Impressions from Release Day

DevBlog: Alpha Release Recap

A week ago, on September 23rd, was the official early access release date for Network Traders. Time to recap. Specifically, there are two things worth telling. The release party for one, was great. On the other hand, Google managed to blow the release. This is how that happened.

Merchant on first Network Traders T-Shirt

A release date is something very special. First of all, it is the culmination of your work towards a very important milestone. It is something to celebrate, to look back at what you achieved and forward with hopes and expectations. This should be shared by the whole team, so I invited everyone who had participated in the development. My family, Andrea, and all internal playtesters. We had “a few” drinks and played Network Traders a lot. Highlights of the evening were the reveal of the “first merchandise” for the game – hand-crafted by the original merchant’s designer – and finally, the exciting moment when the release button was pressed.

Pressing the Release button for Network Traders
The big moment: the “Go” button for the Alpha release of Network Traders.

Secondly, the release of a game is a marketing event. You build up some expectation in social media, maybe even spend money to place some ads. So I flanked the release with two more DevBlog entries (two weeks before and on the same day), a LinkedIn article, and about a dozen posts on Twitter.

And then, after you press the big button, you expect new players to slowly come and join your game. As Network Traders is an online game, we were able to watch this live!

Statistics on Release Day
The statics for number of players online, the trades per minute and new players signing up on release day.

Google and the Alpha Release

A release that was once paused stays offline, even if you continue the track.

But then – nothing happened. As I had feared, Google does not mean for test tracks to go live quickly. Although I had released and then paused version, this version was not continued with the continue track button. Instead, the status remained at “release not live”. Fortunately, I had already prepared the next version,, to be pushed onto the track. But that did not prevent Google to review this version again, although it had already been released in both internal and closed test tracks!

From this point on, there was not much more that I could do but wait. And have another beer. I wrote everyone I had informed before to please be patient and wait for the release to be finally cleared by Google. And that took another four days!

How to Early Access Release on Android?

So how do you actually do this – starting your open test track on a certain, fixed day? Actually, I don’t think this is meant to be done. Basically, you have two options:

  1. Don’t plan for a certain release date. Just release it silently and tell everyone when it’s finally online. But that is very unsatisfying when you hope for a nice release party and some good publicity.
  2. Use the release track. There is a “release now” button that you can push after the game has been reviewed by Google. Or you can use managed publishing which lets you set a date for an update to your app (only updates, not for the first release, for some reason). But then, your app will get rated by players, and maybe that is exactly what you want to prevent when publishing an Alpha release.

Anyway, it’s still really cool that Network Traders is now online and anyone can download it. Now I am just waiting for you to do that!

Google Play Store entry of Network Traders
Network Traders – now available on Google Play Store!
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