8 Best Practices To Maximize Player Engagement

March 11, 2024
March 11, 2024

Users love free-to-play games because they can try them out with no risk. The downside is that with nothing invested in a game, players don’t have much motivation to stick around if a game doesn’t immediately grab their attention.

On average, less than a third of app users return after the first day, and by 30 days, that rate is less than 4%. Player engagement is the key to ensuring players keep playing long enough to spend money on your game. These best practices will help you improve your retention rates.

Key Takeaways:

  • Making your game free-to-play is a good way to attract more players, but you must keep those players engaged to get them to play your game long enough to spend money.
  • Tracking player engagement metrics will give you insight into how you can improve and how effective your engagement campaigns are.
  • To better engage your players, reduce sources of frustration, create balanced and rewarding gameplay, continually provide players with new, exciting experiences, and personalize your game to match your players’ preferences and motivations.

1. Use Metrics To Track Player Engagement

To assess whether your engagement campaigns work, you must track how user engagement changes in response to them. To do that, you need to track key metrics such as:

  • Session length, session frequency, and total time spent playing
  • Daily, monthly, and weekly active users
  • Retention rate
  • Number, amount, and frequency of in-app purchases
  • Average revenue per user and per paying user

In general, the more engaged your players are, the longer and more frequent their play sessions will be, and you should also see more purchases and better retention.

2. Implement Smart Matchmaking

A well-implemented multiplayer mode can do wonders for your engagement. Playing with or against other players is often more motivating in the long term than playing against AI opponents. However, poor matchmaking will drive players away from your game.

Matchmaking needs to be fast. Most players will not wait very long for a match before they leave, and if they leave because they can’t find a match, they may not come back.

Your matchmaking system must also do a good job of matching players with other players of similar skill levels. Most players don’t enjoy always losing to more skilled players or winning easily against much less skilled players. Online matches need to be challenging but winnable for the majority of players.

Graphic demonstrating how matchmaking algorithms work

3. Balance Challenge With Reward

Balancing rewards and challenges in solo gameplay is also important for player engagement. Adding multiple difficulty options can accommodate a wide range of players, from those who want to experience the game without a steep learning curve to those who want to earn every bit of advancement they make.

Progression systems should make advancement challenging enough that players feel like they accomplished something when they progress but not so challenging that players feel like they need to make the game a second job to get anywhere. Rewards should be appropriate for the difficulty level.

Players who accomplish something difficult should get a valuable reward to keep them motivated to tackle the next challenge. However, avoid being overly generous. Rewards lose their value when they are too easy to earn.

4. Understand Your Players

Player engagement is all about motivation, and players find different things motivating. Analyze your players’ demographic and gameplay data to gain insight into their skill levels, preferences, and motivations.

Use the insights you gain to tailor your game design to your player base. For example, if your players are highly skilled and motivated to advance, continually adding new challenges should increase engagement.

5. Provide a Clear Objective and Sense of Progression

Some players enjoy figuring everything out for themselves, but most want guidance about what to do next. Players may become frustrated and quit playing if your game doesn’t provide a clear objective.

You can accommodate varying play styles by having different modes or by incorporating a hint system where players can try to figure things out independently and then ask for hints when they want them.

Provide players with an easy way to see their progress in the game. Give them rewards, such as achievements, trophies, badges, titles, and other markers so they can see their progress and show it off.

Example of a progression screen from the game “Civilization VI”

6. Reduce Friction

Players want to have fun in your game. Anything that interferes with that can lower player engagement. Potential causes of friction include:

  • Cheating
  • Toxic behavior
  • Bugs
  • Poor game design
  • Disruptive ads

Analyze player data to determine sources of friction that may lead to player churn. Solicit feedback from players through surveys, online forums, and social media.

7. Provide Personalized Experiences

As new technology makes it increasingly possible to personalize entertainment experiences, players expect more than generic gameplay from their games. Personalized experiences make gameplay more immersive and create a unique experience that sets your game apart from the competition. Players tend to feel a stronger attachment to personalized games, which is good for engagement and retention.

8. Keep Content Fresh and Exciting

While players should feel like they are making progress in your game, they should not reach a point where they feel like there is nothing left to accomplish. Keep adding new challenges and rewards.

Use time-limited events to provide a steady stream of new experiences and create a sense of FOMO. Design your game with replayability in mind. Create dynamic challenges and environments that respond to player actions. Make sure there is always a reason for players to come back for more.

Enhance Player Engagement With Sonamine

The games-as-a-service model allows successful games to maintain thriving player bases for years. However, keeping player engagement high requires substantial resources and effort. The team at Sonamine can help you find opportunities to improve engagement and implement engagement campaigns that get real results. Contact us today to get started.

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