Welcome to Chartboost’s monthly Industry Insider Roundtable. Each month we invite the mobile gaming industry’s best and brightest to weigh in on the latest trends and hottest topics— everything from the ins and outs of mobile game marketing to the dos and don’ts of user acquisition.
With the new year firmly in sight, we wanted to bring together two of 2016’s biggest stories in this month’s roundtable: player retention.
Pokemon Go’s sky-high retention rates appeared to trail off dramatically after a immensely strong start. As of October, just a few short months after its launch, the game’s weekly users dropped from 40 million to less than 15 million. But this comes as no surprise, according to SurveyMonkey’s Michael Sonders. “In fact, in terms of how well it’s keeping its users, it’s performing very much like a typical top mobile game,” he told Variety in an interview.
Whether or not there’s a lesson to be learned from the hit game, it raises an important topic for devs. We asked the experts for their top tips and what, if anything, can be learned from Pokemon Go.
Greg Kythreotis — Game developer, Shedworks Digital
The virality being driven by word of mouth is a massive contribution to Pokemon Go’s retention. The social pressure to engage with an application is higher when you’ve spent time with a friend playing the game in person, as opposed to being invited via an unpersonalized notification alert. There’s an almost immediate emotional connection to the game that isn’t present in something like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush.
Being able to utilize invitations and social elements is great, but if it doesn’t suit the game, I think users will find it dissonant with the experience they are looking for. For our upcoming puzzle game, Swing King, we are hoping that by adding new levels, temples, and collectibles users will feel enticed to keep playing. But beyond that, spamming them with notifications that aren’t related to some sort of incentive like ‘free gems’ will only serve to negatively impact user perception of our game. We’re focused on a consistent and enjoyable player experience to keep people coming back.
Steve Stopps — Co-founder, Team Lumo
One of the biggest contributors to retention is operant conditioning. Specifically, schedules of reinforcement. This is a part of what makes slot machines, social media and email so compelling. Lumo Deliveries was, in part, an experiment in distilling a game down to a simple variable schedule of reinforcement. For players who weren’t deterred by the lack of actual gameplay, the results were staggering.
More than 75 percent of players who reached level 5 (about 3-4 days of gameplay) continued playing for over 3 months. We simply allowed players to choose timer intervals that suited their mood and gave them a clear indication of when to return and collect their reward. We then ensured that timers were layered to create a schedule that encouraged people to return regularly. Finally, we gave a sense of progress towards a clear goal (global domination). There were definitely decisions we made that negatively impacted short term retention, but the long term retention for the game is phenomenal.
William Grosso — CEO, Scientific Revenue
I don’t think Pokemon Go has much to teach us about retention. I tend to think of retention as the way we measure commitment. Ultimately, what you’re looking for is for people to feel like the game is their game, and that the game is an extension of their identity. When you see a 10-year-old boy walk up to another boy, ask “What do you play?” and get back “I play Clash Royale,” that’s when you know you’ve gotten commitment.
In fact, the way Clash Royale reused the characters and IP from Clash of Clans was a bit of a revelation. Every time you play Clash Royale, you get a little more invested in the same universe as Clash of Clans (and Supercell, by cross-releasing new characters, and with Clash-o-Rama, is accentuating the trend).
Here at Scientific Revenue, more and more of our customers are using annuities. The idea is simple: sell the daily login reward, rather than give it away. But it works astonishingly well, and it increases the user’s commitment (after all, now they’ve spent in the game) while giving them a reason to return on a daily basis.