November 30, 2023
Player retention is one of the single most important aspects of app development. Ensuring that users who open your app stick around and, preferably, spend money has always been a top priority, but with current challenges such as rising cost-per-install (CPI)1 and falling k-factors2, now is one of the most challenging times for app development in recent memory.
It’s crucial, therefore, to make the most out of every install, which is where player retention strategies come into play. With the right strategies, metrics, tools, and partner, you can give your players the kind of experience that builds loyalty and drives long-term retention. With that in mind, let’s dig into the details that will set your mobile game up for success.
There are multiple valid player retention strategies, but which one will serve you best depends on your app, your goals, and even your target audience. For example, a retention strategy that works with the puzzle genre's predominantly middle-aged female audience may not be enticing at all to the young adult male-driven audience of RPGs. That said, there are certain techniques that are universally good ideas when it comes to maximizing player retention for your mobile game. Here are three of the most important:
When it comes to mobile game player retention strategies, there’s no better place to start than right at the beginning by nailing the first-time user experience (FTUE). You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and with competition in the mobile space as fierce as it is, that first impression is more crucial than ever. According to Appsflyer, 77% of users churn out3 on the first day they install a mobile app. Your window of opportunity for impressing a new user is small, so optimizing tutorials and early-stage gameplay should be a priority.
One easy way to zero in on a winning strategy is by learning from others’ success. A common trend among the top 100 games is rewarding players for simply returning. Offering enticing rewards in exchange for regular activity can have an outsized impact on loyalty and lead to revenue-driving behaviors.
At Mistplay, we have the Daily Play feature, which rewards extra units to a player each day when they play a game in the Mistplay ecosystem for at least 2 minutes. Originally, the feature was a weekly bonus that was based on maintaining a 7-day streak, but we updated it to Daily Play and found players were happier without having the pressure to maintain a streak. The frequency and type of log-in bonus will vary based on your game genre, audience, and more, so testing what your players respond best to is encouraged!
Some login bonus best practices include:
Players expect and will respond positively to a certain level of earnest communication — so long as it feels tailored to them specifically. According to Salesforce4, 66% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 56% expect all offers they receive from businesses to be personalized. Maintaining an open line of communication is another great strategy for enhancing retention, especially when paired with segmentation, but you must always be mindful of where your user is in their lifecycle. Treat a veteran player like a newbie and they’re likely to feel like just another number to you, but communication that recognizes your standing relationship will make them feel appreciated.
Some examples of effective lifecycle marketing include:
To learn more about player retention and see more examples of player retention strategies, read How to improve mobile game player retention: 5 effective strategies.
Measuring retention is the only way to be sure you’re hitting your targets and achieving your goals. Whether you’re aiming for long-term growth or a short-term win, here are some retention key performance indicators (KPIs) you can use to measure how your retention efforts are faring.
Day X retention is the gold standard of retention KPIs. It measures the number of users you have retained after the Xth day after the player opens the game. Here’s how to calculate it:
(Number of users who open your game the Xth day after first opening it, AKA Day 0) / (Total number of users who first used the app on Day 0) = Day X retention rate
Day X retention is commonly measured against Day 1 and Day 7, with the percentages of those days being key measures of a game’s long-term viability, but the X can be any day after a player opens an app. Measuring different Day X stats against each other can provide valuable insight into your overall player experience. Significantly higher retention on Day 1 versus Day 7 could indicate a poor FTUE, for example.
LTV uses retention rates to calculate the potential return you can expect from an average user of your app:
(Average revenue per daily active user) * (average player’s lifetime in your game) = Lifetime value
LTV is especially useful in calculating the return on ad campaigns and measuring their success across your marketing channels. A successful campaign will return a higher LTV.
Churn, also often considered the flipside of retention, represents the number of users who have left your game after a certain period. A certain amount of churn is inevitable (and can even be healthy), but a sudden spike in churn rate might signal something’s gone wrong. A huge dropoff in players after a specific level, for example, might point to a gameplay imbalance; out-of-the-ordinary churn numbers after a specific ad campaign might indicate a disconnect between marketing message and user expectations.
(Total number of users who have not opened your game on or after Day X) / (total number of users who first opened your game on Day 0) = Churn
Churn can be used to determine the success of various features of your game, how effective they are at boosting retention, and whether or not your acquisition strategy is out of alignment with your goals.
For more information about these and other retention KPIs, read 6 essential mobile game retention metrics and how to calculate them.
Managing your app’s retention is a lot easier when you know for sure where you stand. Now that you know the KPIs to keep in mind, it’s time to consider how your performance stacks up against other developers.
Game retention benchmarks allow you to measure your app’s performance against averages or other common results. It’s important to remember, though, that multiple factors can impact KPIs. Mobile operating systems, game genres, and the player’s location can all influence retention rates, and it’s important to note that Apple’s recent changes to how data is tracked have made gathering data more difficult.
All of that being said, these are some key benchmarks you can use to measure your app’s retention.
A recent 2022 report by AppsFlyer5, in which they tracked 11 billion app installs across 11,000 apps, noted that Day 30 retention rates are in a 20% year-over-year decline overall and suggests the following benchmarks for Day X retention rates:
AppsFlyer also found that owned media marketing was significantly more effective for retention than paid media campaigns. Owned media such as SMS messages, email, user invites, and cross-promotion generated a retention uplift rate of 212.3% vs. 123.4% for paid media.
The report also examined retention rates for games by genre, organizing its findings into the following genres: Action, Casino, Hyper-Casual, Match, Puzzle, RPG, Shooting, Simulation, Strategy, and Tabletop. The results show that Match games have a higher retention rate overall, while Hyper-Casual tends to be the lowest.
To examine these benchmarks further and for more recent findings regarding mobile gaming benchmarks, read The big list of mobile game retention benchmarks.
Simply put, LiveOps means treating your game as a service and offering continual updates and events to maintain consistent player retention and generate long-term loyalty. According to SensorTower’s State of Mobile Gaming 2023 report6, 91% of the top 500 mobile games use a LiveOps monetization model, including the top ten highest revenue generators.
Managing all of the player data that comes along with LiveOps is a challenge for teams of any size, which is what makes player retention software such an invaluable tool.
One of the biggest reasons for adopting player retention software is to manage player messaging. According to Airship7, 95% of users who don’t receive push notifications within the first 90 days of installing your game will churn. A quality cross-channel communications management program can help you utilize all of your marketing channels: in-game notifications, SMS messages, email, social media, and more can all be leveraged to ensure your players are aware of live events, in-app purchase opportunities, and other offers. The best player retention software will allow you to sync these messages and measure performance across all channels.
You should also look for the following features:
To explore three more reasons why player retention software is on the rise and the features you should look for, read Mobile player retention software: 4 things to know before you buy.
Ultimately, player retention is the most important metric you have, because your players are the lifeblood of your app. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to implementing the smartest, most effective plan to keep your users engaged and loyal. Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone.
Mistplay can help. Mistplay uses an AI-driven recommendation engine to connect players with games they’ll love, then rewards their loyalty with real-life rewards, like gift cards. Purpose-built to attract high-value players and with AI-powered suggestion algorithms, Mistplay keeps users engaged, boosting loyalty and driving long-lasting retention. If you would like to know more about how Mistplay can help your app retain players for the longhaul, contact us today.