How to Increase User Retention in Mobile Games

user retention in mobile gamesMobile user retention in mobile games is a huge problem for game developers. Since the user acquisition cost for mobile games has increased significantly, user retention has become a greater focus due to the higher user acquisition costs.

If user retention is great in a mobile game, then user acquisition cost can be greatly reduced. This means that mobile gaming companies need to work hard to achieve high user retention rates in games. If user retention isn’t as good as it should be, there’s a possibility that your user base will become stagnant very quickly.   




How to Determine User Retention Success


There are two ways that you’ll be able to determine whether user retention has been successful: when your players continue using/paying for your product themselves, rather than having continuous marketing push them; and when it becomes difficult for users to quit your product, even though product changes have worsened user experience.

For the first factor, user retention can be considered successful when players continue using/paying for your product themselves. If players are constantly bombarded with marketing to keep playing and paying, user retention isn’t as good as it should be, since they’re only continuing their use of your product due to outside influence, rather than because they like your game.  Continuing user retention in this way will eventually lead to user disinterest due to repetitive user experiences and continuous marketing pushing them into continuing use of the game.

The second factor that determines user retention success is difficulty for users to quit the product or service even though the app has worsened or had a change in design that users may not like. This indicates user retention success when users don’t mind the changes, since user retention is great in a product that has been able to adjust its design without user disinterest.  The key factor here is user experience. If you have user experience right, it’s likely for user retention to be successful and for your game to do well in user acquisition.

How do we create user retention such that users continue to use our products themselves, rather than due to outside influence or easy user interface? The answer: create a great user experience so that people enjoy using your product and freely decide to pay for premium content or features on their own. The best way to achieve this is by marketing your game to the people who want to use your product, and user retention is greatly increased if the user experience is great.



Ways to Increase User Retention in Mobile Games


  1. At the first stage of game development, you should target user retention based solely on user experience and not user acquisition; user acquisition is too expensive if user retention isn’t sufficiently high. Even if there isn’t much user interest initially, you can still achieve a great long-term user experience by focusing on user engagement rates rather than growth rates; it’s just as important to focus on the quality of your product rather than its quantity. If you are able to first retain users through an appealing UI design and make sure gameplay experiences are balanced according to difficulty levels (even for new players), then users will begin advertising your game through word-of-mouth since they enjoy using it.


  1. The user experience isn’t just about what’s created during the user engagement phase, which is generally considered to be after a user has started playing the game.  It’s also important to consider user retention prior to user engagement in order to create a product that will appeal and retain users from the very beginning of use.  This can be done through UI design, tutorial content, game settings, and so on. For example, you can offer excellent tutorials or trial periods if you want users to acquire an enhanced user experience based on user needs rather than compromise interest due to poor usability factors.


  1. When creating your mobile game, think about who you’re targeting as your primary players (short-term user base), as well as user retention during the user engagement phase, and asking if you’ve considered what kind of user experience players will expect after a long period (long term user base). This is because user retention rates are different depending on your target audience. When designing user retention factors in mobile games, beginner or advanced users should be able to enjoy the game; it’s important to adjust difficulty levels as needed for each user group based on their expert knowledge levels.


  1. Since user retention depends highly on gameplay design that balances user expectations with challenges/difficulties, it’s impossible to just create an interesting storyline or lots of content and high-quality graphics and think about maintaining an active user base afterwards. However, there are other tips you can apply when you design user retention that will be helpful. For example, user acquisition costs are lowered if you anticipate which user segments you want to target with your game during user segmentation, user knowledge/skill level evaluation, and product design.


  1. Although most mobile games these days tend to focus on a single type of user engagement (competitive games and user-created content games, for example), user retention can be improved if you have a wide range of user engagement types to satisfy varied user needs.


  1. The most important time for user retention is during the user engagement phase; but it’s also important to consider long-term user bases if you want to achieve sustainable growth as a game developer (the number of users that can be acquired in the future). However, since mobile games generally struggle with how to keep users engaged over a long period of time due to the lack of depth and limited amount of content available on platforms like smartphones, there’s an increasing need for developers who can think about improving user retention factors through user engagement design.


  1. It’s important to have a user retention plan from the beginning of the user engagement phase because user retention differentiates developers who are successful in the long term from those who aren’t and can also be used as a core concept for user acquisition strategies. User retention plans include user segmentation, user knowledge/skill level evaluation, product design (how you will use game design elements like difficulty, UI elements, etc.), and UX design (how you will improve user experience factors).


  1. Other factors to consider when designing your user retention plan is how you will increase interest among players through various means such as social media activities or deals with content partners; what kind of support system you’ll provide during each stage of user activity; and what user retention events/campaigns you’ll run. You can use these user retention strategies to customize your plan for each segment based on user activity patterns and skill levels, because different users exhibit different types of user activity (ranging from very active users to those who play only once a day).


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