Game Retention Rate: How to Boost It

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How to boost mobile game retention using Google Analytics

Game retention is the main index of how profitable the game is. Game Retention Rate or just Retention tells us how many players launch the game again. It shows how addictive the game is and gives some hints for future improvement. 

bad game retention makes gamers chew cabels

In this article we will tell you why retention is so important and how to use built in Google Analytics to boost it.

What is D1 Retention in Games

Mathematical meaning of the retention is simple: it’s a percent of players who launched the game more than twice. For example, if the game has 100 000 installs and on the second day only 30 000 played it again, the Day One Retention is 30%.

The exact formula is following = Number of players who played the game on day N / Number of players who installed the game N days ago × 100%.

mobile game retention formula

To calculate it more accurately an analytics module divides people into cohorts. Those who installed and played the game at day N are cohort N, at day N+1 — cohort N+1 and so on. So the analytics can provide you with fresh data on how many players are actually playing your game on the next day, week or month.

typical retention curve

Also there is a churn rate — the opposite of retention. It’s the percentage of players who left your game after a period of playing.

Why the Game Retention is important

The basic reason to know retention is to analyze how addictive the gameplay is. For example, if the game has day one retention of 5%, it means that only 1 from 20 players decides to play the game once again.

Day 1 retention is important for the fast games

Day 1 retention is a measure of onboarding process. It shows how good the tutorial and the UI are and how the player’s expectations from the ads are met. The players have experienced the overall look of your game. If your game has some complex mechanics available for high level players, they didn’t get there yet.

So if you focused to generate revenue from ingame ads, you need to pay attention to D1 retention and proper advertisement. To make your D1 better you need to make the first hour the most entertaining part of the game. For example, make the progression easier so the player will feel it and will stay for more. Also, next day notification like “Energy restored!” or “Super blaster was unlocked!” works great.

The D1 is the most important things for hypercasual and casual games with one or two mechanics. The short term retention rate will tell you how captivating that mechanic is and how you can improve it to gain more players return to the game.

Day 7 retention is the vital metric for the multiplayer games with no Pay 2 Win

Day 7 retention is a measure of your game mechanics, art, story and music. Those percent of players have accepted your UI and artstyle and now play because they like the mechanics. For example, a typical free to play game like Clash of Clans or Sim City is fun until there comes resource grinding and «Pay to Play» pop-up. Those games have mediocre D7 retention.

But D7 comes in handy for measuring the multiplayer games like Fall Guys, Among Us, Fortnite, PUBG, Gwent, Genshin Impact and so on. Why? Because those game generate money from selling cosmetic content. The players must play for 1-3 weeks to make sure that they like the game and they want to spend some money to make their character look nice. So if your competitive multiplayer game has bad D7 rate — you must be worried.

Day 30 retention rate is for games with hard grinding

Day 30 retention tells about how many players have evolved into loyal fans. Statistics say that 75% of players who play the game for 30 days will play it for 180 days more. It represents the overall success of a game, the player base growth. And the most important, those players will pay to be better in game: buy upgrades, resources and whatever the game sells.

D30 retention is important for mobile farms and “strategies” like Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, gacha games like Fate: New Order, MMORPG like Black Desert Mobile or even RAID: Shadow Legends. The business model of this games is to make the players addicted. And D30 is the best tool to measure addictiveness.

Some casual games like Candy Crush Saga, hidden object games and any games with “energy” mechanic is also dependent on D30 rate. If the players are not addicted enough to play the game for a month straight, they won’t pay for energy when the things come hard.

d1 d7 d30 retention features

By analyzing retention rates the game developer can define which aspect of the game is weak: onboarding, core gameplay loop or the endgame.

Average game retention rates

Nowadays it’s good to have 35% for D1 and 11% for D7. Average games have 25% for D1 and 6% for D7. Worst of all is that average D30, the most valuable metric, is 3% for the most popular games. Average games have 0,5% for D30. 

The best way to measure a probable retention rate is to play the game by yourself. If the core loop is fun, you’ll know it for sure. If it’s not and testing the game seems boring — change core gameplay loop to make it more enjoyable. We recommend you to to play with constants: make the character speed 2x faster, cut the time limit in 2 or double the reward.

How to analyze your game retention rates

At first, you need to decide the main source of revenue: a paid game, ads, cosmetic microtransactions or pay2win. A paid game doesn’t need retention rates if you aren’t going to monetize it in any other way.

At second, publish your game under a fake name and only for one small country. Collect statistics for a week or two, make your conclusions. Change your mechanics or art style if needed, try once again and see how D1 and D7 changed. If you got better results than average — congratulations, now you can release your game for all regions. If the results are bad, think what can you change in mechanics.

To make a game captivating and addictive you must play with the player’s happiness. Happiness comes from progression, so you need to make the player motivated for it. There are two ways to do it: make the player excited for the new content he will unlock by playing the game or just show him what he will get after a few days of playing.

Excitement works for short casual games with no final goal visible. For example, in Wood Carving or Aquapark the player won’t know what he will get in next 5 minutes. So he is excited to play further and find out. If you want a player to play for a few games and forget about your game — make more simple mechanics and do not care about balance. Most players won’t play the game for such long to find an easy way to win.

For a competitive multiplayer game which makes money from cosmetics and battle passes you need to push the cosmetic content, map updates and balance. These games audience want the game to be balanced, and their characters and guns to look cool. If you want to boost D7 rate you need to forget about adding new mechanics. Your audience want to learn basics in first hour and then spent a month improving their skills. Better be sure that the game will have tons of cosmetic items from the start, even if it’s just basic gun’s recolors.

And if you are willing to make a Clash of Clans or Gardenscapes killer, focus on progression length and social aspect of the game. You absolutely need to show the player how much progress he has done and how much of the game is still left. For example, in Gardenscapes you can just move the camera and see how much free space there is. And also see where your friends are, which may awaken the motivation to get better than them

If you don’t know how to make a player happy from playing your game or guilty because of not playing it every day, contact us, the Kreonit Game Outsource Studio. Our experienced game designers will help you to solve problems, improve your game and its rates.

How to Improve Game Retention

Game developer Tobiaz Sieminski and his friend tried to make a game better just by looking at retention rate and gameplay session length. They made a simple clicker called Pet Baby Egg.

The goal of the game was to click the egg to get new pets. The more pets you have, the more you have to click to get the next one. That’s all.

the egg game gif

In the first two weeks they got a 46% D1 retention rate and 611 installs. Take a note, that it was back in 2015 and the Google Play wasn’t overcrowded with games for all tastes.

To boost retention they decided to give the players a reason to return — made the pets more alive. The players could feed their pets, play with them to earn coins and decorate their rooms. If we can call a screen with a “Bedroom” label a room.

Boosting a D1 Retention by Polishing the UI and Mechanics

The developers added possibilities to feed pets, to make them sleep and to play with them. The most important feature was a mini game with a ball and your pet. The players could use a lvl1 free ball or save some coins and buy a better one. The coins were granted for every tap on the ball.

the egg game #2

D1 retention increased by 6% — from 46% to 52%. The average gameplay session increased almost twice — from 3 to 6 minutes. OK, now the developers know that players are spending more time in their game. They decided to polish the gameplay and UI using event analytics.

To do so the developers visualized a process of earning coins: made coins fly to the screen’s corner whenever the player tapped an egg or a ball. This trick boosted the player’s confidence and they began buying things twice more often.

There was a problem with the tamagotchi part — less than 5% of players actually bought food and shampoo and took care of their pets. Developers added indicators for hunger, cleanness and sleepiness of the pets. And they’ve also added visual indicators: when the pet is hungry, it looks very thin and widens up after the player feeds it.

hungry pet game

By doing this the developers created a full gameplay cycle and routine. They’ve got 14k installs, 8 minute gameplay session and 70% D1 retention rate. Not bad for a game developed by two guys in a month.

In conclusion, they don’t recommend launching a mediocre game and improving it on the go. It’s better to launch a perfectly polished product, track statistics and think about what to improve to boost game retention rate and gameplay session.

From Sieminski’s game experiment and rules of game design we know that the players want to get emotions from playing. And the best way to do it is to add something the player will form emotional bonds with — for example, that cute cow.

The players knew that if they won’t play today, the cow (or other pet) will be hungry and sad. In Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Vikings or other strategy games the players know that their fellow townsmen will be attacked by enemies and want to help them.

On the other side, the game could give good emotions based on gameplay and “I’m so good at it!” feeling. Remember those coin earning visualizations — that was made only to make the players feel “I’m good at making money in this game”.

Conclusion

Many novice game developers think that retention rates are only valuable for publishers, as they want to predict their revenue. Let’s be honest: you also want to predict your income from game development. To do so you need to collect and analyze game retention data and change the game to pump that numbers up.

If you don’t know what to do or worry about making things worse — contact us and we will help you on any stage of development.

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