatively affect acceptance rates. iOS traditionally the most populated in the English-speaking countries (USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK), as for Asian countries, leader by iOS owners are Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand, in Europe - Norway and Sweden. But you better to think twice if you considering your iOS-only game for soft launch in China, India or Brazil. But, on the hand, it seems interesting to look closer at Thailand with really high (31%) percentage of iOS penetration and quite low price for one iOS install (0,86$ average).
Average revenue per user (ARPU) - one of the most important metrics, widely used by mobile games developers for estimating game indexes and making more complete picture of mobile market conditions.
ARPU varies hugely across genres, but it also depends on a country.
Japan is full-fledged leader in terms of ARPU. As for the end of 2016 Japan took the first place, thanks to role-playing games, which gives more money to developers from each specific user than any other genre.
Second place due to the AppAnnie report on
Average Revenue Per User goes to China, which long time was considering as quite lean market in terms of ARPU. But over the past three years, China has moved from the bottom of the list of ARPU by country to the second place, increasing its ARPU by a factor of 10. So now you can get not only bigger audience, but also bigger ARPUs from releasing your game in China.
In the total number, 3 from 5 the most rich for APRU countries, are from APAC region.
But on the other hand is the fact that you cannot properly test the game's monetization in a country with low credit-card penetration.
For instance, three the most populated APAC countries— China, India, and Indonesia— account for almost half of the world’s unbanked adult population. For India credit card transaction rate is at 3.40%, online transactions involving bank accounts is likewise low at a rate of 1%. Only 5% of bank accounts are involved in online transactions in Indonesia. In Philippines 3.50% of population use credit cards to pay goods and services purchased online. So for proper game monetization testing is better to choose such premiere urban countries as Singapore and Hong Kong. (28% and 36% of accounts involved in the completion of online transactions, respectively).
But, you can, however, test other metrics such as retention and engagement which resonate better across the globe.
Now, as we have explored few of the main criteria for successful start of soft-launch campaign, let’s look on a real case.
Start Conditions: We have young team of developers from Poland, going to release their first puzzle game for iOS platform.
Goal for ZENNA: To acquire new users from US, Canada, Australia and the UK.
Result: We’ve started from wide range of different countries, which were seemed quite suitable for soft-launch campaign. But we’ve chosen only 4 countries (Finland, Denmark, Singapore and Hong Kong) for testing new puzzle game. Our choice was justifying due to broad covering of players and saving about 40% of our budget (in comparison with Canada).
How we did it: According to starting conditions, we need mostly English-speaking audience with decent iOS-devices and online payments penetration and appropriate cost for install in the same time.
EMEA region, traditionally, was considering as a market with sufficient number of English-speaking players and iOS-devices. Nordic countries could show the best results in this case: exceptional number of people, who speak English (about 85%), high percent of people, owing iOS-devices (Denmark - world leading country by iOS-devices penetration), and prevailing place in Europe on the use of credit cards and completing online payments.
In terms of the cost for install, the cheapest options are Finland and Denmark (1,17 and 1,83$ relatively). ARPU in these countries are 25,97$ in Finland and 30,70$ in Denmark, which is quite high index for EMEA (for instance, in Germany - 22,23$ ,Italy - 25,42$).
What about APAC? New soft-launch “Mecca” is Philippines, which now used in half of all soft-launch campaigns. Why so? There are different causes. English is the second official language in country and the percent of people, who speak English even higher than in Nordic countries: 92,58%. Users are more close to Western-style behavior than most of other Southeast countries and, finally, cost of install quite low: about 0,80-1$ for both platforms. But, traditionally, in Southeast countries dominates Android and penetration of iOS-devices keeps low: in Philippines only 20% of users own iPhone and/or iPad. So for iOS-only game it’s quite small percent, especially with low percent of card penetration and online purchases among players. Another popular markets for soft-launch in APAC are Singapore and Hong Kong.
Though percent of people, who speak English is different: 80% in Singapore to 47% in Hong Kong, both countries have truly digital society with high percent of smartphone / tablets usage and online payments. These countries are quintessence of West and East, so a lot of games could hit the market with no localization required. As opposed to the majority of Southeast, Singapore and Hong Kong should be mentioned for high percent of iOS penetration (46% and 34% relatively). ARPU is following: 78,34$ in Singapore and 64,82$ in Hong Kong (which is more than twice higher than in Nordic countries). And, finally, cost for install of casual game would be around 2$ in Singapore and 2,5$ in Hong Kong.