Mobile gaming loyalty is key to lasting revenues

Colin Campbell, Tuesday, November 28th, 2023 10:39 am

The mobile games market is dominated by a few titles that players return to again and again. Fostering that kind of loyalty is crucial, especially given that only around two percent of a game’s player base can generate up to 95 percent of its in-app purchase revenue.

A new report from Mistplay – a mobile gaming loyalty program, and consultancy – offers stats and tips for developers looking to increase the amount of time and money players spend with their games.

Mistplay uses metrics from thousands of mobile games, based on player behavior, including in-app purchases, repeat in-game spending, average purchase amount, as well as amount of total playing time and play frequency. The report is also based on interviews with players.

“Our goal in surfacing these insights is to support the ecosystem of game publishers and developers – specifically the marketing, monetization, and product teams – to help guide strategic thinking and decisions that can enhance game performance,” writes Mistplay CEO Jason Heller.

The report states: “Player loyalty is the key to maximizing lifetime value and achieving sustainable growth in today’s rapidly evolving industry. Fostering loyalty starts at the top of the funnel, driving discovery and ultimately install conversion. It continues from the initial player experience, building across game progression systems and the value exchange of in-app purchases, and throughout the user lifecycle.”

Percentage play

According to Mistplay, 77 percent of spenders rotate between two to seven games at any given time throughout the week, but 53 percent only spend money on a single game. Reflecting a common complaint about mobile game advertising, 72 percent of all respondents state it’s important to see actual gameplay footage in ads when deciding to install a game or not.

Advertising remains the most successful discovery method for most players, with nearly half saying they rely on ads to choose their next game. That said, 37 percent of respondents said they actively ignore in-game ads, while 26 percent are curious enough to actively pay attention, no matter what type of game is advertised.

35 percent of respondents say that they discover new mobile games through recommendations from friends and family. Almost 40 percent explore app stores. Less than one percent of high-value spenders get recommendations from game journalism websites, compared to three percent of other players.

More than 60 percent of respondents believe that star ratings and written reviews are important when considering downloading a new title from the Google Play Store – with over 30 percent rating them as very important. 88 percent of players who spend more than $100 say they won’t download anything rated less than three stars. 42 percent of this group avoid games rated anything less than four stars – nearly 30 percent higher than the average player.

When it comes to discussing favorite mobile games on social media, Facebook is still top, with 80 percent of respondents saying it is their primary watering hole. YouTube (42 percent) and TikTok (36 percent) are next.

Once a player makes a choice, it’s easy to lose their interest. 39 percent of respondents say they will quit playing a mobile game if the publisher releases a poorly received update that isn’t fixed within a week.

Genre picks

The success of games with long-term goals demonstrates that a sense of progress is a key motivator for players to keep playing. Genres with a reputation for gameplay depth tend to score highest in loyalty rankings, with role-playing games leading, followed by strategy and simulation. Simpler games like shooters, action, sports, and casino tend to fare less well, although they shine when it comes to pick-up-and-play initial retention. RPGs have the highest average playtime overall.

When it comes to monetization, lifestyle games are top for share of spenders. It’s a genre that Mistplay points out “excels at monetizing on emotion”. These games, which often task the player with achieving social approval or stardom, do best when they are “carefully balanced to promote spending as a worthy convenience for players to achieve their aspirations while also ensuring other players can still progress toward satisfaction, even at a slower rate”.

RPG players are more likely to make high-value purchases and tend to spend more frequently. Mobile game designers who are focused on in-app monetization know that this genre offers long-term objectives and quest progression that require either hours of time or currency spent to make meaningful progress.

When asked what keeps them with a particular game, 57 percent say they “want to keep progressing
and reach new milestones”. Around half of players say they don’t want to abandon their progress and achievements. 38 percent enjoy a regular roll-out of new features and content updates.

On the flip-side, players appear to have clear ideas about why they abandon a particular game, with a feeling of pay-to-win the number one problem (65 percent). Bugs and technical issues come next, at 56 percent, closely followed by a feeling that the player is no longer making progress, and annoyance at too many in-game ads.

Loyalty extends to the companies making games. 64 percent of players who enjoy a particular mobile game say they are more likely to try out other games from the same publisher. “Strategic cross promotion of other titles within your games can boost user acquisition and lifetime value across your whole catalog in a balanced way,” says the report. “Utilize player segmentation to determine which titles speak best to each audience, then design ad creative and promotional tie-in campaigns to maximize engagement.”

You can read the full report here.

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell has been reporting on the gaming industry for more than three decades, including for Polygon, IGN, The Guardian, Next Generation, and The Economist. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.