GameDev Protips: How To Keep Players Coming Back To Your Indie Game

Retention, retention, retention. Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes or a few hours, retention needs to be encouraged. If you can think of any reason to keep your players coming back, make them. Players usually jump back into a game because they have something to look forward to. One way to keep your fan base coming back to create a daily bonus or if you’re making a game on mobile, a reward or life system that recuperates after a set number of hours. That way your player can easily check if they have at least more life or gold once a day if they do nothing else. Returning players should know upfront that they will be rewarded for coming back day in and day out.

Another idea is a “loot crate” or “booster pack” style of reward. If a player knows specifically that they will be rewarded with extra gold or more lives that will probably start to get boring. However, if they have no idea what their reward will be, then they’ll be more likely to return due to deep psychological incentives . Think about increasing the reward gradually over time as well. You are trying to create loyal players and those players want to feel appreciated. Perhaps certain perks could be given to certain players once they’ve been part of the community for a certain amount of time. These type of rewards could literally be anything. From elixirs and potions to unique monsters to help battle enemies and boss levels. The more creative you get here, the most valued your players will feel.

Another option is a daily quest or mission that unlocks a new area to explore or special rewards associated with completing that task. For example, in multiplayer competitive games this could also include a daily battle where players both build a sense of community but compete for unique prizes. This level of competitiveness will leave your players constantly seeking new challenges. In single-player experiences, adding a daily quest to your game adds a structure and a schedule to your game where your player will begin to know what to expect when they play your game. Who says your game has to be limited to either a quest or a battle? By allowing your player to alternate between both, it gives the player autonomy in choosing which reward they would like to receive and how they would like to progress through the game.

Important Takeaways: The point of great game design is to get your players not only to just return the next day, but to stay top of mind. Daily rewards, leaderboards, and social sharing incentives help dramatically. Make sure that your reward system is explicit. In this era of indie game saturation, loyal players of your game will be few and far in-between. Make sure that the few who do enjoy your game continue to do so for as long as possible — they might even tell their friends and get your game noticed on a much larger scale. That’s what happened to some of my games!