GameDev Protips: How To Improve Player Retention In Mobile Games

One of the main reasons why players stop playing a game is just plain boredom. Players who were interested in a game at its release quickly find new games and new ways to spend their time. Due to large number of games and activities available to us today, player retention is at an all-time low. According to a few studies that I’ve read, on average approximately 66% of players leave free to play games after just a single session. If your game depends on player retention in order to generate revenue, it’s incredibly important that you make sure players will actually return.This is especially true if you expect a large return on investment based on microtransactions.

If you plan to rely on microtransactions, your success will depend on the size of your audience and their consistency in making purchases. As game designers, our main goal is to create a unique and memorable experience for our players that they want to return to often. Essentially, if someone doesn’t want to return to your game, you have failed to create that memorable experience. In order to increase player retention, you need to think about what causes players to return to a game.

This can generally be boiled down to two reasons. The first reason is that the game offers them something other games can’t. The second is that the game offers them something on a personal level. There are many ways to offer a unique gaming experience. Perhaps you can allow the player to explore distinctive or expansive content that encourages your players to return again and again, or maybe you could implement a well-built reward system that makes your player feels like a character that evolves alongside characters in the game.

Making a game that players can identify with can be a complicated task. One game that comes to mind that players can really identify with is The Sims. The premise of the game is easy to understand, it has many ties to real-life, and in many ways, it allows for more creative autonomy than what the monotony of the real world allows. However, parallels to the real world might not be what draws your player in, and in fact, they could accomplish the opposite. For instance, MMORPGs in the mobile space tend to offer a high degree of escapism and do so in a way that permits socialization with other players. Many times, a game can create a sense of community in players and frequently this sense of community can sustain a game and keep players coming back long after the game itself would normally become outdated or irrelevant.

It might be a good game but it’s only as popular as it is because of the loyal community it has created. As you can see, it is important to offer some degree of escapism where players can move beyond the bounds of real life, but this needs to be balanced out with elements grounded in reality such as the ability to socialize with other players. This may encourage many players to come back to the game, even if it’s not necessarily for the gameplay itself.

Important Takeaways: Players tend to get bored, and it is important to keep them coming back, especially if your game relies on a free-to-play model. One method of improving player retention is to offer a wide variety of interesting content backed up by a reward system that makes players feel like they are making progress. Another method of player retention is to offer some elements that players can personally identify with. The most common way to do this is socialization, as many players enjoy the sense of community a game can foster and that community can push the game’s lifespan far past its original expectations. This doesn’t necessarily mean “just add multiplayer” to your game either. Even if your game is a single player game, find a way to broaden the scope of the game by incorporating elements from multiplayer games within. Give players a chance to compete, and give them the context to continue to keep spending time in your world.