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How Hi-Rez Studios learned from not launching Rogue Company: Elite

During the Develop: Brighton 2023 event, Hi-Rez's COO Veronique Lallier and chief marketing officer Stephen Hutchins provided valuable insights into their decision not to launch the highly anticipated spin-off of their Rogue Company IP for mobile. This candid discussion sheds light on the challenges and mistakes they encountered during the development process, offering a rare opportunity to understand how a promising project may not meet expectations for a full launch.

The idea of bringing Rogue Company to mobile stemmed from their belief in making the game more accessible to players while deepening engagement with existing fans. With a successful game already on PC and console and a robust tech infrastructure, they saw the potential for mobile expansion. However, they were also aware of the key challenges ahead, including controls, hardware, user acquisition, and retention.

To make informed decisions, Hi-Rez and First Watch utilized various research tools, including Sensor Tower and, to conduct extensive testing and audience research. Their ambition was to launch a soft version of the game in January 2023, targeting the Mexican market due to its existing strong presence of the Rogue Company IP, widespread adoption of mobile shooters, and other favorable factors.

The initial soft launch in Mexico revealed crucial issues. First, the absence of a guest log-in for new players caused many to bounce off within the first few minutes. Second, retention rates suffered as players who won their first match were less likely to continue playing, likely due to easy wins against bots.

User acquisition proved to be a significant challenge. Although paid UA was effective and had low costs for their target market, organic UA couldn't compensate when they reduced paid advertising.

The situation made it evident that the mobile shooter marketplace is highly competitive and oversaturated, leading to fierce competition. Hi-Rez and First Watch realized that making small changes to the game would yield limited results, emphasizing the importance of creative campaigns for boosting user acquisition and organic traffic. Ultimately, they learned the value of knowing when to quit, as they were up against unfavorable macroeconomic conditions and a crowded market.

Despite the decision not to launch Rogue Company: Elite, the developers were not disheartened. They found ways to incorporate the game's tech, maps, and skins into the mainline Rogue Company title. It remains possible that Hi-Rez will explore mobile opportunities for their flagship IP in the future.

Source: Iwan Morris, Staff Writer at PocketGamer

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