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How to engage customers in free-to-play games

DeltaDNA showcases its new Engagement Guide

The success of Free-to-Play (F2P) games hinges primarily on effective engagement. Analytics experts deltaDNA lay out the best practice blueprint in their latest industry handbook - the Engagement guide.

In mobile games, developers often look to metrics like retention and monetization to gauge the performance of their titles. Engagement, however, presupposes everything else and long-term success relies on engaging players consistently over an extended period.

Marketing is the single greatest cost for any developer and every install represents a costly investment. In response, early F2P developers would frantically squeeze revenue out of players using paywalls and other blockers but we now know that long-term engagement of casual players is possible over months and even years. As such, developers are looking to nurture players rather than punish or exploit them.

Global hits like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush have maintained their popularity for more than five years straight but the games that will join them at the top end of the charts are those whose developers truly understand the concept of 'games as a service.' In other words, those that can consistently put players first despite changes to technology and cultural fads in an increasingly competitive entertainment industry.

In their latest content release, the Engagement guide, the analytics experts at deltaDNA detail the top CRM strategies crucial to effective engagement. These include player nurturing, offer scheduling, sophisticated targeting, A/B testing and tactical messaging.

In their guide, deltaDNA lays out a snapshot view of the current F2P landscape:

As the industry develops its understanding of F2P mechanics, a 'player first' approach to development and optimization is quickly becoming the only feasible path to sustained success. F2P players can be segmented and categorized in an infinite number of ways but, for a game to be successful, they all need to be engaged quickly and effectively.

This guide comprises deltaDNA's top CRM strategies for successful player engagement with a deliberate focus on in-game offers, the best and most effective way to engage your players. Whether they be in the form of discounts to the in-game store, rewarded video ads or prizes for tasks completed, we have proven that sessions incorporating offers bring in 40% better revenues than those without.

The typical F2P game lifespan is not one that makes for longevity. Worryingly, as demonstrated by the graph below, 65% of games' revenues peaks almost immediately after launch before dropping off dramatically, as demonstrated by the graph below. Only 35% of games execute their engagement strategy to build revenue steadily for long-term profitability.

With the current state of F2P as it is, the following are the first 2 of deltaDNA's 7 most important engagement strategies.

1. Nurture players over several months

Long-term retention and engagement are far more important than basic revenue stats and deltaDNA research has shown that, for long-lived games, over 70% of revenue is generated by the 45% of Daily Active Users (DAU) that are more than 1 month old. This discrepancy shows that long-term players are more valuable than new ones and the key to turning the latter into the former is engagement.

2. Avoid sending too many offers

In cases of poor retention, it is tempting to simply increase the number and/or value of offers sent to players but that is not necessarily the answer. Players should receive offers frequently enough to keep them hopeful and prevent them from running out of energy. Making offers too regularly, however, will blunt their efficacy and risk cannibalizing In-App Purchases (IAPs). Analysis of all the games on the deltaDNA platform reveals that the typical optimized game sends offers during 1 of every 5 sessions and 2 of every 3 active play days.

The full guide, including the details of the further 5 CRM strategies selected by the deltaDNA experts is available to download here.

DeltaDNA has been providing fast and powerful analytics tools and insight to the games sector's leading publishers and developers since 2010, including Take-Two Interactive, Square Enix Montreal, Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe and Wargaming.

At the heart of the deltaDNA offering is the analytics platform, gathering deep and rich player data on 70 million Monthly Active Users (MAU). Complementary engagement tools make the analytics actionable, the smartads mediation service maximizes ad income, and in-house experts from the insights consultancy team provide industry leading advice and benchmarking.

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