The Quest to Retain Users | 5 Strategies to Retain Players in Mobile Games

A mobile game will generate revenue if users play several times per week, or better yet per day until they get into the habit of having regular sessions, which become part of their routine.

Efficient retention strategies pave the way for the successful monetization of mobile games. According to research by GameAnalytics, hardcore monetizers (whales) need around 15 days to make their first purchase.

A high user retention rate is one of the main criteria for an app’s success, as it ensures the game stays afloat, generating a constant revenue stream.

Now, let us break it down for you.

Retention Rate: How to Calculate Retention

The retention rate helps you to discover the percentage of users coming back to your app. The metric is calculated as the ratio of the number of users who returned to the app to the number of users who installed it on a certain date.

how to calculate user retention

There are three key types of retention rate:

1-day retention

If users don’t open the game the day after installing it, that means there is a bug or interface problem, or users are not interested in it.

According to Litoff, a good 1-day retention rate is 25–30%.

7-day retention

If users stop playing one week in, you need to know at which point they quit and do something about it.

A good 7-day retention rate is 10–15%.

28-day retention

Low retention after a month means it’s best to review your marketing and product strategy.

A good 28-day retention rate is 3–5%.

To learn more about retention, check out our Retention 101: Learning How Well Your App Can Retain Users.

5 User Retention Strategies for Games

To choose an efficient strategy, consider your game’s genre, user base, and target countries. You already know the drill. When it comes to industry recommendations about promoting your game and attracting users, you should see these as a starting point, the foundation your retention strategy should rest on.

1. Tutorial

The first thing a user encounters after an install when they open the app is a lesson on the mechanics of the game. If the tutorial turns out to be too long, complicated, or, alternatively, too simple, some players may jump to social media or another game with a better tutorial.

According to devtodev, 'the optimal number of players to get past the tutorial is 70–80%.

To measure the efficiency of your tutorial, mark the end of each tutorial stage with a button or a certain action recorded by tracking systems as a separate event. This will allow you to compare how many players began the tutorial and how many dropped it and to see the breakdown by stage. Based on this data, you can improve the process through trial and error, and analytics.

Sure, a tutorial will vary across different game genres and games; however, the industry has built a wealth of successful solutions that all developers should be familiar with.

If you have a casual or hyper-casual game, do not introduce a tutorial spanning the whole level. It is enough to show the player the game mechanics once and let them dive into the fight.

game retention strategies
Unroll Me shows one screen with instructions and another one with additional information before letting the player into the game.

In the case of a midcore game with a wide variety of mechanics and rules, do not overwhelm players with all the details at once. Guide your players gradually through the process, making them learn one procedure per level.

how to retain players
Mushroom Wars 2 has the tutorial divided in three stages. Notably, the third stage starts with the following words: “There are only a few more things left that we would like to show you”.

Finally, the perfect tutorial does not divert a player from the game but seamlessly blends into the gameplay. Mindful that there may be exceptions, we recommend that, when choosing between a pop-up window and background text, you go for the latter.

how to retain players
Cut the Rope does not put the game on hold during the tutorial. It does not obstruct the gaming process to tell the player about the new mechanics.

2. Rewards

Originally, free-to-play games used to retain players through nothing but an engaging gameplay experience and positive emotions. The growing market and competition prompted developers to offer rewards to players for their achievements and time spent in the game.

Daily rewards

When players open the app for the first time on any day, they receive in-game currency or items. Many developers increase the reward for returning to the game during the following days, thus tapping into FOMO.

Another option for daily rewards is a random package that can contain any reward, from a tiny amount of resources to a unique hero or an epic weapon. In this case, developers appeal to our urge to gamble, just like casinos do.

daily rewards example
Angry Birds combines both: each consecutive day a player gets more packages with a random reward.

Battle Pass

This is a type of monetization that also helps increase retention rates. This approach offers in-game events that give a user a permanent reward for upgrading their levels. The higher the level is, the more valuable the reward you get. Users who bought a battle pass receive double, additional, or unique rewards.

how to retain game players
A Mini Militia battle pass offers small free rewards for every new level and much more valuable items for a purchased premium pass.

3. Push Notifications

A push notification is a call to action driving players back to the game. It might tell a player that their energy has been restored, or that their building has finished upgrading, or that they are being attacked by another player.

As reported by Flaregames, the retention curve is 15 to 20% better for players who receive notifications.

The main challenge is to get users to opt in for push notifications and to make them as personal as possible, so that the notifications complement and enrich the gaming experience, and are not just another line on the notification bar.

Accepting push notifications

With iOS, when a user first launches a new app, they are asked whether they want to allow notifications for that particular app. Notably, 60% of users refuse to receive pushes.

You can improve this rate if the request for push notification permission is preceded by an in-app message to give users an idea of potential benefits or missed opportunities before they decide to disable pushes.

retention strategies
Source: Flaregames

The picture above features an example from Flick Arena. On the left, there is a standard pop-up permission request, and in the middle, we see an intro message offering to notify the player when the next chest can be opened. After the intro window, the standard request will still pop up, but the player will already be aware of the benefits that come with push notifications and thus will be motivated to opt in.

Personalizing push notifications

Personalization is a golden rule for push notifications in any mobile app, with games providing the most fertile ground to work with.

Each new level, boss, or location can help build an emotional bond with the user. When a player levels up or gets hold of a special item, you can praise and inspire them to do even more.

To learn more about push notification strategies, read our post on 10 tips & tricks to master push notifications in mobile games.

4. Friends and Community

A study by Achievement and Friends claims that users who play with their friends or belong to an in-game community launch the game almost twice as often as solo players.

There’s nothing surprising about that – co-opping promotes new game strategies and invokes the thrill of competition as well as other emotions that you simply cannot experience in a single-player game. There are several tactics game developers can employ to use co-opping to their own advantage.

Invite a friend

A referral program with rewards will not only bolster your player base but also help retain more users in the long run. The more friends the user invites, the more fun they're going to have competing against each other and discussing their experience in real life – only to hop back in the game shortly after.

player retention strategies
The UNO! Mobile Game offers rewards for one, five, ten, twenty, and thirty invited friends.

Co-op with friends

This is a secret weapon of mobile multiplayer titles, such as PUBG, Fortnite, and Call of Duty Mobile. Seeking a unique co-opping experience, users themselves play more often and introduce their friends to the game or make them return.

player retention strategies
You can invite three more players to co-op in Fortnite Mobile. Four players = four times the chance of an in-game purchase.

In-game communities

If users don’t have any friends who share their passion for mobile gaming, you can give them an opportunity to socialize and join special interest groups within the game itself by integrating a clan system.

A clan is a team of players pursuing common goals: they battle side by side and in host tournaments, complete quests, and reap hefty rewards. Clan members are bound to the game by a sense of belonging. Committed to the success of their clan, they return to the game more often to take part in events.

You should also add a clan chat tab and allow clan members to assist other players – share health and send boosters and resources. The more tight-knit the players are, the more often and longer they are going to play your game.

retention strategies games
The tabletop game Yahtzee with Buddies Dice presents clans as families. They have a group chat and items, an aid system, and free rewards to encourage players to check on their “family” as often as possible.

5. In-game Events

Bats and pumpkins for Halloween, Santa Claus as an in-game character on Christmas Eve, or St. George’s ribbon to celebrate Victory Day – these are classic elements of in-game holiday events.

As part of these time-limited events, developers add new content to the game, such as items, quests, levels, and characters. Sometimes they even update the design and change the apps’ icons to match the holiday mood.

Events don’t have to be solely holiday-themed – you can link them to large updates, collaborations with other games, or virtually anything. The only thing that matters is that users understand the quests and enjoy the added content.

In-game events not only increase the retention rate but also help extend game sessions. The longer users stay in the game, the higher the chances that they will buy something.

in game events
On Halloween, Homescapes adds unique currencies and interior items available during the in-game event only.

How myTracker Can Help You Track User Retention

With myTracker, you can assess the efficiency of your strategies by tracking the retention rate down to hours.

Dashboard

A dashboard provides you with data on user retention directly from the app list.

Go to Apps → List → Dashboard → Retention. The chart for the required period, broken down by days, weeks, or months, can be downloaded in XML and CSV formats.

track retention free

Report Constructor

Report Constructor allows you to filter data, apply flexible settings and benchmark your retention rate against other metrics.

Go to Report Constructor → Devices → Retention or Rolling retention. You can compare reports for different apps and export data to Excel.

free retention tracker

Default templates

Based on the experience of thousands of our partner apps, we have already applied optimal template settings for you.

Go to Reports → Templates → Retention, and you will see a detailed table with data on how often users returned to your app for a period of 1 to 30 days.

free retention tracker

Check if your app is doing a good job of retaining users: create a free account with myTracker and make use of its free reports or build your own with the custom Report Builder!

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