2/3/2014 10:02:22 AM
The Secret to a Successful Mobile Game Launch
Analytics, ARPDAU, Benchmarks
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The Secret to a Successful Mobile Game Launch


Monday, February 3, 2014
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As a mobile game developer, analytics are without a doubt one of the most important tools to help you launch your game. Not only do analytics help you understand the early performance of your game, but they also provide the context necessary to guide future product developments and optimize your marketing efforts.

When you’re launching your mobile game into the market, it is critical to have a plan in place for monitoring your analytics. Understanding your game’s performance within the first of weeks of its life will enable you to make strategic decisions related to product development and marketing campaigns, such as paid user acquisition. During launch beta tests for example, analytics can identify potential problems in your game such as payments or first time user experiences (FTUE) highlighting the need for tutorials. Once you have this information, you can easily fine tune and fix it before it's broadly distributed.

Though this might sound daunting, preparation will ensure you're set up for success from the beginning. In the following few paragraphs, I'll breakdown how to understand the most important metrics including user retention, engagement and revenue metrics. I've included what actions you should take before game launch and in the first few weeks of your game's life.

  • Part I: Understand Your User Retention
  • Part II: Gauge User Engagement
  • Part III: Evaluate Revenue Metrics
  • Part IV: Know Your Benchmarks

Part I: Understand Your User Retention

User retention is the single most important key performance indicator (KPI) for any game launch. Understanding retention will allow you to forecast daily active users based on game installs. With a forecast of your DAU, you can accurately estimate daily revenue and determine how much budget to allocate to paid user acquisition.

User retention is generally expressed as the percentage of returning users in days from their install date. For example, Day 1 retention is the ratio of the number of people who installed yesterday who are playing today compared with the number of people who installed yesterday. Similarly, Day 7 retention is the ratio of the number of people who installed a week ago who are playing today compared with the number of people who installed a week ago.

So, what’s a good retention value? You should expect the value to vary by game type - free vs. paid - and by game genre. However, here’s a quick overview of what a healthy game should look like: Day 1 Retention: 35%+; Day 7 Retention: 15%+; Day 14 Retention: 10%+; Day 30 Retention: 5%+.

Day 1 retention is the most critical retention metric to understand and monitor. As a general rule, if you retain less than 30% of your users on Day 1, you need to investigate why your players are not returning. Look at your user flows. Are there areas where you are seeing a large number of drop offs? Try to optimize these areas with better game mechanics.

Image 2 shows an example of what your retention curve should look like when launching your game. Now that you’re able to determine the percentage of users that are likely to stay in your game after installing it from the retention curve, you can now build a model to forecast how many installs you will need to hit or maintain a certain DAU level. This will be helpful when planning paid acquisition for your game launch.

Part II: Gauge User Engagement

Engagement is a KPI that tells you how active your users are in your game. Engagement metrics look at the activity of existing users, where retention (as discussed earlier) focuses on the activity of new users.

There are different engagement metrics, but the most common are Number of Game Sessions Per User, Ratio of DAU to Weekly Active (WAU) or Monthly Active Users (MAU), and number of days a user plays on average per week.

Since sessions per user vary considerably based on the game type, it is best to use a metric that accounts for this variability and provides a good overall view of your game. The best metric I’ve encountered is the ratio of DAU to MAU. We’ll call this your Monthly Engagement.

Helpful Hit: Since DAU varies quite a bit during the week, calculate Monthly Engagement as the ratio of 7 day average DAU compared to MAU. For example, your Monthly Engagement would be calculated as: (DAU day 1+2+3+4+5+6+7)/7 divided by MAU.

What Monthly Engagement value should you be aiming for? Like we mentioned in the retention section, this varies from genre to genre. However, 40% is a good ratio to shoot for initially. Anything above 50% suggests that your players are highly engaged.

Part III: Evaluate Revenue Metrics

For a free-to-play game, the most important revenue KPI is Average Revenue Per Daily Active User (ARPDAU). ARPDAU measures your revenue and performance of your monetization campaigns at the per-player level. This metric also varies depending on the game genre, but here are some examples of the standard ARPDAU to aim for in each of the following genres: Casino games: $.14 USD; Farming/Economy games: $.08 USD; Arcade type games: $.05 USD; Advertising only games $.02 USD.

It is fairly easy to calculate ARPDAU. Just gather your revenue numbers from Apple or Google and then divide it by your DAU, which is typically gathered from your own internal system or a 3rd party mobile platform provider. With an accurate view of your ARPDAU, you understand how your monetization campaigns - virtual goods or displaying in-game ads - are performing. If your ARPDAU is less than the industry averages outlined earlier, review your in-app purchases and ensure they are priced effectively and placed meaningfully in your game.

Another important metric to consider at game launch is the Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU), which gives an understanding of repeat payers. This metric can help you quickly determine if you’ve priced your virtual goods appropriately.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at three pricing options for your lowest priced virtual goods package: $0.99, $1.99 and $2.99. Through game analytics, you know a large segment of users buy the lowest priced package and only make one in game purchase. You also know that dropping the price by half is unlikely to double the conversion rate for this segment of users. Therefore, you may want to consider choosing the $2.99 option to maximize your revenue.

Section IV: Know Your Benchmarks

If you’ve launched a game and wish to launch a sequel or the same game on another platform, benchmarking is a great way to compare the results of both game launches (see Image 6). From this analysis, you can quickly see how well the new game performs. The KPIs I’ve outlined earlier are ideal for benchmarking, in particular retention and ARPDAU.

Knowledge is power. Understanding how your new game compares to a previously launched game will help you quickly determine necessary resolutions and uncover successes. From here, you can adjust accordingly for continued success.

You can also use benchmarking to compare similar games and different platform versions to get more insight into how your games are performing relative to each other.

Summary

To set the foundation for success, it’s critical to understand the metrics in your game, their relationship with each other, and the impact they have on your game early in its launch. The use of analytics should be built into your game launch strategy. Testing your game in smaller markets provides you with the opportunity to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Focusing on the most important areas, such as Retention and Revenue, can help steer your product development in the right direction. Plan to iterate and improve your game before launching at a broader scale. The actionable insights gathered early on will help prepare you for a successful worldwide launch and beyond.


This content is made possible by a guest author, or sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of App Developer Magazine's editorial staff.


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