In Free to play, Game design, Games Analytics

If you’re serious about making a successful free-to-play (F2P) mobile game that players love, you’re going to have to get to grips with messaging. Whether using push notifications, update prompts, offers or daily bonuses, get it wrong and you will wave goodbye to your hard-earned players.

Messaging in F2P games is mostly used to prompt a player to take an action (preferably not throwing their mobile phone out a window). To engage your players productively, follow these top 10 tips for effective messaging and set yourself on the track towards F2P mobile game dev glory.

1. Don’t flood players with too many messages

No one likes nagging, so while you may be sending messages with the best intentions bear in mind there is such a thing as ‘overkill’. Unlike real-life scenarios, a F2P mobile game is easily discarded if it becomes an irritation. Pester your players and expect to be dumped for a newer game, without so much as a nostalgic thought of good times shared.

2. Focus on the difficulty curve

48% of players will leave a game if the difficulty is too hard or too easy. At deltaDNA, we like to call this the ‘threshold of engagement’ –  it’s essential to get it right.

Chart showing the 'threshold of engagement' for players of F2P games

With ‘big data’ has come game analytics and player relationship management tools which track the behavior of players in games and segment them accordingly. As a result, you can now tailor games to suit players’ level of ability using messaging.

So, if a segment of players is finding a level too hard, give them hints or tips. And a good way to engage bored players is to send a “did you know that…” message directing them to unexplored regions.

3. Tailor your messages

The more relevant your messages are to players, the more likely they are to act on them. As with addressing the difficulty, here’s where you’ll be grateful for those segmentation tools.

Match the item type to the segment and they won’t feel like they’re being spammed when you send in-app purchase (IAP) offers. For example, ‘Customizers’ may be happy to spend on cosmetic items, unlike ‘Big Spenders’ who may prefer consumables.

Set up behavioral triggers to send messages at the key points where players leave, like when resources are running low, or they’re failing a mission.

4. Find the right voice

Getting your tone of voice right is a bit of an artform, but it shouldn’t be too hard if your game has a strong identity that speaks to a clearly defined audience. Adopt a marketing trick and write using a ‘persona’. This should help you to keep the tone of voice consistent across all messaging.

Finally, mistakes look sloppy so always have spelling and grammar double-checked.

5. Don’t be bossy

Players like to feel they have some freedom in the game to discover and learn for themselves. So no matter the tone of voice you adopt, don’t give instructions or commands, even in the tutorial. Offer hints and tips instead.

6. Know when to leave your players alone

Funnily enough, most players don’t like being woken 10 times in the night to find out there’s a special bonus offer on coins. Do some testing to strike the right balance between frequency and time of day across in-game messages and notifications. Allow players some control over when notifications are received (i.e. not during the night) and half the work is done for you.

6. Pitch your best content early

Giving players a sneak peek at what’s to come will keep them excited about the game and encourage them to come back. Use in-game messaging to show off a flashy new unlockable item or fun new level. Also, show how they can generate rewards in their first session.

8. Don’t ask for early payment

The opposite is true for purchases: give players time to engage with the gameplay and avoid asking them to pay early. Players who spend later are worth more in the long term, so focus on relationships not one-off payments.

9. Optimize your in-app purchases and your ads

No matter how great your messaging is, not all players will want to make an in-app purchase (IAP). Use game analytics to determine whether your player is ad or IAP responsive and then tailor the monetization experience to suit their style.

10. Test, and test again

The best way to make sure your messaging is working is to test it. Use A/B Testing to try out different set-ups, and keep on testing.

Communication is of course still an art, and with that comes the risk that not everyone will like what you’re saying. But you can avoid turning players off if you speak to their different wants and needs. With the array of analytics tools now available, it’s never been more necessary to discard a one-size-fits-all approach to messaging and F2P mobile game design. Understanding that your players are different and focusing on their experience is the first step. If you can remember only one thing, make it this.


If you found this article helpful, you may be interested in reading why your F2P game should inspire multiple payments.

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a graphic illustrating game marketing