GameDev Protips: The Secret To Dramatically Improving Player Retention

The secret? A game that seemingly never ends. Let me elaborate: Having an endless game or at least an endless game session will mean that your players will always be able to return. In a traditional game with a clear end, players finish the game and move on to another game. In this instance, players usually don’t return to a game they have already completed. Having no clear ending will keep your game continually in the minds of your players — especially when paired with good retention loops.

Enter rewards. Players should always be rewarded for completing a level in less time or with better efficiency. That’s why it’s crucial that levels and missions be repeatable. Repeatable sessions never signal the finality of the game and allow your players to come back at any time for any reason. Repeatable levels and missions are easy to reward because they do not interfere with gameplay. Instead, the player can be rewarded with a new vanity item, unlocked locations or characters, or increased experiences. When it comes to something like this the possibilities are endless.

Consider making your reward system as varied and as evolved as possible. For example, having numerous characters to play as will entice your player to explore every possibility as long as the characters have different abilities or mechanics that fundamentally change the way that the game is played. This type of reward system is easy to captivate both new and returning players on an equal level, as players are usually compelled to experiment with the playstyle or character that they like best.

If you’d like to add yet another layer, social and collaborative features can provide an even more immersive and rewarding experience. By allowing your player to continue to compete with their friends in terms of online leaderboards, it provides a new level of interaction. It also allows the player to experience the game again even after the game has officially ended. Having regular tournaments for competitive games is another great way to remind your player to visit regularly. With regular tournaments that offer significant rewards and leaderboards, your player will feel part of something bigger than just an ordinary game.

Additionally, your players should know well in advance if you plan to make any significant updates to your game, especially if it will enhance the gameplay. Something as simple as a push notification or in-app reminder for mobile can alert your player of any changes you plan to make. On the traditional PC side, consider building a social media fanbase so that you can always notify your players of updates far in advance.

Important Takeaways: Make games that don’t just end with the completion of the main storyline. Implement modes such as New Game+ with varied challenges. Make sure the game allows for a multitude of different playstyles that correspond with different states of flow, and make sure that the player can always aspire to get better at the game by making the levels repeatable with different perks and rewards for doing so. For example, in both mobile and PC platforms, you can’t really go wrong with the 3-star rating system. Find ways to iterate on that basic retention mechanic and combine it with teasing character unlocks to keep player hooked for ages. One example could be: If you 3-star all levels in world one, you can unlock another unique character to play as. The possibilities are endless.