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How to market your mobile app with pre-registration (Google Play) or pre-order (App Store)?  Why do you need to promote mobile applications and games a few months before the official launch on Google Play and the App Store? What is app or game pre-registration on Google Play? How long can developers keep and promote a game or an app in pre-order in the App Store? Which paid mobile traffic sources convert best for pre-registration or pre-order? Why introduce a game or mobile app with pre-registration and pre-order? It’s all in the article below.

Launching an app or mobile game on the market in 2021

On the one hand, introducing a mobile application or game to the market in 2021 seems effortless due to the low entry barrier when it comes to setting up a development account, publishing a game or an application. On the other hand, the number of competing games and apps that already have a huge number of downloads, an established team, a game or app history in the App Store and Google Play, and a well-developed organic movement raises concerns for new developers who would like to succeed in the mobile application market. The development of the Google Ads advertising ecosystem (transition to universal UAC campaigns promoting applications a few years ago) and ongoing changes in tracking (transition from IDFA to SKAdNetwork) in iOS aren’t helping advertisers either.

For a few years, app marketability in the App Store and Google Play have been improving. In 2012, hardly anyone had heard about phrases like Soft-Launch, pre-registration or pre-order. Today, most developers do not need to promote a mobile application before launching and collecting “subscribed” users with their landing page. One option that allows you to bring together people interested in a given game or application is Pre-Registration on Google Play and Pre-Order on App Store. Unfortunately, both forms of introducing applications to the market are not widespread and are still just a big unknown to all developers.

In fact, they are highly effective forms of promoting apps and games before publication, with conversion from pre-registration/pre-order to application installation at launch being over 50%! Truth be told, you will never get such conversion with a landing page or mailing lists for subscribed users.

What is Google Play pre-registration?

Pre-registration allows you to launch a product page and publish an application or game 90 days before the official publication. That said, games or apps cannot be kept in pre-registration for longer than 90 days.

Your game or app will appear on Google Play, but it won’t be available for downloading. Users can only subscribe to the waiting list from the level of Google Play. When you publish a mobile application, subscribers to the list will receive a push notification or the application will be automatically installed on the user’s device.

Google Play recommends deploying the app to a test track prior to pre-registration. To publish your app in the Pre-Registration mode, you will have to provide information about the content in the application, and the app will be checked before publication. Google Play allows you to pre-register up to 2 applications or games on your developer’s account.

Publication of your app in pre-registration mode is also associated with preparation of materials (icon, screenshots, promotional videos). You can pre-register in selected countries. If you are testing your game or application on a selected number of users, e.g. in the Philippines, in Mexico, or in other countries, you can keep the game in the pre-registration phase. While doing so, you can encourage users with a prize (pre-registration allows for one prize) in the game. Prizes must be active products in your app or game. Google Play allows you to browse statistics during pre-registration. Using the Google Play Console panel, you will be able to check how many users you have acquired in each country.

The ability to run your game or application in the pre-registration mode was launched 6 years ago and in my opinion, now that it’s 2021, it is a much more effective (over 50% conversion from pre-registration to installation) tool for collecting future users than a landing page.

Pre-order in App Store

The equivalent of pre-registration in the App Store is pre-order. Pre-order in the App Store can last up to 180 days, i.e. you can collect a list of users 6 months before the release of your game or app. Last year, the pre-order was extended from 90 to 180 days. The ability to ‘release’ a game or application 6 months before the official launch gives an incredible comfort to the app developer. Pre-orders in the App Store differ from pre-registration on Google Play in that they can be published in selected countries. If you want to keep your game in pre-order mode in the App Store, you’ll have to do a global launch. There’s no way to select countries for launch and countries for pre-registration as with Google Play. Similar to Google Play, when a game or application is published, the user receives a push notification or the application is automatically installed on the device. As with Google Play, you can also track your conversion data in App Store Connect.

App Store Optimization (Google Play) and App Store Optimization (iOS) in pre-registration and pre-order

One of the biggest advantages of Google Play pre-registration and App Store pre-order is the visibility of the product page in search results. This means that a few months before the official publication, you can localize your product pages into selected languages and prepare metadata (titles, short description, descriptions, keywords, promotional text or subtitle) for positioning your mobile application. That’s right! You can conduct App Store Optimization activities 6 months before publication without having the application ready. At the App Store pre-order stage, your game or mobile app can be featured by editors in the App Store and get users subscribed from browsing the App Store.

If you are introducing a mobile application to the App Store, be sure to talk to editors already at the pre-order stage. If you are looking to be featured by the App Store, you will have to invite editors to tests; they will evaluate the game in terms of graphics, gameplay and entertainment. Featuring your application in the App Store can bring you several daily boosts.

One of the most effective sources for acquiring subscribers is metadata optimization (App Store Optimization) based on competitor’s word analysis, keyword research and keyword prioritization with which you want to be listed in search results (the so-called TOP 10).

As you can see in the picture above, Blizzard has optimized the Polish product page for Diablo Immortal already during the pre-registration stage (screenshots with Polish texts, short description and description are in Polish), and in the search results, the game already has its positions for such keywords like: hearthstone, runescape, diablo, witcher, world of warcraft, diablo immortal, warhammer, v4, blizzard, action mmorpg, immortal, arcane, sacred, dragon nest, anima, pve, mortal kombat 11, devil hunter, lineage 2 revolution, black dessert, rise, infinity blade. The Diablo Immortal product page is also available in other languages.

In the United States, the game is even better visible in terms of the number of keywords and, looking at the search volumes, it has at least several thousand users from the United States who subscribe daily. Investing in App Store Optimization at pre-order and pre-registration stages will allow you to enter selected ranks a few months before the release of your game or application.

One of the key questions before starting pre-registration/pre-order is setting a goal. For example, many developers want to get as many installations as possible during the launch, which will translate into positions in the ranking in particular categories or certain tabs in Google Play or the App Store. If you are a small developer or an indie developer, investing in additional traffic sources like Facebook or Google Ads may not be for you. The only thing left to do is metadata optimization (App Store Optimization)

On the other hand, if you represent a larger studio and have an appetite for entering TOPs during a global launch, or if you want to divide your app launch into the so-called soft-launch and pre-registration, it is worth investing in paid traffic sources.

Google Ads allows universal promotional campaigns during the pre-registration stage, but you won’t make an Adwords panel from this level. Such a campaign costs several dozen thousand dollars with the obligation to run it for several days. In order to run such a campaign, you will have to contact the appropriate people on Google (Update 16.08.2021 – App campaigns for pre-registration are available in Universal Campaigns, but are not available to all advertisers yet).

App campaigns for pre-registration

When conducting campaigns at the pre-registration/pre-order stage in Google AdWords, it is worth starting with testing traffic from selected (similar games, PC version) Pre-Rolls, and ending with traffic from chosen mobile applications. If you intend to run campaigns promoting your app, better work on the selected age, gender and interests.

Combining organic traffic with App Store Optimization and adding paid traffic from Facebook Ads and Google Ads can bring you quite a number of users.

I hope that in the coming years, the App Store and Google Play will actively develop pre-order and pre-registration and strongly promote it among developers and users interested in publishing their first app in stores. Mobile user acquisition with pre-order (pre-registration) and bypassing the tedious collection of subscribed users will allow you to achieve a much higher conversion from save to installation.

If you need support in promoting your application before the official launch, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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ARPU Brothers Founder, App marketing agency for mobile apps and games

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