Do everything in your power to make a good first impression. Everyone likes a good movie, but if they get bored several minutes in, there’s a good chance that they won’t stick around for the ending. The same holds true for a game. Don’t think of your introduction as a necessary evil to get to the good parts of your game or the ending, but rather as a way to showcase the type of game-designer you are and what makes your game interesting. People are playing your game because they want to be entertained, and attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. If you don’t hook them right away, they might miss out on the best parts of your game. Make the beginning memorable and exciting.
Keep your game’s play sessions relatively short. Your game should be accessible in small chunks. While the amount of time allocated for each play session can vary depending on genre, player skill, and player demographics, players should be able to go through your game’s core loop in a fairly short amount of time. Time is a commodity and attention spans are short; this means that your players will want to fit in play sessions into whatever spare time they might have. When you force long play sessions onto players, you risk alienating a lot of your player base. Allow for sufficient lulls in the game’s pacing. Even games with long sessions will actually have meta-goals in order to allow for breaks.
Make efforts to effectively appeal to your game’s target audience. Carefully research your game’s target demographic to make sure they’ll enjoy what you have to offer. Before you start working on your game, you want to know which demographic to target and how to target them. This includes knowing which devices your target audience uses and where their interests lie. A game that has no particular target audience will most oftentimes fail to capture anyone’s interest. Having a solid audience is also crucial for product development, playtesting, and marketing.
If you’re not sure of who you might want to target, you’re probably making a game that you’d like to play personally. Knowing this, identify what groups you identify with, and seek them out. If you’re a male in your mid-twenties who loves action RPGs and is currently making a game in a similar genre, there’s a lot of others similar to yourself — actively seek them out and see if they might be interested in testing your game. Ideally, your audience will be present at every stage of your development process to make sure that all the kinks are worked out and that it’s a game they’ll want to return to. Choosing the wrong audience can be disastrous for your game’s long-term appeal. If you want your game to be as successful as possible, do yourself a favor and place as much emphasis as you can on market research.
Important Takeaways: The most important ways to improve player retention are to make a good first impression, keep play sessions short, and make sure that your game is being marketed to the right audience. Players are busy and if you can’t make a positive impression in a short period of time, then they won’t bother with your game. Furthermore, many people don’t have the time to sit down and spend long, uninterrupted periods of time playing a game, so make sure that you can break your game up into short sessions. Lastly, make sure that you’re marketing your game to the right people, since the people that you’re trying to sell your game to might just be uninterested in your game from the outset.