Masterclass #3: How to increase your retention

In hyper-casual publishing, the user retention rate is one of the key metrics used to assess the potential of an upcoming prototype. It refers to the percentage of returning users who have played your game over a period of time since installing it. The better retention you have, the higher ARPU you will have and the more revenue you will generate over the lifetime of your game.

While you may have an entertaining concept that attracts users on the first day, you will still need to find ways to excite and inspire users to return even on Day 7. For most publishers, the benchmark retention rates are somewhere between 35%-40%+ for RRD1 and between 10-15%+ for RRD7. Achieving these metrics is often easier said than done with many developers having to tweak multiple components of their games to find the right balance. 

In the final instalment on our Masterclass series, we partnered up with Coda’s gaming experts to reveal insights into user retention in hyper-casual gaming. With their help, we’ve come up with the best practices and techniques that developers can use to help improve your retention from Day 1 to Day 7. 

High RRD1 depends on first-impressions

When it comes to RRD1 in hyper-casual gaming, first impressions are everything. In the first few minutes of a user downloading your game, they need to experience the best of what your game has to offer that will ultimately drive them to return in the days to follow. To give your user the best gaming experience, it’s essential to find the right balance of effective onboarding, level of difficulty and ad frequency in your game. 

Clear & Effective Onboarding

Hyper-casual games typically have simple game mechanics that make it possible for anyone to pick up and play regardless of their gaming skill. It’s therefore vital that the onboarding of your game is as clear and as obvious as possible. You ultimately want your user to understand what the objective of the game is within the first 10 seconds and to understand the player controls. To avoid localisation issues later in publishing, we also recommend opting for symbols or animations rather than wording during the onboarding process. 

Impossible to fail

In the first few minutes of gameplay, it’s crucial for users to feel as though they are skilled at the game and can continue to win the more they play. To achieve this, we recommend that you make it almost impossible to fail in the first few levels. 

We’re not saying that you need to make your game extremely easy or without challenge, rather that you want to guide your user through a natural progression of difficulty. In most onboarding, the first level involves little to no obstacles so that it’s impossible for the user to lose. The levels that follow may introduce new roadblocks or obstacles that slowly onboard users at the same time. 

Fine-tune your game to achieve high RRD7

Increasing your retention rate on Day 7 can be a little bit more complicated in comparison to retention rates on Day 1. By this stage, a user has had your game on their device for at least seven days, so what is it about your game that should draw them back? Certain practices and techniques are subjective based upon the mechanics or functions of your game. In saying this, however, there are some optimisations that developers can look to utilise to improve upon to increase their RRD7:

Optimise Ad Rule Sets

Ad rule sets will define the number of ads, placement and frequency of the ads that are shown in your game. While these rules are generally set by a publisher’s monetization team, it’s important to understand their impact upon the overall user experience. For example, too many ads can have a detrimental effect on users, obviously prompting them to exit the game.

Focus on improving overall game performance

While it may not seem to have an obvious impact, spending time on improving the overall quality of your game’s performance can have positive effects on your user retention. Coda’s gaming experts encourage developers to focus on improving the overall ‘feeling’ of the game, such as the controls, making sure the pace of the game is optimum, haptics, eliminating gameplay lag and ensuring that physics and animations are applied seamlessly.

Create variety in your game to delight users

Creating variety in your game is crucial to retaining users in the days following an initial download. This variation can be applied to many aspects of your game, from creating variations in the difficulties and progress of levels or even adding a new supporting mechanic or metagame if your gameplay is too repetitive. 

Since every game concept and mechanic is different, there is no magic one-size-fits-all solution that will automatically increase the retention of every game. Rather, there are a number of techniques and tweaks that you can utilise as a developer to help magnify the exciting aspects of your game. 

When looking to increase your retention, put yourself in your users’ shoes and try to imagine how a new feature, varying levels, fewer ads or better game performance will impact the likelihood of them returning. Test your results through market testing (we have a great tool for that here), measure the results of your changes and tweak again until you hit the retention sweet spot. 

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