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. If you want to stay updated on more Player Experience content, consider subscribing to the newsletter.
Acquiring quality players is, and will remain, a costly undertaking. Re-targeting might become nigh on impossible. Games that depend entirely on a minority of extremely engaged players to monetise, be it either solely by ad CPMs or extreme monetisation via IAP (in-app purchases), might struggle in a post-IDFA era.
Could this signal the resurgence of Brand and Product Marketing in mobile game development? Will we see a rise in the importance of Player Retention Strategies and Community Development to complement this?
Acquire! Acquire! Acquire!
According to Forbes, it is 5 times more expensive to attract new users than retaining existing ones. Appsflyer predicted before Apple’s announcement that global app install ad spend will double by 2022. They cited the rise in demand for high-quality users, the fierce competition on discoverability and the rapid expansion of emerging markets as the main reasons. At this point, it is too early to know whether that prediction will come true, but losing the possibility to target quality users like before will come at a cost.
We know that it will take a lot more to recoup any investments in user acquisition post-IDFA (lower conversion rate, lower ROI & ROAS). And when it comes to ad revenue, we can expect drastic changes to happen. The more recent high-profile M&A acceleration in gaming shows that acquiring existing audiences will play a bigger part in the strategy for some studios. By creating mega-MAU ecosystems, these studios decrease their dependency on user acquisition via ad networks and open up possibilities for cross-promotion. This is likely going to be a wild ride, so best buckle up!
For studios who can’t rely on M&A, all is not lost, however. But it will require a bigger focus on product marketing, retention strategies and maximising LTV. If you can not find high-quality users through targeted advertising, you might as well try to turn any existing player into a highly-valued one and retain them.
A Sense of Belonging
As explained in my previous post on the deconstruction of the Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout Community Strategy, players want to gain value and a deeper sense of belonging. They want to feel appreciated and crave human interaction - not just in the game, but also beyond it. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards others with similar interests. We like to share our experiences with those who can relate, making them something bigger than ourselves, building a bond. This shared sense of belonging is what creates a community.
Player communities require nurturing, engagement and genuine and approachable interactions - players do not want to talk with faceless brands but expect honest human interaction. Building communities and managing them is a long-term game; it requires commitment, resources, talent and a strategy. There are no shortcuts, no silver bullets. But we can not ignore the benefits of a perfected community and retention strategy in a post-IDFA world.
Below, I will explain three benefits to keep in mind:
Increased engagement and retention
Increased spend and LTV
User feedback to complement game data
1. Increased Engagement and Retention
It is no secret that players who engage with your community, both in-game and outside of it, retain much better compared to those who do not. To create that engagement, cater to both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of your players. Social features, like in-game chat, social groups and an activity feed or leaderboards offer instant and powerful means of engagement to your players.
While embedded communities allow developers to keep the finger on the pulse (more data, anyone?) and drive players straight into socialising, they are not cheap and only cater to an existing audience within your game. While it might not help grow your audience, they do help in the retention department. External communities, however, do provide both a space for online interactions and organic growth beyond your active playerbase. Smart marketing and brilliant execution of a well-thought-out Community Strategy can lead to virality and growth of your playerbase, as proven by the Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout case.
2. Increased Spend and LTV
Engaged players who play with friends or social connections generally retain better than those who play alone. Games have become much more than a form of solo escapism; they are now often a platform for social interaction and entertainment. Fortnite is a great example of this, becoming a social platform for teens and tweens beyond the game itself, having generated more than $9 billion in revenue in its first two years.
Connections affect spending. Our own buying behaviour is more heavily influenced by our peers than we sometimes like to admit. Engaged players retain longer, which may lead to a positive impact on ROI and LTV. Engaged players who play with friends may boost the ROI and LTV of those around them. A perfect example of this is the group of friends my own 12-year old plays games with; buying matching skins or emotes together due to the Rule of Cool.
3. User Feedback to Complement Game Data
With a community of dedicated fans, you can also gain a lot of insightful data on player behaviour. Feedback received via community and player support channels often provides context to your game metrics. This will allow you to either improve on existing features or even create new ones, enhancing the overall player experience and (hopefully) retention. It is important to remember that not all feedback provided by your community is actionable, but rather might be a symptom of underlying issues detrimental to its engagement.
Time to wrap it up!
For those of you who want to get started on building a community pre-release, and want to maximise its potential, I would advise you to read this very insightful piece on Pre-Release Community Building and Early Organic Marketing, written by Justin French, CEO of Dream Harvest.
To conclude: ATT enforcement has arrived and it may not be the bleak UA-apocalypse many predicted. However, it is still too early to call out the right solution. Regardless of your chosen path in User Acquisition post-IDFA, it might be worth your time to revisit your Community and Retention strategy, making sure you retain players as well as you possibly can. Right?