The role of LiveOps in launching your game
Since we’ve been making games, we’ve had to launch them. Launch day can be a challenge, especially if a game is popular and needs to scale quickly to meet demand. Some developers have moved on from the traditional release model in favor of a LiveOps strategy that helps them avoid common pitfalls. This is how they do it.
“With a LiveOps game, the real work starts with launch instead of ending there. And that’s a big challenge for game developers.”
Sebastian Knopp, Independent Strategy Consultant
LiveOps: Game Launch Models
Best Practice: Understand what type of launch model best suits your game, and tailor your analytics strategy to it.
How you can best use analytics and your content pipelines in a LiveOps strategy will depend on the launch model for your game. There are a lot of benefits to doing a soft launch or a lean launch, and if you choose either over a traditional (“hard”) launch there are a few things to keep in mind.
Best Practice: Plan a soft launch to minimize the risk of your upfront investment in development.
A soft launch is an effective way to reduce the risk of your game’s launch. Pick a smaller geographic area (with the same language as your core audience; Australia, New Zealand and Canada are popular options), and run your game for a few months. You can also soft launch by limiting your initial audience with an Early Access or Beta period. Then, pay close attention to the core engagement metrics (Retention, Avg. Session Length, etc.) to fix any flaws before full launch. At this point, it’s also important to listen to direct player feedback for more nuance. Try to look at things like YouTube playthroughs or initial reaction videos/writeups and see if they match your early analytics data.
“What we have done [during soft launch] is via game analytics, monitoring how long people play and how often, how many brutes are killed, etc. Also watching the YouTube videos that people make to understand their interactions with the game. A few years ago you didn’t really have that, it’s a big help— you can literally watch someone go through their first play experience. If they pick it up, whether they’re struggling or not. It’s really valuable.”
Andy Wiltshire, Director, Bulletproof Arcade
A soft-launch saved Nvizzio’s Roller Coaster Tycoon Touch from falling into oblivion. At soft-launch, the game was seeing 65% player loss on day one. From their data they learned that the tutorial was too complex – so the team changed it. By its full launch, the game topped the charts during release week.
Best Practice: Use a lean launch strategy to nail the core gameplay build and iterate from there.
A lean launch, or an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) launch, lets you connect with your natural audience and then tune the game based on data and direct feedback. By releasing a lightweight version and then iterating, you can build more traction by focusing on building out the features and functionality that resonate the most with your audience. Lean launches aren’t really possible without in-depth real-time analytics. Investing in a data pipeline can pay dividends.
A lean launch lets games iterate until they reach quality, sustainable engagement levels.
Kolibri Games utilized a lean launch for their release of Idle Miner Tycoon to great effect, spending only 8 weeks on initial development and making rapid iterations and improvements based on player data and feedback.
“We mostly focused on the game itself during development, because nothing else would make sense if the game wasn’t fun. We did focus on crash analytics and basic analytics to measure retention, which was a key performance indicator for us. At the beginning we were aiming to make something that would be fun for up to 4 days, and see if players would be engaged enough in that time period to add on more content to sustain engagement over a longer period.”
Oliver Löffler, Co-founder, Kolibri Games
With real-time analytics, these launch models help solve the problem of investing too much time in up-front development vs. the benefit of releasing a game sooner. But they’re dependent on an effective LiveOps pipeline that allows for developing several pieces of content at once, and agile deployment.
Best Practices for Launching Online Games
Beyond the high-level strategy of launching a game, try to adhere to these best practices for launching.
Assemble a LiveOps team (or designate an individual) responsible for decision making and rolling out iterations. Make sure that team (or individual) has defined processes in place for making decisions.
Develop a calendar for the first few months after launch to keep everyone in sync across development, content rollout, and promotions and marketing.
Put validation checks in place to avoid mistakes in running events, content additions, or quick-twitch changes.
Make sure you have a way to roll back changes that cause unforeseen issues.
Set roles and permissions for your team members to limit who can approve changes.
PlayFab Launch Support
PlayFab can help your team:
Talk to your community with push notifications, emails, and message-of-the-day pop-ups.
Dynamically scale secure multiplayer servers around the world to control costs and meet demand.
Get daily reports on your game’s performance with the top metrics used across the industry, pre-calculated for you daily.
View real-time data visualizations to monitor what’s happening, and respond quickly.
Browse event history (with filter and search) to troubleshoot errors .
Upload assets and game configurations with content management tools including Game Manager, command line, or raw API’s.
Provide leaderboards for live events and tournaments.
Comply with GDPR regulations.
Thank you for reading!
Azure PlayFab is a complete backend platform of live games. Visit PlayFab.com to learn more about how to implement LiveOps into your game.
Looking for even more solutions? PlayFab is a part of Microsoft Game Stack which offers the tools and services indie game developers need to build, manage, and share their passion with their audience of gamers around the world.