Launch Day Is Not Game Over
Today I want to talk about something that I don’t think any game developer I’ve ever come across has understood. I’m hoping to spread awareness of this concept because I see so much potential out there with you game developers but I see so many people messing this up. That’s the whole idea of launch day being game over. Why do people rush to launch day, push their game out, and then never touched the game again? Why do they do that? They put so much work, so much effort, so much shit into that game, and now it’s just game over. On to the next one?
I’ve talked a lot about pushing, building the ship, and quantity over quality and I think that works very well from the mental perspective of motivating yourself and getting a body of work out there especially in the beginning and while you hone your skills. But from a business standpoint, you cannot allow launch day to be game over. Because launch day is when your game is born. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning from a business perspective. It’s the day that you have the product to sell and everything before then doesn’t matter, everything afterwards does. It’s what you do with the product and how you sell it that matters.
Again, this is a purely business idea. It’s doesn’t apply to hobby game dev or anything like that, unless you want to get more players—then this would apply. In business, the day you finish the game is probably a big part of that whole product’s life cycle. But launch day is just a promotion, that’s really all it is. Sure, it’s an excuse to promote your game because, “Hey, guys now it’s available. It didn’t exist before but it does now”, but it’s not the only promotion you can do. There’s so much more you can do. Launch day is the beginning of all the other promotions that you can do, and if you don’t stick to doing that and really understand how it works. You can’t sustain a business without continuously promoting it.
Let’s break it down a little bit. What do I mean by launch day is not game over?
1.The Development side
Just because you launch a game, it doesn’t mean you can’t iterate or add features, have DLC, fix things, interact with your player base and take suggestions, and all that. I don’t want to turn this into a zombie project for you, especially if it’s not making any money or if it’s a free game. It’s up for you to balance your time and the stuff that you want to put in there.
In business, you need to make money. You want to build a sustainable business from your game. Launch day is the beginning of the rest of that game’s life and you have to understand that. Although launch day may be one of the most exciting times for you, it is only day one of that game’s eternity in lifespan. So, especially for a PC game, which will exist for about 20 years down the line, it will still exist in cyberspace and it’ll be playable, hopefully—unless some backwards compatibility issue occurs which is often the case with newer versions of Windows. PC games tend to be playable for a long time, unlike with game consoles.
You need to understand that because day one is the birth of your game, it’s the beginning of the product and if you can build a product that is timeless, that can really sustain you for a long term. But if you think of launch day as the only time you can make profits from your business, your business is not going to last. Although the biggest chunk of the revenue happens on launch day, that’s not the end of it.
2. The Marketing side
What can you do over long periods to make sure that your game stays relevant? Well for one, you can add to it and although this is still part of development, but if the things you add improve the player experience, that is marketing.
Anytime you release a game and you get a large number of people to play it, there are going to be things that you realize that just make more sense to do, like from a UI perspective, from a user experience perspective, or from a story perspective. Of course you don’t want to change too many story elements in the game afterwards, but there are things that you can improve that will dramatically increase how someone perceives the game or how they share the game or how they spread the game, right?
Therefore, you want to look for those things. You definitely want any quality of life improvements that can make the game better, with the ultimate goal of making the best game. You don’t have to add these crazy, complex features or all the stuff that people will request, but if you just add things that make players love it and interact with it and not be frustrated with it—like it you’ve got frustrating UI issues, that stuff you got to fix. For example: it takes 5 clicks to get somewhere when it should take 2 or something like that, you have to fix it. So the reason why that’s marketing is because I look at marketing as every interaction you have with a player.
The goal of marketing is to show someone your product and convince them to buy. Why would it be considered marketing after they’ve already bought? Well, they are source of marketing to others, that’s the whole concept of virality. When you build something that people love they want to share it, so you want to improve your odds of being shared by increasing how much they love your product. But don’t forget that there are a lot of marketing optimizations that you can make to all of the different materials and stuff that you have for the product. For example, one of the biggest things that sells a game is a landing page and a trailer. Those two things are probably the biggest driver of sales out of anything else.
If you don’t really have full control of your landing page, but you have control over the trailer, the screenshots, the description, and all that stuff, that stuff is very important. And as much as I’d like to tell you to get it right the first time, I know the vast majority of people won’t. Even if I put out tutorials and all kinds of stuff on how to do it how to write it, not only for human eyes but also for the search engines and the game portals and that kind of stuff.
So you can optimize that over time, increase your visibility, and increase your reach. With a trailer, you can cut and put it together in so many different ways. If you ever look at movie trailers, you see how different they can make a movie look just by the music they use and the shots they cut in. You can make a movie look like anything. You can cut Batman into a love story with the right music and the right cuts. Seriously, there are no limits. So optimizing that over time makes sense.
There are a series of promotions that you can do. I don’t want to get into sales and all that because that’s not something I really want to talk about; because I’m not a big fan of them. But when I say promotions, there are plenty of other ways that you can do it. You can release a bundled version with a soundtrack and some other stuff. You can release a DLC and extra Editions. From a marketing standpoint, every time you release something, that’s an excuse to promote it, market it, send out a press release, etc. Every time you do it, it’s an extra promotion.
If you can keep that stuff going consistently over time, you can build consistent sales. Obviously, it’s going to start high for launch day, but then you can have spikes and you can have consistency over time.
So just keep this in mind: LAUNCH DAY IS NOT GAME OVER. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning. It’s the first day your product is available. From a business standpoint, you need to treat it that way. You need to make sure that you understand that launch day is one day, not the end of days. Just keep that in mind and I’m sure you’ll do fine.
If you have any comments or questions on this, leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.