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DavidPChiu Kongregate - Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games: Comparative Stats for Asian & Western Games (Brazil Independent Games Festival 2014)
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DavidPChiu Kongregate - Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games: Comparative Stats for Asian & Western Games (Brazil Independent Games Festival 2014)


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Presentation from the Brazil Independent Games (BIG) Festival 2014 on Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games with a Comparative Analysis of Asian & Western F2P Games

Presentation from the Brazil Independent Games (BIG) Festival 2014 on Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games with a Comparative Analysis of Asian & Western F2P Games

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  • 1. Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games: Data, Best Practices and Case Studies David P Chiu Senior Director of Developer Relations & Business Development Kongregate, A GameStop Company
  • 2. What is Kongregate? • Open platform for browser-based games – Flash, Unity, HTML5, Java, etc. – 96%+ of users already have Unity installed • 21M+ monthly unique visitors worldwide • Core gamers – 85% male, average age of 22 • MMOs, RPGs, CCGs/TCGs, TD, shooters, etc. • Platform level virtual currency “Kreds” for F2P games • Acquired by GameStop July 2010
  • 3. Kongregate is also a mobile publisher of F2P games
  • 4. Some of Kongregate’s Existing Developer Partners
  • 5. Stats both reflect & shape mind-set So what statistics does F2P focus on? Daily Active Users, DAU $/DAU 1- & 7-Day Retention To a lesser extent MAU & 30-Day 30-Day Retention is a good stat, but 30 days is not “long-term” retention, it’s the start.
  • 6. A little background • All stats are lifetime, min 6 weeks on platform • ARPU: average revenue per user • ARPPU: average revenue per paying user • Player: a Kongregate registered user who loaded the game page at least once • Plays = Sessions: our preferred method to measure retention
  • 7. $0.00 $1.00 $2.00 $3.00 $4.00 $5.00 $6.00 $7.00 $8.00 $9.00 $10.00 $0 $50 $100 $150 $200 $250 $300 $350 $400 $450 $500 ARPU(USD$) ARPPU (USD$) ARPU & ARPPU
  • 8. Linear Growth x Many Years = Awesome Business
  • 9. Commitment Matters Type of Player % Buyers Avg Trx ARPPU ARPU % Players % of Rev Non-Repeats 0.03% 2.1 $24.69 $0.01 43% 0% Repeats (2-9 plays) 0.40% 1.85 $19.61 $0.08 40% 3% Regs (10-49 plays) 4.68% 2.61 $21.35 $1.00 10% 12% Committed (50+ plays) 16.53% 7.03 $96.92 $16.02 7% 84%
  • 10. Commitment Really Matters
  • 11. 2D vs 3D
  • 12. 2D vs 3D • 3D games tend to have lower monetization compared to 2D games – Lower ARPU, ARPPU & % Buyers – Initial retention has similar range vs 2D games – But long term retention is much lower • Does this mean a 3D F2P game can’t succeed? – No, remember correlation does not equal causation!
  • 13. 2D vs 3D • Confounding factors that may help explain difference in monetization and retention #s • Developers of 3D games tend to: – Be console developers with limited F2P experience – Focus on gfx, may shifts resources away from improving retention and monetization funnels – Not accept pay-for-convenience & pay-to-win – Make games in genres with low monetization (FPS, MOBA) – May still design games as a shippable product instead of designing for long term retention, games-as-a-service
  • 14. Asian F2P vs Western F2P
  • 15. ARPU and ARPPU
  • 16. ARPU & ARPPU • ARPPUs for single-player games cluster around $5-$10 • Multiplayer games range $20-$350 • Average ARPPU for a multiplayer game from Asia: $181 • Average for Western multiplayer game: $51 • Only 9 Western games have an ARPPU above $100 • ARPPU is the main factor in high ARPU for Asian games, important factor for all games
  • 17. ARPU and % Buyers
  • 18. ARPU and % Repeats
  • 19. ARPU and % 50+ gameplays
  • 20. Asian vs Western Style • Asian games: High ARPPU, tight player funnel – Monetization caters well to big spenders • Western games: Lower ARPPU, wide player funnel – Monetization focuses more on initial retention and broad conversion to paid at lower prices – Pay 2 Win is not as accepted by Western devs • Mixed games: can combine the best of both – High conversion, wide funnel, still create big spenders
  • 21. F2P Best Practices
  • 22. Best Practices for Optimizing Retention: Keeping players engaged
  • 23. Daily Play Bonuses • Daily play bonuses are good to get users coming back regular • But improve on the typical 5-7 day daily bonuses • Reward playing game regularly in longer term • Doesn’t reset after 5-7 days • Doesn’t “punish” players for missing a day
  • 24. Daily Play Bonuses • Add an element of chance - make it exciting! • Repeat logins opens up bigger potential rewards
  • 25. Don’t punish people for taking a break • Psychologically, punishments or the possibility of punishment deters unwanted behavior • Base/castle raided, loot stolen, crops withered, troops dead, account de-activated, etc. deter players from being away too long • But it can be a two-edged sword • Players sometimes need to take a break (exams, vacation, illness) • Punishment may drive re-activated users away again “I just got back from vacation/work conference/being sick but my base is completely destroyed, my resources are gone, troops are dead. No point in getting back in the game since I lost everything already.”
  • 26. Don’t punish people for taking a break • It can sting but it shouldn’t handicap you permanently • Limit amount of resources that can be looted or # times you can be attacked while gone • Enable shield or protection time if you lose a significant amount • Mix positive reinforcement with punishment • Quick one-button rebuild • Resources still available for harvest • Gain XP or gold while away
  • 27. Keep players busy! More things to do = more players staying • Solo and team PvE • Solo and team PvP • Asynch raids • Guild battles • World boss raids • Farming • Town Building • Weapon/Gear Synthesizing & Upgrading • Astral Collecting and Combining • Etc. It is important to pace the introduction of new features/gameplay modes to not overwhelm players with a long and intimidating tutorial.
  • 28. Without progress you have nothing • The foundations of a F2P game are a strong RPG elements and a sense of progress over time • Building up account, leveling up, adding/improves skills and stats, etc • Surprisingly it’s more important than multiplayer Type % 50+ Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPU Multiplayer RPG 2.6% 0.75% $69 $0.51 Multiplayer Non-RPG 1.0% 0.45% $9 $0.05 Single-player RPG 1.8% 1.29% $12 $0.10 Single-Player Non-RPG 0.2% 0.53% $4 $0.02 Deep RPG mechanics and multiplayer matter: • 25x ARPU for Multiplayer RPG vs Single Player non-RPG!
  • 29. Asynchronous > Synchronous Type % 50 Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPU Synchronous 1.4% 0.54% $43 $0.25 Asynchronous 3.6% 0.80% $88 $0.66 Both 2.9% 1.07% $51 $0.55 Single-Player 0.8% 0.85% $7 $0.05 • Multiplayer keeps players engaged and busy in the long run • But not all types of multiplayer are created equal • Top games have both synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer (more is better) • Asynchronous is better than synchronous because it allows players to play at their own pace and convenience
  • 30. Best Practices for Optimizing Monetization: A happy customer is a paying customer
  • 31. Shopping should be easy and frictionless • Location, location, location – make the store easy to find! • Make it easy to find the right item – Meaningful categories and item descriptions – No massive scroll bars • Mix soft currency and hard currency items • BUT – don’t try to sell too hard, too fast. First few sessions should focus on fun & giving players reasons to come back to play and get hooked.
  • 32. Buy Screen • Bonuses % or/and items provide incentives for buying larger hard currency packages • Clearly call out bonuses of larger packages! • Make all packages visible in one page • Hide $100+ packages until after first purchase
  • 33. Making the shopping experience interesting • First time buyer/ Starter packages • Seed players with some paid/hard currency and guide “intro purchase” • Deals/events to get people into the habit of spending regularly • Offer items that enhance the gameplay experience (not just speedups) • Intro the right items at the right time – Lvl 1 players should not be shown the lvl 100+ holy sword that’s on sale for $100) • Keep them coming back – keep store fresh by adding new items, unlocking items as players level up and featuring seasonal and time-limited items
  • 34. Make sure players can spend as much as they want • The longer someone plays your game the more likely they are to buy and the less price sensitive they become • Give committed players the ability to spend at $1,000+ if they want • Have lots of items that are appealing and useful to a committed player and price them higher (if possible) than items meant for early/mid-game play. [Higher means $30-100, not $1000] • If you make a fun game, someone may want to spend an infinite amount. • Don’t create a situation where spending is capped by availability or utility. • Again, remember to make it easy for players to buy!
  • 35. Best Practices for Community Building: When you’re here, you’re family!
  • 36. Make it easy for community to build Chat, forums, player-to-player messages are all great Real relationships build when people interact. The more ways they can do it, the better.
  • 37. Guilds are awesome • 100% of our top games have guilds • Guild members spend 10-20x more than non-guild members • Strong correlation as guilds improve retention and monetization with late stage players Some reasons they make a difference • Social incentives to return  I want to see my friends • Social pressures to return  I don’t want to disappoint them • Improves the psychology of purchases  I’m doing it for the team, not me • Upends the dynamics of pay-to-win  can set up a symbiotic relationship between buyers and non-buyers where both add value to the same group
  • 38. Community Management and Customer Service If a player invests many hours into a game they begin to feel some ownership. It may be YOUR game, but it’s THEIR experience 1. Be visible – forums, chat, email 2. Listen to their concerns and acknowledge their emotions 3. Be transparent, honest, and accurate 4. Give advance notice of changes and downtimes 5. Don’t feed the trolls
  • 39. Opportunity Complains Customer service is a chance to surprise and delight • Handle things quickly • Be generous with compensation • But don’t do something unless you’re willing to do it for everybody
  • 40. Surprise and delight • IGG rewards its players with some resources after each of its weekly 30-minute maintenance
  • 41. Have fun with your community
  • 42. The Value of Developer Activity Keep feeding your players • Regular updates, new features, and events yield greater engagement and reduced fatigue. • Sales and specials can offer significant jumps in revenue.
  • 43. The Value of Developer Activity Hot New Games Badges added Custom User Items New zone, XL, etc. Equips, Guild bonuses Halloween, sale Christmas event Guild wars FantasyOnlineRevenue
  • 44. The Value of Developer Activity Front Page Badges Item promotion New Version Revenue Fantasy Online Asian MMO
  • 45. The Value of Developer Activity Front page Badges added Expansion Labor day event Expansion Christmas update Expansion Easter event Expansion Expansion New Server Revenue Fantasy Online Dream World Asian MMO
  • 46. THANK YOU For a copy of the presentation or questions, email For more talks & data visit For web games contact us at If you’re interested in mobile publishing it’s Follow us on Twitter: @EmilyG & @KongregateDevs