April 30 2020
Final Outpost has been live on the App Store for 8 weeks now, so I thought I'd share a bit of insight into my launch process, what worked, and what didn't.
Before I began planning anything, there were about 200 people who had beta tested the game at some point since last September. I was using this to get some feedback and ideas as I was adding the last few features to the game.
Because I don't work on Final Outpost full-time, there was definitely a sense of wanting to finally get the game out there after working on it for so long. This led to the decision to make the game available for pre-order for 4 week prior to launch. The logic was that this would give me a little more time to make improvements to the game, whilst satisfying my desire to 'finally have a working game' that I could show to others.
I was very pleased to have 100 pre-orders after 3.5 weeks, since this was a much faster download rate than I was used to getting on my (admittedly awful) previous games. That is not to say I regret making those games: They were essential in building up my development skills and gave me experience of publishing on the App Store. The pre-order period also allowed me to view and improve the App Store preview page, and the game was able to appear in search results before release.
A few days before release, I thought I would try a bit of marketing. I took to Facebook (I had tried Twitter ads before with little success) and, with a video and link to the game's website, began showing ads to potential players. As with recruiting beta-testers, this turned out to be surprisingly effective even with a small budget. By the end of day one, Final Outpost had been downloaded over 1000 times.
In hindsight, I should have began marketing sooner with a smaller daily budget to spread out pre-orders and steadily build up excitement throughout the pre-order phase. Although four weeks was sufficient, the more time in pre-order the better. You can ensure that the launch goes smoothly and accumulate more downloads over time.
Even with a successful day one and continuing advertising a few days thereafter, I expected downloads to fall dramatically. They fell, but not that far. Still at about 400 downloads a day, I was satisfied.
I should also mention that I changed a surprising number of game mechanics in an update one day before release. Probably in a moment of panic, I added noise-attraction and effectively replaced the combat system with a new one. This should definitely have been done earlier but I have no doubt that it changed the game for the better. Just in time.
To my surprise, the game was appearing in the App Store for people! Downloads have increased since release, come back down and stabilised at about 1200 per day. This is a great achievement with such a small budget and definitely encouraging for updates in the future.
Looking back on the release I can certainly say that having a website was absolutely critical to attracting users to the game. It helps them learn about the game in a much deeper way than what is visible on a Facebook post or even the App Store preview page. The website didn't even show on search engines until recently and it will need an overhaul or two in the near future, but it allowed me to send people to a single place that clearly shows what the game is about and showcase all the related social media channels.
Along with Reddit, Discord has been critical to getting user feedback and ideas for future updates. It has given the community one place to communicate, ask questions and keep up to date. Some of you have even offered your translation skills for the benefit of current and new players!
Now that we have reached the 100,000 downloads milestone, we are celebrating with an evening on Discord - everybody is welcome. Join us on the Public Voice channel on the Final Outpost Discord server at 6pm BST (UTC+1) on Thursday 30th April. Music included!
As an independent developer, I thank you for supporting my game.