This article was originally published on The PX Hub, my personal blog specializing in content on Player Experience in game development. Find insights, best practices and handy tips to help you ensure your players stay happy and engaged.
Acquire more users! Is often the answer you may get when asking mobile f2p studios about their business growth plans. While acquiring more users will help you gain that initial traction for your game, you may soon come to realise that User Acquisition alone will not provide you with a sustainable business. Eventually, the cost of acquiring new players will reach a point where your ROI ends up being minimal.
The average app loses 77% of its DAUs within the first 3 days after the install. Within 30 days, 90% of its DAUs have churned. Rather than accepting churn rate as a given, or looking at it as a simplistic and somewhat mystical metric that is part of creating games, it should be viewed as a challenge; an opportunity to impact the Player Experience and improve retention. Increasing user retention by just 5% can increase profits anywhere between 25% and 95%.
Attrition and Player Experience
Churn, or player attrition, is an indicator of player behaviour and stems from the lack of fulfilment of player needs and expectations. Whether you’re a small studio or one of the giants, no one is spared from player defection. However, It is important to understand the cause of attrition to ensure sustainable growth. The most common reasons are:
Failure to deliver value
Confusing UI and navigation
Performance and technical issues
Lack of stickiness
Lack of (fresh) content
All of these reasons affect the Player Experience in a rather impactful way and have a deteriorating effect on retention and the ROI of your User Acquisition costs. Make sure to use game analytics funnels to track player progression so you can identify when players drop off and ask your Community Management and Player Support Teams for reported pain points in the Player Experience. The combination of game analytics and behavioural context will grant you actionable insights you otherwise might miss when looking at each one individually.
User Acquisition tactics
While you should investigate whether you have a retention problem, consider as well that you might have an acquisition problem instead. The most common pitfalls are:
Not understanding your audience
Lack of strategy and planning
Investing in Quantity over Quality
Absence of appropriate data analysis
Preference of low CPI over high LTV
With the cost of User Acquisition rising year by year, mistakes can quickly become expensive lessons. So what tactics could you deploy to counter these mistakes? Here’s my take:
1. Optimise ASO
Over 60% of users discover new apps through the App Store search. Consider the app’s name and the keywords in the game’s description. Speak the language of your audience. Games that have a keyword in their names have a 10% higher ranking than those who don’t. Don’t forget that App ratings and player reviews are also an important part of ASO. Negative ratings and reviews can have an impact on a prospect player’s decision whether to download your game or not.
2. Know your Audience
Having a target demographic is one of the fundamental components of your game business. This means all efforts need to be aligned to serve those players, across the whole of the Player Journey. The initial messaging and marketing needs to convince the prospect player your game is living up to their expectations. What are their needs and goals? Player segmentation and player behaviour analytics will enhance the likelihood of reaching the correct players at the right time.
3. Have a User Acquisition plan
State Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics (CAC, LTV, etc.). Track and analyse to establish realistic goals times and time again. Performance analyses will allow you to reduce your User Acquisition costs in time; ensure to have short A/B tests to benchmark performance. Having a plan will also allow you to more easily make a forecast and manage risks.
4. There’s no substitute for quality users
Let’s forget about using the number of downloads as a key metric for your games’ success. You want your users to retain and be engaged, not install the game and never open it. 1 Million downloads mean very little if your users never come back on Day 3, never monetise. Low CPI installs are hardly ever worth it; players brought in with low CPI have generally a lower LTV, which could be good money down the drain and time wasted.
5. Measure metrics that matter
Once you start acquiring players, metrics will show you the best way to continue. Retention rates, conversion rates, ARPU, ARPPU, ARPDAU, LTV, session length, app download statistics, active users, etc. All of these metrics will help you make data-informed decisions to iterate on your User Acquisition efforts and improve the overall Player Experience. Don’t get discouraged when the numbers don’t live up to your expectations; use them to your advantage and update your User Acquisition strategy.