When looking to improve retention in gaming it makes sense to first look to the masters: free-to-play games. Those at the cutting edge of free-to-play (F2P) games have quickly established approaches that optimise the user experience in order to maximise the value of each player. They have learned that every player is different, requiring responsive games to ensure the best possible experiences are being delivered to each. And when you give your game away for free, engagement is key if you want to retain players long enough to monetize.
The following list of considerations, high in the minds of F2P designers, will resonate with those in charge of real money games.
How to make a good first impression
In F2P, quite simply, games that are good at on-boarding are much more likely to make money: they can expect to see a 300%+ retention uplift over those who don’t. In gambling, on-boarding tutorials are essential to introduce gameplay mechanics. Just because the rules of your card game, for example, may be well known, users still need to become familiar with the game set-up. This is the first step in building an enjoyable experience.
First Time User Experience (FTUE) funnel analysis is an crucial tool for analysing the effectiveness of your on-boarding, and a typical approach involves packing your FTUE with a high density of Events (actions that a player takes within the game) that can be measured.
Getting the balance right in on-boarding is essential. If your approach is too restrictive, then day 1 retention can look good, but day 7 can fall off a cliff as players aren’t fully prepared for the live experience. Conversely, day 1 retention can be adversely affected if the game controls and the highlights of the game experience aren’t demonstrated early enough.
Why give something away
Rewarding is often used in F2P. In gaming FTUE, using it can ensure customers can overcome early losses to maintain enough resources to experience all that the gameplay has to offer. If a player loses money early-on, they should be immediately rewarded with additional credit to keep playing.
Gifting free bets is also a great way to entice your customers to try something new. Boredom and anxiety are the biggest reasons why players move on. They are either no longer interested in the game they keep returning to, or they are losing too often as the user interface is too difficult to master. Rewarding customers is the ideal way to move them on from a potentially bad situation to a good one, and part of the art in getting it right lies in using your data to know when and where to apply it. A great example is instantly rewarding your VIPs when they have experienced a big loss, or helping them to celebrate when they win.
Keeping on top of your in-app economy is essential in gaming. You need to know when customers step-up their betting, when they are running low on cash and the triggers in your game that spark depositing. Time of day and day of the week can be very influential on behaviour, and it can be beneficial to make gifts at times when players are most likely to leave and make offers when they are more likely to make payments.
One other type of reward used in F2P is appointment setting: using push notifications outside the game to promote daily rewarding of returning customers. This encourages consecutive repeat play and can be extremely effective.
When to use segmentation
VIP management is obviously essential, but other customers can also contribute to success, even if their stakes are low. Understanding the pathways taken by customers is crucial.
Segmenting users based on their approach to risk, their stakes, the games they play, their speed of gameplay and whether they are new, provides insight into the performance of your game that just isn’t available from general KPIs and funnel analysis. Segmentation tells you where you need to make adjustments in your marketing, messaging and gameplay to optimise retention. Live segmentation can be employed using your CRM to make offers based on archetypal player behaviours.
The secret to success
Successful F2P games are persistent users of A/B testing to mitigate risk when looking to make adjustments to game parameters. In a real money environment, A/B testing should be used to evaluate CRM campaigns, offers to customers, bet limits and changes to the user experience.
Ultimately, the secret to better retention in F2P and gambling lies in providing customer pathways that keep users between the thresholds of boredom and anxiety, particularly during on-boarding, to unlock higher lifetime values. You should be using your CRM and data to deliver realtime personalization, and only then will your game operate at it’s full potential.