Learn effective strategies for keeping your players engaged
Operating a live game is a delicate process, but data can guide you to the right messaging and mechanics to help your players get the most out of the gaming experience. Here are a few tips from our latest e-book.
Every game-maker wants to improve their players’ experiences. However, most people don’t know where or how to start. Our new e-book, “11 effective engagement strategies,” contains tactics and strategies that are easy to implement – both individually and as part of a larger strategic overhaul.
With so many variables impacting the player experience, tackling your overall engagement strategy can feel overwhelming. The trick is to break things down and weave smaller best practices together as part of the greater initiative.
The full guide covers multiple tactics and strategies for engagement focused around the principles of long-term thinking, targeting, testing, and timing. We share some of our tips below.
Nurture players over several months
The lifespan of a typical free-to-play (F2P) game is changing, partly because of how we think about player engagement, and partly because of the technology involved.
Long-term retention and engagement are far more important than basic revenue stats. Our research from a sample of seven long-running games with over 100K monthly active users (MAU) in the US on iOS, March to September 2020, has shown that, for long-lived games, 80% of revenue is generated by the 56% of daily active users (DAU) that are more than 1 month old. Clearly, long-term players are more valuable than new ones, and the key to turning the latter into the former is consistent engagement.
You should think about player engagement throughout the development process. You’ll discover key emotional peaks and valleys that you can use as opportunities to personalize and improve the player experience with targeted messaging.
This is creating a fundamental shift in the way that games are being built and operated, from short-term to long-term thinking. Despite burgeoning competition in the space, the stats at the top of the charts reflect this shift. The average lifespans of both players and games are increasing significantly year over year, and this is due to effective engagement.
The 11 effective engagement strategies for successful player engagement in our guide have a deliberate focus on in-game offers. Whether the offers come in the form of discounts to the in-game store, rewarded video ads or rewards for tasks completed, one popular game using deltaDNA with >5 million MAU, June to September 2020 found that sessions incorporating offers bring in more than double the revenues on average than those without.
Segment your players
Segmentation forms the basis of all sophisticated engagement. By dividing your players into groups or segments of similar users, you can quickly home in on very specific player types and analyze and engage them accordingly. For example, some commonly useful segments are payers, non-payers, and Android and iOS users.
Using segmentation, you can act on the data in a more intelligent way. The more unique segments you have, the more sophisticated you can be with your targeting. They guarantee that only the most relevant messaging is sent to each player.
The different campaigns that you’ll run within your game should target these different segments, and you should optimize them at that granular, segmented level.
Segmenting also helps you ask better questions when you examine your data. Instead of looking at players across the board and discerning, for example, a 10% uptake from offer messages for your game, you can compare segments against each other. These comparisons will show you which offers are performing well and which aren’t, rather than simply the average uptake across all of them. Then, you can prioritize the types of tactics that best align with your business goals.
A/B test your campaigns and rewards
A/B testing is essential to ensuring the effectiveness of player targeting. Take rewarded ads as an example. Rewarded ads generate huge revenues, but they require fast optimization to avoid either poor uptake or, even worse, IAP cannibalization. Being too thrifty with rewards will discourage players from engaging, but excessive generosity will allow them to build up huge stocks of inventory or currency and remove their incentive to spend. There’s a point at which engagement with rewarded ads begins to plateau – in the example above, offering values any higher than 15 cents only harms the overall monetization strategy.
Automated A/B testing is the best way to optimize your engagement strategy. With the right tools, you can set tests in motion and just let them run. But there are a few guidelines to follow:
- Be patient. Ending a test prematurely because you perceive an early significant outcome will not give the best results. Wait for the test to run its full course.
- Maintain consistency. You can only draw reliable conclusions from tests that action one change at a time. As soon as multiple variables are at work, you can’t accurately evaluate the precise impact of any of them.
- Always use the same audience. Make sure your control and treatment groups consist of comparable subjects. Geolocation, demographic, and play style are useful markers for segmentation because such things differentiate player profiles.
Stick to those rules, and you can’t go wrong.
Send your offers at peak performance times
Timing your offers to coincide with peak performance times is crucial to maximizing their uptake and effectiveness. Overall frequency of offers in deltaDNA users’ games rises and falls according to DAU, so before COVID-19 had such a massive effect on player behavior, we typically observed 33% more messaging campaigns sent on weekends than during the rest of the week; in 2020, this has fallen to 21% on weekends, based on January 2019 to September 2020 data.
That said, recent months have seen an uptake of campaign offers Friday–Sunday that has been markedly higher in terms of relative conversion rates.
Subtle or unexpected shifts in behavior prove just how important it is to formulate our plans on recent data and not supposition. Always bear industry-wide patterns in mind, but keep a constant eye on your own data and build from there. Ongoing analysis is crucial to delivering the right experience for your players.
The best games follow these rules – and the other seven in the guide – to extend player lifetimes from weeks to years. Players change over time, and if you want to keep them engaged, your game needs to change with them. Evolving a live game is a delicate process, and data is the key to understanding how to engage players when you might just as easily upset them.
What is deltaDNA?
Unity’s deltaDNA provides sophisticated player engagement tools for game-makers, powered by deep data analytics.
With cross-platform and rich data capability, this end-to-end solution enables publishers and developers to better understand different player behaviors and create personalized experiences, targeting individual players in real time. Anyone can get a fully featured free trial of deltaDNA for 30 days here.