Best Practices To Maximize Player Retention

October 6, 2023
October 4, 2023

All games have a lifespan in which players initially engage with a game, play it for a while, and then eventually churn. The longer you can keep players playing before they churn, the more opportunities you have to monetize your game, and the fewer resources you must spend replacing lost players. These best practices will help you maximize player retention.

Key Takeaways:

  • The longer you can keep players playing your game, the more chances you have to monetize, and the fewer resources you must spend on player acquisition.
  • The majority of players churn on the first day. Making a positive first impression is critical for increasing retention.
  • Your game design decisions should reduce friction and frustration while increasing engagement.
  • The game experience should encourage players to keep playing. You can boost player motivation by offering incentives and providing regular content updates.
  • Many players continue to play games because their friends also play them. Nurturing a thriving gaming community can increase the lifespan of your game.

8 Best Practices for Maximizing Player Retention

Player retention isn’t just a passive metric that depends on luck. There are steps you can take to improve your retention metrics. Here are eight of the best.

1. Make a Good First Impression

On average, 75% of players churn after just one day. The best way to improve this number is to make players’ first impressions of your game as positive as possible. Start by making sure your marketing materials accurately reflect gameplay.

You want to get players excited enough to try your game without creating unrealistic expectations. Even if your game is good, if players feel that it doesn’t live up to the hype, they will leave.

Next, get players playing as quickly as you can. Your app should launch quickly, and tutorials and login procedures should be as short as possible. Give players the option to skip tutorials, and make the tutorial experience fun and engaging.

Allow players to play as guests, so they can try out your game without going through the account creation process. Delay secondary downloads until after players have had a chance to get hooked on your game.

Chart showing critical early player retention strategies

2. Invest in Your User Interface Design

You never want players to feel frustrated when playing your game. Thoroughly test your user interface to ensure it is easy to navigate and accessible to a wide audience. Look at what games in your genre with good player retention numbers are doing to get an idea of what works.

3. Design Appropriate Challenges

Unless you are designing a game that is intentionally very easy or very hard to play, you must carefully balance the difficulty to be challenging enough to keep players interested, but not so difficult that players get frustrated and quit. If possible, design multiple difficulty levels to increase your potential audience.

Consider offering in-app purchases at points where players may need help to boost monetization while also reducing player frustration. However, be careful not to make players feel as though games are artificially difficult to get them to buy something.

Get players to test your game before you release it. Because you are familiar with your game, challenges that seem easy to you may be difficult for players.

4. Aim for Genre-Appropriate Session Lengths

Longer play sessions correlate with better player retention. However, the ideal session length varies by genre. Casual games tend to have shorter play sessions, while players tend to play more hardcore games and games with immersive storylines for longer.

Aim for a session length that perfectly fits the amount of time your typical player wants to spend in your game. Sessions that last multiple hours may work for an RPG, but not for a casual game that people expect to spend only a few minutes at a time playing.

5. Incorporate Rewards and Achievements

The gameplay experience should be the main thing that keeps players logging into your game. However, you can boost player motivation by adding rewards and achievements. This is particularly valuable for retaining players who have been playing for a while and may have worked through most of the content.

Rewards and achievements give players short-term goals to work toward and provide a sense of accomplishment when players earn them. Daily rewards encourage players to log in every day. Seasonal and special event rewards can encourage lapsed players to return to the game.

Example of an achievements screen

6. Frequently Add New Content

Even your game’s most dedicated players will eventually churn without fresh content to keep them interested in the game. Improve player retention by providing regular updates, such as new levels and challenges, and supplementing with time-limited events.

7. Use Push Notifications as Reminders

Notifications are a valuable tool you can use to remind players to play your game. Encourage more players to sign up for notifications by strategically placing opt-ins in areas of your game where players are likely to approve them, such as in the tutorial.

Design eye-catching splash screens for your notifications, rather than using native graphics, so that your notifications stand out. Avoid overusing notifications. You don’t want players to uninstall your game because you have annoyed them with too many messages.

8. Nurture Your Gaming Community

Players may start playing your game because of an exciting trailer or good reviews. They tend to stick around because all their friends are playing.

Encourage community formation by providing leaderboards, in-game chat, and forums. Be active on social media, and encourage players to interact with each other.

Consider working with popular gaming influencers to give your community-building efforts a boost. Include features that make it easy for players to share gameplay videos, screenshots, and achievements on social media to attract other players to your game.

Help With Maximizing Player Retention

Do you need help implementing strategies to maximize player retention? Sonamine offers a variety of services that can help you reach your retention goals. Contact us now to get started.

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