Originally posted on Game Developer.
Getting your game to the top doesn’t just come down to a great concept or design - you need to launch it effectively, too. However, hyper-casual developers often use the same launch strategy on in-app UA networks as they do on social platforms - which ultimately lowers performance. In this article, learn how implementing a unique launch strategy for each channel can ensure your game scales quickly and profitably, and understand the differences between the launch strategies available for hyper-casual games on in-app ad networks.
The three types of hyper-casual launch strategies
The strategies can be separated into three categories:
Deciding which is the right approach for you depends on your budget and how much risk you want to take. Let’s take a look at each of the strategies and the characteristics that define them.
A conservative launch strategy is defined by a small cap (budget) and high bids, in which you adjust both over time based on LTV and how quickly you’re scaling. While a conservative approach minimizes the risk of overspending or losing money, you need to watch the campaign closely and optimize frequently to avoid reaching the cap. This leaves more room for errors as the manual oversight needed is high, and the low budget means it’ll usually take longer to scale.
If you can’t afford to start with a higher budget or want to stay in the soft launch stage longer, a conservative launch strategy could work to help you minimize spend - but it does come at a sacrifice to how quickly you can learn from campaigns to optimize and scale.
To launch your game with a more aggressive strategy, start with both a high cap and high bids and then adjust so you can become profitable after you reach the top of the charts. The benefit of an aggressive approach is that your game gets strong organic uplift from achieving a higher rank in the charts, which can help your marketing and brand awareness for future titles.
For studios or developers with plenty of resources that can afford to lose money initially, an aggressive approach could help you get your game to the top faster. The disadvantage, though, is that this strategy is risky - it’s likely not going to be profitable at first, and runs the risk of not being profitable at all.
A standard launch strategy is the one we suggest for most hyper-casual games - it’s not too risky or too cautious. Starting with high caps and target bids that you set based on your learnings from testing and soft launch, you can then adjust your campaigns if you’re not seeing enough traffic. It’s also important that you bid more granularly as you begin to gather learnings from the campaign’s performance 1-3 days after launch. Talk to your ad network for recommendations based on quality and performance so you can find this target bid quickly and easily.
To maximize IPM with this strategy, first consider where to launch - your best bet is Tier 1 countries, like the US and other geos that yielded the highest IPM from soft launch. If you don’t have enough data or learnings from previous titles or your game’s soft launch, just start with the US. The timing of your launch matters, too, with Fridays and US rush hour times (UTC 18:00-22:00) usually performing best. It often takes a week or less to gather enough data from the campaign to see if it’ll continue scaling or if you need to make adjustments. If you do need to tweak your game, check your creatives and your in-game metrics - KPIs like playtime and retention can indicate if you’re monetizing users effectively so you can afford a higher bid.
This type of launch strategy is best for the majority of hyper-casual games because it’s the sweet spot where you can achieve optimal learning to maintain momentum for longer, improve performance quickly and efficiently, and maximize profitability.
Let’s explore the standard launch strategy further with a couple of examples from clients on the ironSource platform.
Body Race and Count Masters reach #1 in both charts with the right growth strategy on the ironSource network
Body Race by Gismart and Count Masters from Freeplay Inc. are both hyper-casual games that run UA campaigns on the ironSource network and use the ironSource mediation to help them maximize ARPDAU and buy better users. Using interactive end cards and playables designed by ironSource’s in-house creative solution, they ran a standard growth strategy with recommendations from the ironSource team about caps and target bids.
The budgets were set high enough and the bids were just right - both games became profitable, achieved very high IPMs (Body Race reached an IPM of 90, and Count Masters had an IPM of 100), and monetized effectively so they could continue to increase their bids and scale. The effective implementation of a standard launch strategy helped both games reach the top of the charts quickly, with Body Race reaching #1 on iOS and Android within 2 days and remaining in the top 3 for over a month.
Meanwhile, Count Masters reached #1 on iOS and Android within 1 day and has remained at the top spot for over a month.
Reaching the top charts with the right strategy
Choosing the right strategy to launch your hyper-casual game on in-app UA networks can help you get to the top of the charts efficiently while maximizing profitability. Remember: This channel requires a different approach than your UA campaigns on social media - so tailor your strategy to in-app networks, make sure to assess your resources and optimize according to the learnings you gather along the way. As you scale, take note of what’s working, and for future titles, apply what you’ve learned but always keep testing and adjusting based on performance.