In the F2P game market a lot of attention is paid to Day 1 retention, the fraction of players that return a day after install, and rightly so. A good value of Day 1 retention is 50% and many games tread water at around 20-30%. The implication of this is that for every player that installs your game, you are lucky if half ever come back. This is not only demoralizing but also costly in an age where it may cost $1 or more to acquire a player in the first place. However focusing just on day 1 retention ignores a very important, but seldom understood, aspect of analysis; when and why do players spend money in F2P games?
At deltaDNA we took a random sample of one hundred of the games using our platform, and evaluated their Day 1 and Day 7 event data in order to answer this question. The answer suggests an important rethink of how we look at retention. Namely, is Day 7 retention just as important as Day 1? I would argue yes and give three reasons why I believe this to be the case.
1. There are more payers on Day 7 than on Day 1
For F2P games in our system there is an overall payer fraction of 1% i.e. 1 in 100 players that install, who will eventually pay. However, since more than half of players leave straight away, this definition is slightly unfair (putting issues of acquisition cost aside). From a game optimization perspective, what we would really like to know is: What is the fraction of payers to those that might potentially pay? Of course this is not something we can ever accurately measure, but it is not unreasonable to assume that players that are still playing after 7 days are better candidates for paying than those still playing after only one day.
We can test this with data from games using the deltaDNA platform. For all players that played on Day 1, 2% are, or will eventually become, payers. Meanwhile for all players that played on Day 7, 10% are, or will eventually become payers. Thus if you were able to boost your day 1 retention by 10% you would only see an increase of 0.2% payers, while the equivalent boost to day 7 would give a 1% increase in payers.
2. People who pay later are more valuable
If we take all the players who paid first on Day 1 their average lifetime revenue is $20 and the mean number of payments is 3. If we take all the players who paid first on Day 7 their average lifetime revenue is $30 and the mean number of payments is 5. So players that pay later are, in general, more valuable. This is another reason to focus on Day 7 retention.
3. Day 1 is a measure of FTUE, Day 7 is a measure of overall game enjoyment
Finally, you can argue that for a player to play on Day 7 they probably have to play on Day 1, so you can't just ignore Day 1 retention. Partly this is true, but it misses the point; Day 1 retention is really a measure of the First Time User Experience (FTUE) i.e. the effectiveness of onboarding, the initial look and feel, etc. Day 7 retention is really a measure of whether players enjoy your game or not. To still be playing a F2P game after a week means that you have progressed past the early onboarding phase and are into the core game loop. Players on Day 7 are enjoying the game experience and prime for a good monetization offer. Of course getting the FTUE is important, but while a good FTUE may boost Day 1 retention, it can't drive player engagement and monetization on its own.