在下文中，我将用“40 – 20 – 10”规则来解决这个问题。规则中的数字表示的是日留存率、周留存率和月留存率。规则所传达的信息如下：如果你想让游戏的DAU超过100万，那么日留存率应该大于40%，周留存率和月留存率分别大于20%和10%。本文第一部分将主要探讨日留存率。
据Susan Weinschenk博士（《100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People》作者）曾指出，培养新习惯需要3个技巧：
8年前，手机游戏还是新兴市场，当时我特别希望全球最大型的游戏开发商能涉入移动设备，制作出拥有极高人气的作品。无论是《生化危机》、《急速快感》、《最终幻想》、《Project Gotham Racing》还是《模拟人生》，各种游戏题材将会面临全新的设计挑战。
任务系统能够激励我完成《Punch Quest》、《Zombie Tsunami》、《Into the Dead》与《Jetpack Joyride》这类游戏。
有两款无尽奔跑游戏包含成瘾性升级系统，它们分别是《One Epic Knight》与《Jetpack Joyride》。
比如《Snoppy’s Street Fair》每隔五天会奖励你一笔高级金币，但前提是要每天登陆。
该方面较难实现，而且应针对游戏类型特别定制。这需要大量工程，而且开发者投入的时间与精力未必能够有所回报，因此要谨慎小心。你的游戏支持玩家展示自己的创意吗？他们可以与其他玩家分享自己的锦囊妙计吗？《My Singing Monsters》邀请玩家发送唱歌的不同剪辑片段，而后组合成一个微视频。
《Snoopy’s Street Fair》为玩家提供照相馆，在此你可以与该作中的角色合影。
篇目6，RETENTION IS KING!
Retention is really key to being successful on Facebook, it is not virality or deep pockets for marketing. Many persons and companies in the social games industry rant and rave about how it is impossible to grow on Facebook due to the changes in the platform. My suggestion to them is to stop ranting and make better games instead, games that users want to come back to. Look at wooga (my employer) over doubling the Daily Active Users in the past 6 months now bolsting >4MM Daily users on Facebook. Pretty awesome!
When starting out to make Facebook games in 2007 I found it hard to know what retention metrics to track and which are the benchmark numbers to aim at – there was just a lot of hearsay and very little concrete information available. The publicly available DAU/MAU is a start but not nearly enough to help you make a better game.
Next I will tackle this with what I call the “40 – 20 – 10″ -rule. This rule looks at 1-day Retention, 7-day retention and 30-day retention. The message of the rule is that if you want to create a >1MM DAU game your 1-day retention should be >40% and the 7-day and 30-day rates should be >20% and >10% respectively. Since this blog-post would be pretty long I will in this first part focus on 1-day retention.
1-Day Retention -> Target >40%
This means that out of all players installing your app for the first time and starting to load the Flash file >40% of them should also play the next day. This value can fluctuate quite a bit depending on the source of your traffic to the app and also lifetime, so don’t think the war is won after having 45% a couple of days after launch. If you however have >40% let’s say 1 month after launch with 200-400K DAU you should feel really good. If this value is <20% you will have hard time having any success with your game, ever. So what are the main factors you should consider for maximizing the 1-day retention rate?
Initial Loading Time. The faster the better, if your loading time is over 1min you will be in trouble. However there seems to be a pretty steep cliff the drop-off is not linear, the improvement is not nearly as big when shortening from 50s to 40s as when dropping from 30s to 20s.
Localization. If you have not localized your game a surprisingly high % of for example French players will instantly leave your game when they discover it is in English.
Tutorial. This is one of the most important things. Think about simplicity but in the same time delivering FUN and EMOTION. You must convince the player that your game is worth a while and more fun than others. Do real user testing over and over again to iterate the steps. Be careful not to stare only at the tutorial completion rate when optimizing it, a short tutorial will obviously have great completion rate but might result in poor 1-day or 7-day retention.
Mission System. After completing tutorial user should directly be lead to a fun and engaging mission system. User should never be left with the feeling “what now?”.
Gameplay Loop. Is the main gameplay loop fun and simple to grasp? Does it make sense? Is there something like it in the real world? I can’t stress enough the importance of the loop – it is the game! If it does not work and is not fun 7-day and 30-day retention will be very bad. You can actually get away with a bad gameplay loop and still have good 1-day retention.
“wow” or “emotion” -factor. Does the game deliver any kind of emotion to the user in the first 3 minutes? Is there a nice animation, a cute animal, some nice effects or something the user has not seen before? Watch the faces of the test users, do the smile, laugh or just look like they are bored?
Length of First Session. There should be at least 10minutes of play to hook the player deep enough to the game. Aim at delivering 20minutes before the game stalls and the user has to either wait or spend money.
Appointment gaming. Can user set something to happen for the next day when leaving the game on the first day of playing? There should be some user set reward or action completion waiting. This is not the same as the daily bonus, which has VERY little effect on retention.
Closure. User wants to leave the game after playing for the first time with the feeling that he or she has done everything possible in the game and left it in a “good state”. This means for example that all commerces in Cityville have been supplied with goods and the farms are seeded with 12h or 24h plants. The user will feel like the game is making money even though the user is not playing – amazing feeling! And when coming back the next day there will be all this yummy icons and rewards to click.
Okay, there is obviously dozens of other factors affecting 1-day retention but the listed above are some of the main ones. Stay tuned for the next part where I will tackle 7-day and 30-day retention. (Source: GAMES CHANGED MY LIFE)
Retention is King! (part 2)
In this post I will continue on exploring factors that affect greatly retention in social games. In my previous post: “Retention is King (Part 1) I focused on 1-day retention. In this post I will move on to 7-day and 30-day retention. As you may recall the target ratios for these came from the 40-20-10 rule which said that 7-day retention should be >20% and 30-day retention >10%. I will not distinguish which aspect affect more 7-day or 30-day, just treat the list as things that affect long-term retention. Obviously there are more things than in the list but these are some that came into mind.
Repeatedly Fun Gameplay Loop
The gameplay loop was already mentioned in the my previous post but in can’t be stressed enough. The main gameplay loop must be repeatedly fun and here is stress the word repeatedly. Good example can be found in Cityville where it never seems to stop being fun collecting the income and seeing the rewards pop-out. You can make a very animation heavy gameplay loop with will be slow and maybe very fun 10 times but how about after 100 or 1000s of times? All the slow animations can instead of fun become very annoying and have a huge negative effect on your 7-day and 30-day retention.
Smart-Depth is crucial in the long-term when you want to build strategy on top of the main gameplay loop (Check my previous posts for the definition for Smart-Depth). Even the ‘funnest’ gameplay loop might become boring in the long-term if you don’t have to make any strategic choices or think. Smart-depth will typically have the greatest effect on 30-day retention and not so visible in 7-day retention. The best way to know that your smart-depth works is that you still have very active advanced players even though they have run out of missions/goals to do (since they have the strategic/optimization part to play around with).
With visual expansions I mean areas that the user can see from the start but not yet access. They give long-term objective and desire to the player to continue. The users want to know what you can do in the area with the mountain or the bay in Cityville. The expansions give a natural objective for the player; this combined with curiosity is a powerful driver. Human beings want to conquer/expand to more and more physical space. The more space you have conquered the more attached you are to it and the more you would lose if you stop playing.
Whether you are building a city, restaurant, farm or an island you want each play session to make the object (your space) you are working on look better and bigger. This is what arcade games usually can’t deliver since they are level-based. The user becomes very attached to the space increasing retention. This is why it is very important to have a long enough first session with plenty of cash in a city builder. The user will be able to develop a nice city with many houses and decorations and become attached to it thus returning the next day and later too.
The amount of friends (not so surprisingly) affects the retention of a user but so does what you can do with the friends. I will not go into the social actions in this post but instead talk about social competition. If you manage to create in your game something users in the real world also compete against each other the retention benefit can be great. Here I talk about amount of money, beauty, popularity, speed and similar. If you manage to define a subject of competition like this also reflect that in the High Score List below your game. Don’t list users based on XP level, instead on the amount of this attribute. Good example of this is Millionaire City that lists players based on Net Worth of the player – who is richer?
Requests tied to the main game loop
I know this is not a traditional game design point but on Facebook with the current channels they offer this is very important for retention. The point here is that you have to tie the requests (items needed to finish houses, hire friends to fill positions etc.) to the main game loop. User must be required to do this over and over again as he advances in the game. It is not enough to have a separate item or items that every now and then will require the user to send a couple of requests. Your game must be able to consume hundreds and hundreds requests regardless of the players level (newbie to advanced). If done properly this will also boost your monetization nicely.
Clear long-term Objective
This one is sometimes very easily overlooked. What is the player trying to achieve in the game? Is it clear to him from the first session to 2-3 months into the game? In Cityville I have the desire to become Mayor and occupy the whole map (see the point on visual expansions above), and in Frontierville I want to get married and clear the whole map from woods. Sometimes the objective the users perceive is a bit surprising. When I once asked a test user what is the long-term objective in Frontierville she answered: “To get to the Gold Rush sign-post”. The user thought the “Gold-Rush – Coming soon” post meant that she has to play long enough to get there. The best way to check whether you nailed the long-term objective of the game is to ask a vanilla user who has just played the first 30min of the game to describe the main objective of the game in 10 words. If the user can’t do it or the response is not what you thought in the gameteam you might be in trouble.
Remember, retention is King and the “40-20-10″ -rule is your target!
篇目7，Why habit formation is the key to long term retention
by Nathan Lovato
This tutorial was originally published on the GameAnalytics blog
“We are what we repeatedly do”, said Aristotle. In other words, we human beings are shaped by our habits.
Each and every one of us has hundreds of habits. Be it heading to the kitchen as soon as we wake up to make some coffee… or logging onto our preferred MMO to tackle our dailies before work.
As you know, habits are mechanical. A player who gets used to coming back to your game will most likely keep coming back to your game. It is that simple. And that’s why habit formation, the process of creating habits, is the key to long term retention.
Before we jump onto the specifics of habit formation as far as games are concerned, let us take some time to better understand the psychology of habits.
What are habits?
“A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously” (Wikipedia). In other words, it is a pattern of behaviors we repeat almost without even thinking about it. Like looking both ways before we cross the street.
A habit is acquired. We have to consciously repeat a process enough times and with a certain frequency before it becomes automatic. So do your players.
To be a bit more specific, habits are formed of a cue (a signal), and a routine (or automatic response). Whenever the cue comes up, the routine is being triggered.
The habit loop. The reward is optional (or it can be intrinsic), although it makes it easier to establish the habit.
We all have hundreds of those habits engrained in ourselves. For example every morning, when I wake up (the cue), I open the shutters (the routine). When I start the computer (the cue), I always check my messages first (the routine). Habits are about as mechanical as “if” statements in game development.
On a side-note, if you ever wondered why behavior trees work so well for game AIs: we do behave in such a procedural way ourselves. To a certain extent at least.
Now habit formation simply is the process by which habits are formed. That is to say the loop that is going to create a link between a cue and a routine.
How long does it take exactly for a new habit to form?
A report from Lally and al. released in 2009 shows that the time it takes for a habit to fully form can vary tremendously. In their study, it took from 18 to 254 days for the participants to develop an automatic reflex. This corresponds to the point when they reached their asymptote of automaticity: the point beyond which a habit has fully developed. On average, it took the participants 66 days to get into a new established habit. This is quite different from the empirical 21 days rule we can see shared around the internet!
To say the least, there is no scientific consensus today on the time it takes for habits to form. This means that we have no definitive rule of thumb to know when our players fell into a playing habit. What we do know however, is that a behavior becomes automatic through repetitions. And it seems that insisting on repetitions early reinforces the behavior much faster.
Simple habits can start to be formed in a matter of days. Everything that is very easy to do and naturally rewarding will soon turn into a habit. This is often a trap for us: it is very easy to check your Twitter or Facebook whenever you open your browser. It is both effortless and pleasant to open the cupboard and grab a piece of chocolate! But neither is a healthy habit.
Games are good at making actions feel rewarding, thus at reinforcing the creation of new habits. But this is not all. Another very efficient way to get into new habits is to build them on top of existing ones.
Efficient habit formation.
We have seen that habits are made up of a cue and a routine. In order to facilitate their formation, we want to create a link between multiple habits. We want routines to become new cues. Let me clarify that with an example:
You see that you have notifications on your smartphone. That’s a cue.
You check your notifications and read through them. That’s a routine. But that’s also a cue!
You click on your Candy Crush notification and play a quick game. That’s a new routine based on your habit of checking notifications.
Those types of habits form fast, as they extend established mechanisms.
If you want your users to get into a habit of playing your game, you have to rethink your design under the lens of cues and routines. In game design terms, this corresponds to the concept of feedback loop.
The feedback loop.
In video games, a feedback loop works as such:
The player has a mental representation of your game’s system and of their short-term goal.
He acts in consequence (presses a button…).
The game’s system treats the input based on its rule set.
It sends some feedback to the player (animation, reaction from the ai, score bonus…).
The player processes this feedback and update their representation of the estate in the game. And the loop starts again!
But to sum it up, the concept of feedback loop just means that the player acts, and the game reacts. Over, and over, and over again, in a continuous way. This is where you are going to put your cues, in order to eventually trigger a routine from the player.
A diagram of the simple feedback loop
So the feedback loop generally starts with a cue that comes from the game, which triggers a response or routine from the player. The game treats that routine, and updates itself to provide the player with new cues. Here’s an example:
A monster appears on the screen. That’s a cue.
The player attacks the monster until it dies. That’s a routine.
The game shows the monster’s death animation. A little chest appears on the ground. That’s a new cue.
The loop goes on, and on…
The 3 secrets of habit formation.
According to Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. (author of the handy book 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People), there are 3 techniques to facilitate the formation of new habits:
Break the steps the user has to take into tiny chunks.
Eliminate the need to take decisions.
Show them their continuous progress and positive feedback.
In other words, the secrets of efficient habit formation in games boils down to a short feedback loop. Good games are naturally good at enhancing habit formation. If gamification is so popular nowadays, it is because it has the power to both speed up and strengthen the feedback loop of any application.
So first of all, you want to break down the steps the player has to take. This can be done in many ways. In both AAA and casual games, those steps are shown explicitly and given to the player one by one.
Many games use text or GUI animations (i.e. a touching finger) to give the player routines to follow in the early game.
A game often invites the player to repeat the same steps over and over, so once the player knows its rule-set, he also knows what to do. This is true for arcade games in particular. Other games give the player sets of very clear short-term goals using quest systems. This also has the advantage of eliminating the need for the user to take decisions.
Diablo 3, a bit like World of Warcraft, gives you clear short term goals and a linear path to follow at first
For instance, in an MMO, an NPC will tell you something like: “kill 3 chickens and bring me back their meat”. In World of Warcraft, the map would even tell you where to find the chickens exactly. The player knows what to do, where to go… and what he will get in exchange! There is a clear reward that’s being offered in exchange for completing the task. On top of that, gaining experience points or clearing each sub-objective give the player hints about his progress! Score, combos, and other animated GUI elements also offer valuable, continuous feedback.
That is how successful casual games operate and retain large amounts of players.
It feels a bit like controlling the player. Don’t users crave for control, may you ask?
We may think that they do. But not really. Well, at first at least, they likely won’t! If you want unexperienced users to learn how your game works, it will generally be counter-productive to give them complete freedom. Every habit you want encourage will be based on a unique cue that will eventually trigger a routine from the player. This cue has to come up with a number of times before the habit starts to form.
Eventually though, as they get to know your game better, your players will appreciate more and more room to experiment freely. They will get better at processing everything the game will throw at them. But that is often after the playing habit has started to form. In practice, this is for example the player of an MMORPG who wants to do complex raids in the end game.
And by the way, the habits you are looking to reinforce won’t necessarily be formed thanks to your game only! We have to keep in mind that some of the player’s habits are not necessarily specific to our projects. A Diablo player will have no trouble jumping onto Path of Exile for instance, as both title share many similarities. This is important to note as we have to take those players in account as well. I.e. Diablo 3 felt frustrating at first for many Hack and Slash players as they were forced to go through the normal difficulty mode.
In order to get a better understand of how we can harness the power of habits in practice, let’s take a look at a game that works well.
You could take any successful multiplayer or social game to study how they make the formation of habits possible. As we have seen, habit formation is strongly linked to your feedback loops, which lie at the core of all games. Any good game design stimulates the formation of new habits. We are likely going to play an entertaining game again and again! But we can still encourage the wrong habits or failed to reinforce existing ones.
Case study: Final Fantasy XIV
In the long run, the survivability of an MMORPG relies hugely on having a large community of both active and experienced users. Because of that, they need to build strong playing habits. Final Fantasy XIV managed to do just that. It is a pretty fresh MMO that built both a large and a faithful audience. That is why we are going to take a look at it right now.
The first moments of the game are spent creating your avatar. At that point, the game catches the player’s attention thanks to its fine art direction. The character creation menu is highly polished and anchored in the game world already (with its lovely ethereal visual effects). Past the character creation, each player goes through a tutorial phase that will introduce him to the world of Eorzea.
Fast-forward to the first quests. A bit like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy 14 provides the player with quests that will lead him through an area. Not only do quests provide the player with small, explicit short-term goals, but their succession create a clear path through each zone. Procedural events breathe some variation into the linear path the player is given.
The game is filled with activities that all revolve around its core gameplay. This helps to reinforce the player’s mechanics and to make the world of Eorzea feel rich. Each activity or action the player takes comes with its own reward: experience points, money, items, etc.
The game offers a system of daily quests called “mandates”. They offer bonus rewards that are pretty handy to quickly level up in crafting jobs. The game encourages you to experiment with classes as you can level them up all with a single character. Final Fantasy XIV is one of the few MMOs that force you to run through its dungeons. Clearing dungeons and bosses is mandatory if you want to progress into the main story. This forces every player to get at least a basic understanding of team play, and prepares them for the end game. Which in turn helps to improve the whole community. Last but not least, the game gives you the option to play in short or long sessions.
All in all, Final Fantasy XIV offers a pretty classic MMO experience, but a polished one. There is nothing extraordinary in that short case study. But we can note that Final Fantasy XIV, like most good modern MMORPGs, offers a short and clear feedback loop. Not only that, but the game encourages the formation of strong playing habits by offering a lot of content that revolves for the most part around its core mechanics.
A quick note on Ethics
As we designers play with the psychology of our users, we do have to be careful with the ethics of our design choices. There is a fine line between encouraging the creation of lasting habits and encouraging addiction. Let us face it: games are addictive by nature. They easily fulfil our need for positive feedback.
Long-term retention does not only rely on habit formation. It relies on healthy habit formation. We want our users to keep coming back to the game in a positive way. We want our users to have a pleasant experience. Addicted players don’t.
To sum this article up, getting our players into a habit of coming back to our game is necessary to build a lasting community. To facilitate habit formation, we can build our early game around gameplay loops that focus on 2 characteristics:
Giving the player clear steps to follow.
Giving the player small steps to follow.
All we have left is to provide the player with continuous feedback in the form of score, experience points, rewards, or in-game animations.
篇目8，10 Ways to Retain Your Players
by Mickey Blumental
The following blog was, unless otherwise noted, independently written by a member of Gamasutra’s game development community. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Gamasutra or its parent company.
The following blog was, unless otherwise noted, independently written by a member of Gamasutra’s game development community. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Gamasutra or its parent company.
A long long time ago, before the age of iOS and Android, mobile phone games were pretty crap.
Eight years ago it was a new and growing market and I had tons of fun trying to fit some of the world’s biggest game franchises into mobile devices that were about as suitable for gaming as your average microwave. Resident Evil, Need for Speed, Final Fantasy, Project Gotham Racing, Sims – each game genre brought with it new design challenges.
Back then almost all the phone games (that made money) were malformed bastardized versions of current hit console and PC franchises. The hardware was constrained in terms of performance and the clunky phone keys weren’t the ideal game controller. Considering these limitations, we made some awesome games back in those days. But if you don’t consider those limitations (and why should you), these games were somewhat bleh.
Getting an hour and a half of gameplay for a couple of dollars seemed like good value. In fact, it was an act of mercy, as playing through those games, for the most part, was about as fun as flossing. So it was all about getting the player to finish the game before the “hey look, Resident Evil on my phone” novelty wore off.
Those days are over. Touch screen devices have amazing games. I find myself playing on the iPad more than any other platform. It’s not a perfect gaming platform, especially not for games that try to emulate console games, it’s the one I’m most excited about both as developer and gamer.
Suddenly getting your customers out the door as fast as you can is no longer necessary.
In fact, keeping players engaged with your game for longer is beneficial for both player and developer. The player develops an emotional attachment to the game and a sense of accomplishment and investment over a long period of time.
For the developer user retention is important for the following reasons:
1. Cross promotion and visibility. Your games can cross-promote each other whenever new games or updates are released, but that is only effective if people are still playing the older games.
2. Most of the revenue in the app store comes from in-app purchases. Monetize your game correctly and wisely and you would have every reason to want people to play your game for as long as possible.
3. Word of mouth. The longer players play your game, the more likely they are to tell others about the game, recruit other players for in-game rewards, blog or tweet about it.
User retention should not be confused with marketing. It’s not about getting new players, it’s about keeping the players you did get for as long as possible. One of the positive rewards is a boost in marketing, but it is not a marketing strategy in its own right. For example, having an awesome cliffhanger in a TV show is going to ensure many viewers return the next week, but it’s not going to get new viewers to tune in right away. On the other hand when people keep hearing how awesome that TV show is, they are more likely to eventually give it a chance.
There are many ways to facilitate user retention. The best one is having a good game underneath it all. Some games are so addictive and fun they don’t really need to seduce the player to stick around.
But don’t despair even if your game is terrible. Quality is not necessary. Farmville offers practically no gameplay beyond mindless clicking, but it has done a fantastic job hooking players. A bit like a crack-cocaine addiction, only it carries a more devastating social stigma.
Here are super simple ways in which you can increase your game’s user retention:
Achievement whore is a term that was coined for a reason. It can become very addictive to collect these virtual badges with points that mean absolutely nothing to anyone. It’s supposedly something that is meant for bragging rights, but in fact nobody in all of existence ever, except you, cares about your gamer score. No one. In fact, the only reason you care about it is because you think others might care too. They don’t. Yet, it is still for some reason fun to unlock achievements. Perhaps it is just because people like to feel good about themselves.
Achievements can range from accomplishing extra difficult tasks beyond the main scope of the game – like getting ridiculously high combo in a fighting game, or it can simply reward tedious grinding for performing the same action 1000000 times.
If the achievements strike the player as too difficult or time consuming they are going to give up on them fairly soon, so while it should be a long tunnel, there should always be light at the end. Done correctly achievements can help draw a map for the player that takes them on a longer path through the game.
Missions are similar to achievements, but have a different focus. There are usually only three missions active at one time, replaced with new missions as they are beaten and they almost always reward the player with in-game currency and rewards (coins, experience points, etc.). Missions are especially effective in endless games as having three different active missions changes the focus of the game and adds variety to each session. It is usually accompanied by a progression ladder that gives the game structure it would otherwise lack.
A missions system kept me playing through games like Punch Quest, Zombie Tsunami, Into the Dead and Jetpack Joyride far longer than I would have otherwise.
Upgrades are an artificial way to make the player better at the game. Suddenly you get further and score better, but it’s not necessarily because you honed your skills to perfection as much as the fact that you bought in-game upgrades that improve your stats and overall make the game easier. Why bother trying to shoot a duck with a small gun when you can use a heat seeking rocket launcher instead? Or a nuclear bomb? The player needs to invest a significant amount of time to grind all the currency needed to buy all the upgrades. This is also a good opportunity for monetization as you can offer lazy players a shortcut and offer the upgrades faster for real world money.
Upgrading is a basic concept lifted from the Role Playing genre and tweaked to fit more casual games, especially endless games. Together with the missions system, it’s another way to offer a sense of progression and development when you’re in fact still playing the same two minutes over and over again.
Two games with very addictive upgrade systems are the endless runners One Epic Knight and Jetpack Joyride.
4. Daily Rewards
Tempt your players to log into your game at least once a day. They might not even play the game beyond loading it and claiming the rewards, but it’s a great opportunity to flash any news about upcoming updates or perhaps other games you’re about to release – or just flash obnoxious ads in their face. You grab the player’s attention for a few priceless seconds, so you had better put it to good use.
The problem with rewards is that if you give the players too much you break your virtual economy and if you give them too little you insult their intelligence (it’s worrying how many games do the latter and actually get away with it). A good solution is to create a growing reward ladder that increases every consecutive day of logging in, or alternatively offer the player a scratch card with a good chance of winning something substantial – harmlessly scratching the gambling itch at the same time.
Snoopy’s Street Fair rewards you with a generous portion of deluxe currency every five days, but only if you keep logging every day.
5. Come Back or the Puppy Dies
Why lure players back with the promise of rewards when you can do it with the threat of punishment? If the player doesn’t log in regularly their crop will wither, their pets will die an agonizing death, their wife will leave them and take the kids, their fortress will be invaded and burnt to the ground and all the toilet paper will be used up.
If your game succeeds in compelling the player to visit on an hourly basis, giving up on their social life, responsibilities and sleep, you are going to be a very rich person.
Though a lot of good all that money is going to do you in HELL.
6. Regular Updates
Once you train your players to expect regular updates, they will look forward to them. Many times players like a game, but they have no idea if the developer is still supporting it.
There are clever ways to let players know that new content is on the way. 1000 Heroz promised players a new level every day for 1000 days until the whole game was released. Angry Birds Rio had empty place holders for future content with a date on each spot telling the players when to expect it.
7. Seasonal Content
Seasonal content puts people in a festive mood, but also has a delightful sense of urgency to it as it offers unique rewards that expire when the holiday ends until the same time next year.
So for a short period of time players are urged to play your game more to ensure they don’t miss out on limited time rewards. The rewards are usually cosmetic, which doesn’t make them any less rewarding to the target audience that is obsessed with collecting and showing off their virtual items.
And don’t forget to update the app’s icon to reflect the holiday by sticking a Christmas hat or a jack-o-lantern on it. All the cool kids are doing it, so it must be the thing to do.
Reflecting current holidays and seasons also tells the player that the game is currently being supported by the development team. Just remember to remove the Christmas decorations by March or the whole thing will backfire.
This one is a tricky one to pull off and must be tailored to the type of game you have. It can be a lot of work which does not always recoup the time and effort invested, so tread carefully. Does your game allow your players to show their creativity? Can they share their cleverness with other players? My Singing Monsters invited users to send clips of them singing different parts and then assembled it into a silly little video.
Carmageddon lets players record themselves flattening pedestrians and crashing into other cars and then upload the videos directly to Youtube.
Snoopy’s Street Fair provides you with a photo booth in which you can take pictures with Snoopy characters.
Other games capitalize on the fact that they offer complex gameplay and provide players with forums in which they can discuss strategy and exchange tips.
Collectibles could be done cleverly, intelligently rewarding exploration and time investment, or they could be a half assed throwaway. In both cases it’s likely to get players to play the game a bit longer than they would otherwise.
If your game world is bland and badly designed adding collectibles for the player to collect is basically just twisting the knife. Looking for hidden treasures in Aquaria is rewarding because it is already fun to explore that beautiful world.
Crackdown is an immensely repetitive and average 3rd person shooter that is saved by a side mission to find hidden orbs. Scaling the environments in search for audio and visual hints for orb locations is some of the most fun I ever had in a videogame.
If your game is fun people are likely to play through it again. This can be further encouraged by adding more layers of complexity to the game. Offer additional side challenges, offer a medal system that encourages to beat the same challenges with better scores. Unlock hidden harder levels. This is the user retention technique with the best nutritional value that veteran gamers will really appreciate. It only works if your game is good enough and fun enough to justify a return visit.
But seriously, none of these techniques are an alternative to having a good game. There are enough crap games out there. Not all of the listed user retention methods might suit your game, so don’t bend backwards like a pretzel trying to fit them in. But give it a thought and see which ones make sense for your game.
That’s it for user retention. Next week we’ll discuss water retention.
篇目9，ARM yourself: Keeping your customers is the secret to success
It’s amazing how many games companies don’t think like this. How much effort they put into getting customers through the door, and how little they put on keeping them when they arrive.
Actually, when you think about it, it’s not amazing at all. Games companies have never cared about satisfying their customers.
The traditional marketing model for the games industry has put zero thought into satisfying customers. Literally zero.
AAA publishing is about the release day. The CFO of a major games publisher once told me that he could predict the lifetime sales of a game, down to the nearest ten thousand units or less, based purely on day one sales. No wonder AAA marketing is focused so intently on initial launch, and has no interest at all about what happens after that.
This isn’t surprising either. When the business model consists of charging a user £40 for a game, with no recurring revenue, it really doesn’t matter if the user hates the game. You’ve already got their money.
We’re not in KAAAnsas any more, Toto
We’re not focused on AAA games any more. If you are reading this, you are interested in self-publishing, or web games, or Internet business in general. Unlike traditional games publishers, we care about our customers.
(Even AAA games aren’t like that anymore. Keeping users interested means you can sell them more DLC, or just stop them from trading the game in at a retail store.)
We also care, for commercial reasons, about making sure that they keep coming back. I’ve already written about the changing nature of game design, moving from “one more go” to “come back tomorrow” (and more about that in the Monetisation post). In this post, I want to talk about Retention.
Why does Retention matter?
Retention matters because customer acquisition costs are going up. To compete, you need to either outspend customers on marketing, or get smarter at making the customers that you do get stay with you longer and become more profitable.
The great news for game designers is that Retention is at the core of what you do. Retention is about giving players good reasons to want to keep coming back to your game. And you want to do that anyway, right?
What follows are some examples of games that have used a variety of gameplay mechanics to encourage retention. Note that this is not an exhaustive list, and I’d like you to think of them as firelighters to ignite your design imagination, not as a template to follow.
Most of these examples come from social games, where the need to drive Daily Active Users is well understood. As I’ll discuss in a later post, the ARM yourself framework applies to many games and many situations, but is often most easy to explain in the context of Facebook games.
The simplest mechanism is to give people an opportunity to get a daily bonus simply for turning up. Bejewelled Blitz does this by offering a one-armed bandit that you spin to win bonus coins. Since the fear of loss is a strong human motivator, the fear that “if I don’t come back, I might lose out on some free coins” brings players back every day.
Increasing daily rewards
I am not a fan of simply harnessing slot-machine psychology to win coins – I much prefer mechanisms that give users a sense that they have got something valuable and rare, not just in-game currency. Restaurant City from Playfish does just this, by rewarding players with an increasing number of ingredients if they come back regularly.
While this is part random (the exact ingredients), players can increase their rewards by returning regularly,
The heart of many social games is a maintenance mechanic. Think the crops in Farmville or the rents in Millionaire City.
By using a believable process (like harvesting crops or collecting rents) you build an expectation in your players that they have to plant crops, wait a while and then harvest them.
Games like Mafia Wars turn maintenance on its head: you have scarce energy which takes time to replenish (or you can pay to top it up). It’s the same broad principle of giving players a reason to believe that they have “finished” playing for a while, and should return later, once their crops have grown or their energy has been replenished.
Frontierville combines both. It has a crop-growing mechanic AND an energy mechanic. (Personally, I find the double whammy too much, and find Frontierville close to unplayable as a result. However, it is Zynga’s second most successful game with nearly 30 million according to Appdata, so the combination clearly works for some people.)
Commitment is a much more powerful variant of maintenance. The key difference – and this is crucial – is that the player sets when they need to come back.
Let’s take, for example, a harvest mechanic in which all plants take 12 hours to grow. If I plant crops at four in the afternoon during a dull lull at work, I would have to set my alarm for 4am to get out of bed and harvest them. While some extremely committed players might do this, I wouldn’t. What’s more, I am likely to think “bloody stupid game trying to get me to get up in the middle of the night” which is the beginning of the end of my emotional commitment to your game.
Instead, games like Farmville and Millionaire City give the player the choice of when he or she needs to come back. Farmville offers the option of raspberries (which take two hours to grow) and artichokes (which take four days) – and almost everything inbetween. As a player, I can say “it’s a boring day in the office, I can come back in a couple of hours” or “I’m going away this weekend, I’ll plant some crops I can harvest on Monday”.
Not only does it give me flexibility, but because I made a mental and personal commitment to the game – because the timing of when I need to come back seems like it was my decision – the job “harvest crops” goes on my mental to-do list, increasing the likelihood that I actually return.