40% of all app downloads are games, but the ugly truth is that 66% of players stop playing a new game after the very first day – The Wall Street Journal

We, game developers, love to make games. There is no doubt that people love games, but not many developers are able to turn this into a sustainable business. A substantial percentage of developers don’t make enough money for making it as a standalone business and the question looms over us as to why this happens. Even after releasing, there are so many aspects to a game – from acquiring new players to making sure they come back again and again.

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For the past year, we have been talking to a lot of game developers, Indie as well as big studios. This has been extremely helpful in finding out good practices and simple tweaks that have had a major impact on the retention rate. Trust me, the process is not as straightforward as one would like.Everything boils down to one question –

“How long does the game remain enjoyable for our players?”

So what is this user retention about? It works in a simple way – you release a game that is well-played, before get bored and leave. In a recent report by BGR, about 66% of players leave mobile games after a single day. That’s not a good sight and game enthusiasts all around the world are trying desperately to figure out ways to increase this retention. A little math there would show that after a mere one week only a handful of people actually play your game. Gamasutra, in one of their articles, say that 15% retention after a week is a healthy sign for your game.

So, the million dollar question is: what makes people hooked on to your games? Surprisingly a number of mobile games have tried their hands on retaining users by releasing updates.

Content updation has been used extensively by Subway Surfers to let 25 million users hooked on to it everyday, as opposed to their initial drop outs (91% retention on day 2, 80% on day 3 and so on). New content (new objects to dodge) gives players new reason to come and play again.

So here’s the bottom-line – retain users in one way or another and below are given some ways to increase user retention.

  1. Exploration (a.k.a game play): We have no doubt on your creativity on making something worth playing, but keep in mind that people play your game for its structure that uniquely invites exploration. So, make sure your game has enough content to explore which will give a reason to the user to come back. As of May 2014, Candy Crush Saga has 590 levels, comprising 40 episodes of 15 levels each (the first two “episodes” have only 10 levels). An update to the game in December 2013 added the “Dreamworld” levels, allowing players to replay older levels with a new mechanic, which is also periodically updated.
  2. Glory (a.k.a score): It’s all about basking in reflected glory of the game’s character. Make players feel like they’re working towards something grandiose. People are willing to spend real money just to prove themselves better than others. Success is indeed a motivator.
  3. i18n of game: Communicate with everyone in their language, not just textually but visually as well. Remember internalisation of game assets or skin can build stronger appeal for players across globe. Getting closer to people will bring people closer to your game. A game will be more appealing to users if the assets and the theme reflect in some way their native nation and culture.
  4. Regular content updation: Hold their interest by releasing regular updates with new levels, new features or other compelling content that helps player stay engaged. Never miss a chance to wear seasonal or festive themes like Christmas, New Year, World Cup or a big movie launch. Subway Surfers’ regular updates of new cities keeps players hooked for longer periods.
  5. Make your game social: Try to build communication channels to build a strong community such Facebook page, Twitter or mobile notifications. Social media boosts interaction and interactions with real people on your game is surely going to trigger user retention. Clash of Clans, one of the top grossing games, use their internal chat server for gamer interaction. They have been able to employ other methods to retain users and also monetise the game.

Concluding the post here, we believe games that regularly update content with i18n will figure out user retention. Updating games’ content in response to people’s taste is the way ahead. Retention of users is the underlying problem of almost every game developer and we are working on ways to solve it.

GreedyGame Media has developed an i18n panel that allows game developers to make their games dynamic by updating content. We encourage game developers to use it as a first step towards boosting their user retention. Get early access now!

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