Friday, 8 January 2016

Five reasons why Google Play is the ultimate soft launch platform

Deciding on which platform to soft launch your mobile game can make or break your whole game. Two major platforms currently are Google Play and iOS App Store. This article tries to express few major differences between the two and why game developers need to take these factors into account when choosing the soft launch platform.

1. Reach

Reach means how big user base the platform has. Reach can be divided into global and local reach. Global reach means the worldwide reach of the platform which is more suitable parameter for global launch. Local reach means the reach of the platform in selected soft-launch area (country).
When comparing two major mobile distribution platforms (aka “app stores”), Google Play reached 1 billion monthly active users on September, 2015 according to Mashable. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any reliable data of monthly active users of iOS App Store due to Apple’s traditional way of not publishing these figures very often.

Image 1: Mobile OS Marketshare (Dec 2015, NetMarketShare)

However, the market share of smartphone OS sales, according to Kantar Worldpanel, Android leads the market in Europe’s big five markets, USA and in China. Also, when comparing “usage share” of mobile OSes, Android leads the market with 57,29% according to NetMarketShare. When considering these data points, it is very likely that Apple’s iOS App Store has fewer monthly active users on their distribution platform than Google.

2. Submission process

The variable with greatest importance to soft launch platform decision is the speed from submission from developers to being available for end users.

Google Play has tremendous advantage in this regard. In Google Play it is matter of hours when the game or new update is available to the players. In iOS App Store, it takes at least one week from submission for being available to the players due to the heavy review process by Apple.

This allows developers to bring new updates and fixes much more rapidly to end users than in App Store.

Another variable which relates to submission process is the ability to update app store listing elements without updating the binary itself. Google Play allows change app description, screenshots and feature image and promo videos without updating the binary itself. iOS App Store allows the developer to change app description but not keywords or screenshots without updating the binary.

3. App Store Optimization

Another important consideration is the possibility to alter and test game’s icon, landing page, keywords and screenshots rapidly and compare different versions to each other.
Image 2: Screenshot depicting Experiments audience selection tool in Google Play Developer Console

Google Play announced great feature called Experiments on May 28th 2015 which allows developers to AB-test graphical as well as textual elements in their app store listing. Graphical elements which can be tested include icon, feature graphic, screenshots and promo video. Textual elements which can be tested include app’s short and long description. After the experiment has run, developers are able to view the results of the test in Google Play Developer Console.
iOS App Store doesn’t include AB-testing abilities currently, so if you want to AB-test fluently your games store listing elements, Google Play is the way to go.

4. Paid user acquisition possibilities

As what comes to paid user acquisition possibilities, both platforms have lot of ad networks which offer huge inventories for running your UA campaigns.
But what comes to UA possibilities inside the platform itself, Google Play offers something unique. It allows developers to buy Search Ads which let them display advertisements inside Google Play search results. Google Search ads are excellent because they tap into intent-rich moments in users’ mobile use cycle. Search Ads display both in mobile Google Search results as well as Google Play search results.

Image 3: Google Search Ad on Google mobile search
Image 4: Google Search ad as seen on Google Play Search

The greatest thing is that you can use 3rd party partners such as SensorTower to analyze the best keywords for your title (or your competitor’s) and buy Search Ads from those keywords. What could be better UA strategy, especially in those markets and keywords where competition is still low and prices relatively cheap?

5. Desktop-to-mobile conversion

In my experience, one important but surprising factor which most developers don’t understand is the desktop-to-mobile conversion. With desktop-to-mobile I mean the ability to save, install or favorite a mobile game on desktop so that you can play it later on mobile phone. This is important because a lot of time, people may find interesting games while they use desktop computers, but either don’t have time or have limited intent to use their mobile phone at that time. At that time, it is really nice to be able to efficiently save, favorite or install the mobile game on the desktop, without changing the focus to your mobile phone.

Google has really nice advantage to other mobile distribution platform holders with their huge presence on desktop internet. According to NetMarketShare usage monitor, Google’s Chrome browser holds second place in desktop browser market share with 32,33% usage market share. Since a lot of users have Google account, and due to the possibility to sign-in to your Google Account in Chrome, Google makes it really easy to download games from the desktop view of Google Play to your mobile phone. You just first tap “install”, then confirm that you give the rights to the app which it requests and then the download to your mobile phone begins.
Image 5:  Mobile Strike on Google Play desktop browser view

iOS App Store also allows users to download game via desktop, but little bit less efficiently. First, the user has to open up the app in iTunes program in PC (assuming that he has installed that), then download the game to the desktop, and then synch the data to iOS device via USB-connection or through connecting to same Wi-Fi where the desktop is. That’s a lot of steps compared to simple two-step installation process on Google Play desktop.

Sum Up

Above, I have presented five major reasons why Google Play is the ultimate soft-launch platform for mobile games. There are other reasons beyond these - such as revenue per download, payment behaviour etc. - which are different in different platforms. But since actual data on some of these factors is really hard to find, I have excluded them from this analysis.

What do you think? Did I miss something important? Do you disagree me on these findings? Please comment below!


  1. Yes, Google Play Store is easier for app to enter. You have nice info and examples. Could I add some of them to my own article about App Store Optimization. I'm looking forward to your reply.

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