Top Tips for Indie Game Devs to Avoid Player Churn

by Game Marketing Genie, on 23-Jun-2022 09:40:20

A recent survey with 10 million participants revealed that 66% of gamers NEVER play a new mobile game after the first day! Another eye-opening report by Blake Snow highlighted that only 10% of players complete a game. Though you may get thousands of downloads as soon as you launch your game, only a handful of players will stay in the long run. The saddest reality of the gaming world is that player retention is much more challenging for indie game devs than player acquisition. So instead of only searching "how do I release my game?", emphasize "how do I retain my players?"

In this blog, we have curated seven surefire ways to avoid player churn and boost the replayability of your game.

1. Build your game around player retention

The ideal way to make more players come back to your game is to make player retention the key point of your game. In other words, consider retention one of your primary motives.

Create player investment

Players are more engaged in a game they invest in. Compelling them to spend money on your game early on is a great way to make them find time to play it. However, don't make them spend on mediocre game assets. If the item doesn't impact their gaming experience, they won’t purchase it. You need to ensure that their first purchase has a personalization or progression impact on their experience. To that end, you can give them some currency in the beginning and motivate them to spend it on a premium item. 

This way, the players will taste premium items in the initial phase itself, and value them for their gameplay experience. This will drive them to collect more currency and hunt for more items.

Use social mechanisms

players leaderboard

Figure 1: Leaderboards help retain players. Source: Rockstar Games

Adding social mechanics to your game will tremendously boost player retention. This mechanic is a system that allows social interaction amongst players. Include features like clans, leaderboards, guilds, player-versus-player (PVP), or social areas where players engage with each other. This will maintain their interest in the game. 

Time-delayed mechanism

Curious players always come back. Therefore, piquing curiosity is an efficient technique to improve player retention. While adding immediate gratification features is alright, delayed reveals make sure your players always have something to look forward to. This almost forces them to play the game till they reach that specific goal or unlock that particular digital asset. So don't be afraid of adding features like mystery boxes that reward loot after a set period.

2. Referral marketing

chests in game

Figure 2: Referral Marketing in Crash Arena Turbo Stars. Source: MegaCool

Referral marketing is a standard tactic indie game developers use to get more downloads. This marketing approach encourages players to promote the game they're currently playing to their friends and family. Players can send a prefab referral message through a text messaging platform and a play store link to download the game. 

Game devs often use referral marketing to get new players and retain the existing ones. Gamers get many in-game rewards from game currency to premium items when they successfully compel others to download the game. These rewards keep them motivated to play the game and unlock many more bonuses. 

In addition, referral marketing also decreases the churn rate, as players only invite those they believe would love that kind of game. Players don't send invitations to everyone. This helps your game earn recognition amongst an audience that is more inclined to download your game and play it for an extended period. This drops the churn rate. And the retention rate increases as the churn rate decreases.

3. Community engagements and rewards

discord gaming community

Figure 3: A gaming community on Discord. Source: Discord

Two essential strategies to make players stick to your game for a long time are creating tight-knit communities and rewarding your players. Almost all popular games have a community comprising avid players of that game. This is because a gaming community is a means to build deeper relationships and keep players' "fire" alive for the game. 

Devoted gamers get to meet their strong rivals, engage with like-minded players, and share the game's latest updates or cheat codes. This ensures they never lose touch with your game and are always eager to return to playing it. In addition, communities are a great platform to ask questions. Players facing an issue or stuck at a level can upload their query and get answers from community members. This helps them progress in the game rather than stop playing it out of frustration. 

We cover more about gaming communities in our blog Marketing to Gamers: Understanding the Gaming Communities.

Besides, rewarding players who are in for the long run is also a smart move. People enjoy being rewarded for their efforts. You can also give them incentives to help you maintain an ideal player retention rate. Remember to offer valuable and meaningful rewards to highlight your genuine appreciation.

4. Notifications

in game notificiations

Figure 4: Hay Day's push notifications. Source: Medium

The most straightforward way to boost player retention is by simply asking your players to come back and play. This is where notifications come in. Today, all apps have a way to constantly send notifications to the users, reminding them to use the app more frequently. Most companies use push notifications because studies show they increase the 90-day retention rate by 190%!

In-game messages, platform-based messages, and emails are also popular in gaming. They help you connect with your players, share new updates, and bring back their lost interest. Though players have the liberty to turn off or opt-out, they will most likely opt-in if you carefully place your notifications. And if your game is fun, they will not have second thoughts about turning on the notifications for your game.

That said, notifications are a double-edged sword. Over-sending them will dissuade your players and frustrate them. Therefore, send notifications only when you have essential news to share. This way, your players will also value your notifications more.


example of FOMO

Figure 5: Pre-order bonuses induce FOMO. Source: Mental Health Gaming

If your players haven't been playing your game lately, it's time to use FOMO marketing. You may have heard the term "FOMO" on social media, but it is an actual scientific phenomenon. It refers to anxiety that an exciting event may be happening somewhere else. You can capitalize on this trait to arouse your players' "dead" interest in your game. 

Creating exciting offers that incite fear of missing out in your players will compel them to take action. In the rush to grab the golden opportunity, they will find their passion for your game and engage in it for hours daily. And if you target Millennials, FOMO can be your go-to strategy to boost player retention because nearly 7 in 10 Millennials experience FOMO. A study from Strategy Online reveals that 60% of them make impulsive purchases owing to FOMO.

To leverage FOMO marketing, launch time-sensitive events, limited-time releases, and giveaways. Time-sensitive events last for days or hours, and customers are forced to take quick action. Otherwise, the opportunity slips from their hands. On the other hand, releasing limited versions of your game's characters or items is also an intelligent strategy to pique FOMO. Lastly, giveaways urge people to follow the rules and get their hands on the exciting gift before the chance flees.

6. Regular updates

Today's customers are easily bored. You can't expect them to keep playing your monotonous game without updating it. They will soon anticipate new levels and features, as it keeps their interest intact. But if you fail to update the game regularly, they will never hang around forever waiting for you to release an update.

Regular updates will motivate them to keep playing, increasing your player retention rate. Releasing these updates is also a way to inform your customers that you haven't stopped working on your game. They'll know you're trying to enhance the gaming experience and are still available to answer their queries. Updates reassure your players that your game won't suddenly stop.

Additionally, updates are crucial to retaining players who have completed all existing levels. You need to give them a sound reason to stick with you. And updates are those reasons. New levels and features in your game will excite them, and they'll stay for the long run.

7. Influencer marketing

Figure 6: An Influencer live-streaming on Twitch. Source: Game Influencer

The value of influencers and content creators has exponentially increased in today's social-media-inclined audience. Influencers are individuals on social media having a large fan following and the power to "influence" their fans. Brands often collaborate with influencers to promote their products. Influencer marketing is highly effective, offering 11x the ROI that banner ads offer according to Neal Schaffer.

Interestingly, influencer marketing is one of the most trusted game marketing strategies to boost player retention. So, if you're wondering, "how do I promote my game?" influencer marketing is your answer! Collaborating with gaming influencers your audience follows will cultivate higher player engagement, keeping the players excited about your game. Therefore, maintaining a good relationship with influencers is essential.

Partner with the right influencer and let them play your game. This will motivate your players to play your game, too. You can even give influencers premium in-game items for free, which they can showcase before fans. And in the excitement of achieving those items, they will play for a longer period. Besides, influencers will expose your game to new individuals who didn't know about it. This will further help you build awareness.

"How do I market my game"? Here's your one-stop shop for indie game marketing solutions

Game Marketing Genie is a full-service game marketing agency helping indie game devs build awareness and retain their audience. After analyzing your indie game and target audience, our marketing experts can create bespoke marketing strategies that suit your needs. Our services include influencer marketing, content marketing, and social media management.

Do you want us to become your go-to indie game marketing company? Let us know!

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingIndie Games

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