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13 Ways to Increase Retention in Mobile Games

increase retention mobile games

In the mobile gaming industry, as in most industries, every customer – every user – you manage to keep is valuable. Retention in Mobile Games is key.

The retention rate, which is the opposite of the churn rate, is the percentage of users that come back to play after the first time they launched your game.

The mobile game market is even more crowded, with new competitors with fresh games every day. In this environment, it’s fundamental to reduce your mobile game churn rate and maximize retention.

A study revealed that just by cutting your mobile game’s churn rate by 5% and consequently improving your user retention rate, you can dramatically grow your profits – by 75%.

Here we compile some of the best practices from the mobile games industry to help with your user retention rate.

You do not get a second chance to make a great first impression

First impressions are always critical but in the mobile gaming universe, they are a matter of life or death.

This is because user retention, on average, is around 20% to 40% only 24 hours after the initial installation. Plus, over half of the users that kept playing after this first day, leave the game within a week.

When running it for the first time, the user wants to ‘enter’ the game fast and start playing immediately. Industry data shows that it takes one or two minutes for a player to decide if he’s interested or not.

That’s why the game must be introduced to new players simply but effectively, sending them directly to the gameplay.

Onboarding should be super-easy

Still in this getting-to-know phase: if your game’s core value isn’t immediately evident, players will quit. Avoid unnecessary complexities in the onboarding process, minimize the number of steps, and let players experience the game’s features as soon as they can.

Make things even easier by allowing players to skip log-ins. Plus, add intuitive controls and quick tutorials, with the goal of converting this instant access into an instantly hooked user.

Let players enjoy the game and its benefits for a while before introducing ads. And before surfacing sections that require the user to fill something in.

This is a great way to boost user retention metrics for your mobile game.

Your Loading Screen Must Be Highly Optimized

Never underestimate your customer’s ever-shortening attention span. If you trust their powers of concentration too much, you will lose them in a flash.

This means that downloading your game shouldn’t take longer than 10 seconds. Simply put, each extra second equals losing users fast.

That is, developers must optimize the process for the download to be as brief as absolutely possible.

Take It Easy With The Tutorials In The Beginning

It’s worth repeating: make it a priority to get your players involved in the game right from the beginning. If they understand your game in three easy steps, you’re on your way to increasing your user retention rate.

You may have to A/B test and test – and test! – your tutorial. Look to teach players the basics and let them capture the rest of the information on their own.

One idea would be to show tutorials as new game content appears.

Introduce Features On a Need-To-Know Basis – But Do It Regularly

Users don’t have to see all the features, options or modes of your game straight from the start. Just make sure they can seamlessly navigate through the interface. Then, as they keep progressing, you can introduce them to new features.

This tactic has the additional benefit of promoting user interaction. That’s because the moment a player logs in, he will always have in his mind a new goal.

Conclusion, be it daily tasks, weekly ones or goals, never leave your users without something to do. Never let them loose without a task that’ll keep them excited.

Always Be Present On Your Users’ Screens

Varied opt-in techniques are a highly efficient way to maintain your game in users’ minds when they are not playing. Push notifications, alerts and email notifications are your friends here. Especially if you can make them personalized.

This said, take care not to swamp your customer or be too intrusive. And please – please! – make it a point to include information of value such as new content on notifications and alerts.

Add PvP Features

If you can, if your game allows it, consider adding a PvP feature. Creating a competitive environment is a powerful tool for keeping the players motivated, thus increasing their engagement rates.

For example, they could have the opportunity to play against their friends, their peers or random people online.

Leaderboards are also good for engagement. It nudges users to keep trying to beat others’ high scores.

Surprise the Players With Rewards

Another proven tactic for user retention is to reward players when they complete tasks within the game. The prizes serve as an encouragement to play longer, effectively reducing the churn rate.

These gifts can be the currency to buy in-app items, extra lives to play longer, or even new features when buying in-game items.

Of course, you should not do this systematically. When you keep providing free stuff, you lose the element of surprise and people can start taking rewards for granted.

Reward Players For Regularly Logging In

Let’s make one thing clear: punishing players that didn’t log in for some time won’t push them to come back. Much the contrary – it may create resentment towards your game.

People take time off from games. As they take from other activities and for all sorts of reasons – vacations, work, health, new entertainment offerings, etc.

If, when they come back, they find their hard-earned progress inside the game has vanished, users will view it as unfair and might even feel a bit strong-armed by you.

A much better strategy is to reward players for regularly logging in.

Be Very Careful With In-App Ads

As useful as it can be as a channel to generate revenue, in-game ads frequently turn out to be the main reason users shun your game. Showering players with all kinds of advertising impoverishes the gaming experience, prompting them to give up.

At the same time, you still need to display ads to earn revenue. So try to find the best, most appropriate moments to show them.

Remember that players fiercely reject – in fact, they abhor them – gameplay interruptions. So maybe think of having less frequent but longer ad breaks.

Promote User Loyalty With In-App Events & Promos

To boost your user retention rates, you should have an action plan including tons of content. This may be in-app events, marketing promotions or trial features.

Also, besides adding new features, invest in customization. A personalized playing experience is always better and more engaging.

This means allowing players to pick their own names, backgrounds, avatars, music, language and everything else they can.

Then, it also means creating content based on the data your customers have just given you.

Extend Premium Services to Increase User Retention

If your users are canceling subscriptions and your mobile game has a premium service, you can use it to increase user retention.

For example, if you detect players unsubscribing from your VIP programs, you could reach out to them through automated messages. You can provide discounts or propose to extend the premium service.

Similarly, you might facilitate new users’ initial ‘entry’ into your game. Display them ads only after they have tried the gameplay for a period of time, typically a few minutes.

Plus, you can disable ads completely for power players, if they already invested in in-app purchases.

We know that these solutions may have an impact on your app revenue. But this should be viewed as an investment in user retention to lead users to buy your services after the promotion ends.

User Retention in Mobile Games – Now You Know Better How To

Now you know some of the best solutions to improve the user retention rate of your games.

As the saying goes, it’s information everyone in this business of ours should – well, retain (ah!).

Speaking of proven, innovative solutions for mobile game developers, we encourage you to check out Catappult’s solution to boost your games. And also to check this list of current alternative app stores in our ever-growing network.

Reach long and prosper.

Catappult is the essential partner for Android games and app developers and companies who want to be free from gatekeepers and have the power to seek the best distribution, promotion and monetization strategies for their products.

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