The Fight for User Retention

Most current free-to-play game designs are structured around building a game that is compelling enough to keep users retained for as long as possible. In fact, the most important KPI (key performance indicators) developers and publishers seek is generally a long term retention KPI, like a day 30 or day 90 retention. Typically, developers build their game to adapt their session lengths to mobile players on the go. For example, a person waiting in line at Starbucks. Sessions tend to be between 3-6 minutes long with the intention for players to build a habit of coming back to the game multiple times a day. It’s the similar short-session strategy social network apps such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat utilize. So, as game and app developers alike are mastering this skill of keeping gamers in their apps, the player’s “entertainment real estate availability” for new applications becomes very limited. It’s difficult for even the most avid gamers to play more than 2 or 3 games daily on top of their regular social network habits and their other daily apps.

The Power of Targeted Advertising

At the same time as app developers are mastering user retention, advertisers are mastering targeted advertising. With the advent of automation and machine learning in user acquisition, companies like Tilting Point are able to create very targeted ads to the right audience at a very large scale. This targeting has become remarkably sophisticated and meticulously customized to each cohort of players, with the goal to maximize conversion rates from views to downloads and further on to payers. Although targeted advertising is an incredibly powerful tool, the demand on capital can be quite high. To sustain user acquisition campaigns, publishers can provide funding and expertise for longer periods of time such as 3-5 years. It’s not far fetched to imagine a future where everyone targeted gets a unique advert for the same product that they are more likely to respond to. Overall, this is great news for consumers, as they will continually receive more ads for apps they actually want, rather than junk advertising. This means the days of your favorite piece of entertainment being interrupted by ads you don’t care about are soon to be over. It also solves the issue of app discovery for developers, as it’s difficult for your app to be seen by users if it’s buried in the store among millions of other apps. 

The Store Experiences are Bad

What made the App Stores so successful between 2008 to 2015 were the low barriers to get your game distributed. All you needed was $100 and a computer. However, today, with over 4 million apps on the Google Play Store and the App Store, it’s practically impossible to be discovered or to browse through them with ease. Additionally, featuring on the app stores has become less impactful in recent years. Google Play Store featuring can yield an increase of installs by 300%. However, placements are often favored toward large publishers such as Electronic Arts and Fun Games for Free, Sensor Tower reports.  With the rise of hyper-casual games in the last few years, the number of new games released daily has significantly increased. These games can often be built in a matter of weeks and copied in a matter of days. The reality is most users are already occupied playing their 10 favorite apps. With the addition of targeted advertising to satiate their curiosity, there is even less need to visit the app stores. The exception to this are users looking for a specific app; in which case they simply launch the store and type in the name of the app they are looking. 

Conclusion

  • Appstore featuring will get you much lower downloads that they once did.
  • In order to launch an app successfully you need very strong user acquisition strategy and funding to enable very targeted ads. 
  • To maximize store efficiency, you need to focus a great deal of your ASO on search.

Written by Samir El Agili, President of Tilting Point

 

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