updated icon July 19 2016

There are a gazillion apps that are getting launched in the mobile market almost everyday. From utility apps to games of all sorts – puzzles, single player, multiplayer and more, smartphone users are quite literally overwhelmed with options!

But what’s options for them, is a bane for an app developer – especially games.

What’s more? Most of them don’t install games frequently and uninstall some every other week.

Think about the last time you downloaded a mobile game, or didn’t choose to delete a game to cater to a space crunch on your phone!

A mobile game developer literally spends hours and hours to craft a game that users would get hooked on to. He attracts his initial set of players, but then his users get distracted by an app store ‘recommendation’ in no time.

The player lifecycle of games has been decreasing ever since the increase in the number of smartphone users. Since people are spending more and more time on their phones than conventional desktops, businesses have to target them on their ‘favourite device’ and monetize from the same. Competition is way more fierce nowadays!

What is a player lifecycle?

Player lifecycle refers to the duration for which a smartphone user engages with your app, right from the time of discovery and download, to onboarding, exploration and repeated use which may lead to purchase and repurchase. Usually after the last stage, the user either abandons the app or becomes a long term user of the same.

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Source

The player lifecycle includes the following steps:

  1. App discovery – how your target market is going to hear about your game?
  2. App download – what is it that will make a smartphone user download the game?
  3. Onboarding and exploration – what aspect of your app will make him start playing or leave the game for good?
  4. Reuse and purchase – why and how are some players engaging with the app, while the others aren’t?
  5. Repurchase – what made a player make an in-app purchase again?

Why games need to focus on the player lifecycle?

About 94% of marketers think they know who their target users are and what they are looking for using the buyer personas created with data from CRMs and web analytics. But the world has changed ever since.

With mobile usage increasing by the day and personalization kicking in, the app users now want you to know them beyond the general demographics and psychographic marketing segmentations. They want you to offer them what they want, and not what you think they want.

With 49% of smartphone users choosing mobile games more than other apps, the same holds true for games. They need to focus both on the initial acquisition of its players, and also on their player lifecycle.

According to Localytics, the most observed app behavior can be described as “app snacking”, where a user logs several short sessions within several apps in one day.

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Collecting data on the player lifecycle will help games:

  • Understand their players better, and create better in-app experiences for them.
  • Personalize the player’s journey in the app, right from the onboarding to the first usage and in-app conversion.
  • Create custom campaigns based on player behaviour, that will better drive them to in-app purchases.

Solving the player lifecycle

Unfortunately, with the proliferation of smartphone users and the freemium model, so does user expectations from the apps they are being offered. They don’t just want the games to be ‘new’, but also be able to cater to what they have been looking for.

So we dug deeper to understand the main challenges of the player lifecycle and came up with a quick step-by-step to solve them. Here’s taking a look at the solutions:

1. Understand where the engagement is

First and foremost step to increase your player’s lifecycle is to understand where the real engagement is. Look at your app user data to identify where your most engaged users are. These are the people who are more likely to become your app ambassadors, recommend your game to their circles and help you grow organically.

User engagement is actually the real measure of the game’s monetization. And early on engagement with active users, will help you create custom in-app journeys to keep them engaged and motivated. This also gives you the opportunity to create referral campaigns that are targeted at offering them some value in the game.

Rovio implemented an amazing in-app referral campaign in Nibblers, using GetSocial’s Smart Invite technology: players invite each other using popular chat apps and through the Smart Invite tracking and attribution logic, Rovio ensure it rewards the right users and keeps them more engaged in the game.

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Nibblers’ Smart Invites

2. Create personalized player journeys

Like we mentioned before, app users give extra value to a personalized approach from the businesses they are being approached by. So if you want to keep them hooked to your app and help grow it, you need to personalize their journey right from the beginning.

In our previous post on Kim Kardashian West’s Forbes featured app, we showed how she uses a personalized onboarding to hook her players right from the time they download and play for the first time. Take a look at how the app guides its players through the initial levels:

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Kim Kardashian: Hollywood onboarding message

3. Enable developer to player communication

You created the concept of your game; there is obviously no one else who knows it better than you. You know those secret tips, tricks and loopholes to get past the toughest of levels in seconds. So why not use the knowledge to bond with your players?

Enabling GetSocial in-app chats and activity feeds you can communicate with your players on a regular basis.

Sharing tips and tricks, or asking for the player’s feedback helps dismiss the players who are about to abandon the game for some reason – it could be them being stuck on a level for too long or simply losing interest because they haven’t explored all the features of the game.

This also gives you an opportunity to get first hand remarks on what the players think of the app and how you can make it better for them.

Fancy Cats makes the activity feed one of their central game pieces, where developers start a dialogue with players, to obtain feedback and game feature suggestions!

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Fancy Cats Activity Feed

4. Create dynamic pricing for players

The top most trick to monetize higher on your in-app purchases, is to offer dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing takes into account players’ purchases before defining an in-app item price.

“59% of mobile gamers have never made an in-app purchase.”
  
 gamesindustry.biz

Looking at your player’s lifecycle, you can find data on where you’re losing possible conversions and what the purchase triggers of your converted players are. This will help you create custom purchase offers and monetize a greater number of players.

Also, using a personalized approach to recommend purchases to your players, makes them more likely to convert, for instance, if they know they are stuck at a level for long and they are being recommended a purchase to get past it.

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Front Line Commando 2 Activity Feed

Over to you

Monetizing and growing your game in the competitive app market today is getting tougher by the day. But understanding your player’s lifecycle can help you understand how they interact with your game, what they expect from it and how to keep them engaged for longer.

“It costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.”

 Business 2 Community

The player lifecycle plays a very important role in the mobile growth stack – right from growing your app organically, all the way to monetizing it. So be the wise app developer and marketer to growth hack your app, and sustain in the competitive market!

When was the last time you analysed your player’s lifecycle?