Launching a mobile gaming startup

A gaming startup could be your long dream or a strictly planned investment in a new business. In any case, this guide will help you to understand and plan your further journey at a high level.

If you are making a game startup to build and distribute games on iOS and Android stores, our guidelines will help you to make everything correct and possibly succeed. This guide will be much helpful for new people and companies in the industry.

How to start

A gaming startup could be your long dream or a strictly planned investment in a new business. But in any case, it is started from the market analysis and understanding of the idea (game concept or the prototype) could be competitive, how many competitors are there on the market, how this type of game is popular, etc.

Depending on the game mechanics and other side features, the budget for the development varies. Some game mechanics are simple, quicker, and cheaper to build like hyper-casual games, but other games are much more complex, take more time and money, e.g. real-time multiplayer games.

While planning the development budget, it is important to plan the marketing budget also. Larger and more competitive games require bigger initial budgets for marketing because a game will never boost without UA.

Documentation

The game should have documentation about all parts:

  • Game design document (GDD) describes the game idea, the setting and general purposes and details, like audience, goals, etc;
  • Technical documentation includes technical stack descriptio. It describes details about the frontend and the backend part of the app (in case the backend is required and exists), and how they should be synchronized and communicate;
  • Level design document in case the game is based on levels;
  • Game economy document in case the game has a complex monetization system;
  • Basic UX and screens flow diagram to show users’ navigation and interactions with the game.
The building process and stages

There are two ways to proceed with the first game: build the MVP or move directly to the full development.

  1. MVP – a prototype is built to test the mechanics and users’ actions. If the game is rather big or you are not sure about the game mechanics quality, then the shorter version of the game is built first. This is generally done to avoid risks and huge expenses in the future once the game is built, money is spent, but the final product is not playable. Once the MVP is done, tested, and looks promising, then the full development gets the green light.
  2. Full development contains much more stages than the MVP. The number of them varies on the game mechanics and features to build. Below the general components are listed:
  • UX / UI;
  • Design, animation, VFX;
  • Front end development;
  • Back end development in case it is required in the technical documentation;
  • SFX;
  • Level design;
  • Quality assurance.
Test release and bugfix

If the game is new, we suggest releasing it on the test market – it is called the soft launch. The game is released on one store (e.g. Apple Store and Google Play in Canada) to test it on real people but not on a too big audience. First of all, it is used to catch and remove existing bugs. Besides that, the game retention and user behavior are tested to see how users like the application. Once the test is done, the game is ready for the global launch for all stores.

Marketing for mobile games

Developers should plan at least the same budget for the marketing as they spent on the development. The best option would be to set the marketing budget much bigger than the development budget.

There is a 99 percent chance that the game will not receive organic traffic without buying traffic and will get lost in markets. We leave 1% of the chance for cases when the app can be promoted by Apple (Editors Choice, App of the day or get one of their categories) or Google, but this is rare and fortunate, and developers shouldn’t rely on it.

The application marketing should at least include:

  • ASO – setup of the app keywords, description, and the app title in stores;
  • Creatives for stores – visual assets to promote the app (app icons, screenshots, banners, videos);
  • User acquisition (UA) – purchase traffic from various ad networks (for example, Facebook, Google, others) to increase the number of users, understand how much can be spent on UA to stay profitable;
  • Creatives for UA – video creatives and static images to use in user acquisition campaigns.

When it comes to the marketing phase, there are two basic options to proceed:

  1. Make marketing materials and work with internal resource.
  2. Cooperate with marketing companies that specialized in ASO, Creatives, and UA.

There is much more to tell about marketing depending on the game, marketing budget, existing ad channels, networks, approaches, etc. We will cover this topic in a separate article.

For the hyper-casual games, it is better to work with existing publishers like Voodoo, SayGames, Homa, SuperSonic, etc. They already have the infrastructure and resources to test your game CPI and retention to see if it shows positive results. In case yes, they boost the game with tons of traffic. But the game test results should be very high. For example, CPI should be less than 0.25 USD, and retention D1 should be at least 40%.

Ongoing maintenance and live ops

Successful and profitable games should get new content and updates. If the game shows positive data and becomes profitable, it should be supported by releasing new features. Types of live ops can be:

  • New features to increase retention;
  • Challenges and tournaments to give users more options to play;
  • Seasonal and holidays content updates;
  • More levels in case the game is level-based.

At further phases, developers do A/B testing of the new content and app updates to see the performance, retention, other data and proceed with better options. For example, the application icon is periodically changed to test different performance and impression rates.

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