There's often pressure to release a game onto the Play Store before major bugs are fixed, to start generating revenue immediately. Try to resist the temptation to release too early. A broken game on the Play Store is going to find it very tough to rank well at all. Developers often beta test with their users and hope that by the second or third month, their game will be almost perfect. The major downside to this launch strategy, is often by month two or three, it's too late. Games have a small window of opportunity to easily rank on the android market -- usually just the first month, with the first week being the most critical. Miss this window and it becomes increasingly more unlikely your game will naturally rank -- even if by month three you have incredibly fun and polished game. If you get to this point, the only real option is to hope your game's ARPU is high enough to warrant large investment into marketing.
If instead you start with a closed beta, you'll have the opportunity to upload your final, polished, version to a separate listing and be more likely to scale the charts in the first few weeks of launch.
In a beta test, ensure you set a user limit. 5,000 registered users should be more than enough. At Papaya, we offer developers on our platform a pool of friendly users to beta test their game before live launch. By creating a closed beta test, you also build up hype and anticipation for your game, while making your beta testers feel especially loved and turning a good proportion of them into your top fans.
Ask for feedback from your beta testers and collect feedback, making sure you get user OS versions and handset models. Dictate your live launch, not by a set date, but by a goal for your metrics. Key metrics to follow closely are your daily retention rates, active install rate, K factor, and ARPDAU. Clearing major bugs that hinder gameplay or crash the app should be the first priority. Install app analytics such as Flurry or even Google Analytics to monitor which handsets are most popular and get your game working flawlessly on those devices. Android games tend to have a large long tail of handsets, so this part can be time consuming but is essential if you want to inch ahead of your competitors.
Set up systems to collect user feedback. Android market comments are a good place to start, but they only allow for one comment per user. A mobile message board for users to post feedback is really effective, not just in the beta period but also for longer-term communications too. Papaya SDKs come with ready-made message boards for nurturing a community.
A community message board where users share tips and win in-game prizes
Request and check beta tester feedback to find bugs that your team misses. If you focus on the top 20 handsets, you should cover about 50 percent. Your next priority should be on collecting gameplay feedback. Monitor your stats closely and set up user flows so you can see which features are most effective and where users are dropping off. Collect feedback from your users on what they like and what they don't. Set up split AB tests to measure effectiveness of new features, and keep those that perform best. Experiment with different pricing strategies and create a good mix of low cost consumables and premium durable items. Once you're confident your game is largely bug-free, gameplay is polished, retention metrics are solid, and ARPUs are great -- it's time to launch.
Make sure you have a fresh new page for your live version of the game. This is essential, so the Play Store treats your game as a completely new title, allowing it to hit that early window of opportunity for high rankings. Insist that your beta testers install the new live version of the game, but assure them their accounts will still contain their progress and any items they already purchased during the beta test period. Offer a bonus item as a further incentive for installing the new version. The influx of beta testers combined with all those users who are now suddenly able to access the game should give your live version an immediate boost.