Kongregate - Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games: Comparative Stats for Asian & Western Games
As a platform for F2P games, Kongregate has a unique perspective on what types of mechanics and characteristics of F2P games are most effective at maximizing player retention, monetization and satisfaction. This talk will look at F2P trends and specific game metrics with a comparative analysis of free-to-play games by Asian & Western developers. We will examine the similarities and differences between games as it relates to retention/ monetization, share best practices and statistics to understand how to maximize your success with Western audiences.
Kongregate, part of the GameStop network, is a leading online gaming platform for free-to-play games and mobile publisher. Kongregate has over 300 games on Kongregate.com from developers all over the world ranging from small indie developers to big multinational companies like Nexon, Tencent, R2, BigPoint, IGG, Snail, etc.
This presentation builds on the series of talks by Kongregate co-founder and COO Emily Greer (who couldn’t be here but I must thank for doing the bulk of the hard work in this presentation!) The format will be familiar to those that have attended those talks in the past but are updated with new stats and content.As a platform for F2P games, Kongregate has a unique perspective on what types of mechanics and characteristics of F2P games are most effective at maximizing player retention, monetization and satisfaction. This talk will look at F2P trends and specific game metrics with a comparative analysis of free-to-play games by Asian & Western developers. We will examine the similarities and differences between games as it relates to retention/ monetization, share best practices and statistics to understand how to maximize your success with Western audiences.
Hardcore gamersDriven by achievements (1M+ badges/wk)93%+ of users already have Unity installed
Some of the more well-known developers/publishers on KongregateWehave worked with developers worldwide ranging from small indie developers like Ironhide and Insomniac to big multinational companies like Nexon and Konami
The statistics that most F2P developers look at DAU, $/DAU, D1, D7 and D30 retention. 30-day retention is usually used to measure to “long term” retention in the F2P industry. While it is a good stat, 30 days is not “long term”, it is just a start.
So let’s take a look at some of that data. Before I dive in I want to give a few definitions so that it’s clear what I’m talking about.Very important how you define a user as they can change ARPU dramatically We believe the # of play sessions does a better job of capturing the intensity of gameplay. For instance, with 30-day retention, a player that plays the game twice in 30 days and another player that plays the game 100 times in 30 days are not differentiated.
ARPU and ARPPUs for F2P games on Kongregate. X-axis is ARPPU, Y-axis is ARPU, size of bubble represents gross revenuesARPPUs for single-player games cluster around $5-$10Multiplayer games range $20-$350
Big spenders mattersX-axis is % of buyers who have spent $300+Strong correlation between ARPU and (R2 factor = 0.5)For the top multiplayer games 67% of revenue comes from those spending $300+. For the rest of the multiplayer games it’s 48%, still quite high.
We all tend to obsess over games/companies showing exponential growth but more often that not that’s followed by a crash. Linear may be less sexy and headline-catching, but the tortoise generally does win out. Top games still making as much or more as at launch as they hit 2- and 3-year anniversaries on Kong.
Average ARPPU for a multiplayer game from Asia: $181Average for Western multiplayer game: $51Only 9 Western games have an ARPPU above $100ARPPU is the main factor in high ARPU for Asian games, important factor for all games
Asian games tend to have lower % buyersWestern game tend to have higher conversion rates
Asian games also tend to have lower initial retention as you can see hereWestern games tend to have higher initial retention
And consequently also less players making it deep into the game since Asian games lose more players in the early game
Let’s put the data in chart formYou can see a strong correlation between long term retention and monetization- a player can only spend if they are still in the game!The more they plan, the more they are likely to buy, buy multiple times, spend more per transaction and overall.Revenue is dramatically weighted towards those who play a game very, very deeply – more than 80% of revenue comes from the 2% of players with more than 100 lifetime sessionsAsian multiplayer games lose more players in the early part of the funnel, but more than make up for it by getting extremely deep investments from their most dedicated players.
Now that you have seen the data, you are wondering what the top games are doing in order to retain and monetize better than others. In this next part, we’ll look at best practices and give examples from games to help maximize player retention, monetization AND satisfaction. We work very closely with developers to help them optimize their metrics and success on Kongregate.
Let’s start by looking at some ways to optimize retention
First of all, let’s look at daily bonuses. Daily bonuses are a good tool to get users to play a game regularlyBut there are ways to improve on the typical 5-7 day daily bonus you see out thereExample from an Asian MMO called Wartune, a big hit in China by Seventh Road that has been brought to the west by R2 Games.
Here is another daily bonus example from a game called Card Monsters from a Western developerThe daily play bonus here has ben turned into a roulette mini-game
Since we want people to keep playing, lots of game take the tack of punishing people (crops withering, troops dying, account deactivated) when they’re gone for too long. This is bad – we all have times (exams, vacations, work crunches, illnesses) when we need to take a break from a game. And the problem with punishing people is that the consequences are experienced not when they’re gone, but when they come back – the exact behavior you want to reward. If they feel like they’ve lost too much they’re likely to quit – why start again if you’ll just lose it?
Since we want people to keep playing, lots of game take the tack of punishing people (crops withering, troops dying, account deactivated) when they’re gone for too long. This is bad – we all have times (exams, vacations, work crunches, illnesses) when we need to take a break from a game. And the problem with punishing people is that the consequences are experienced not when they’re gone, but when they come back – the exact behavior you want to reward. If they feel like they’ve lost too much they’re likely to quit – why start again if you’ll just lose it?Clash of Clans on mobile handles this well as well. Your base may have been looted but that shows just briefly before your base restores itself and you can fill up your resource bars. You may even have gained trophies…Wartune and Dawn of the Dragons actually reward you with gold and XP after an absenceAsians MMO automatically have your character “meditate” while you are gone
This is Wartune, a big hit in China by Seventh Road that has been brought to the west by R2 games. It has so many currencies, bars, buttons, etc that it’s almost hard to see the screen of an advanced player, though they do a good job of introducing them gradually. There’s synchronous solo & team PvP, solo & team PvE, asynchronous plundering, guild battles, farming, town building, weapon synthesizing & upgrading, astral collecting & combining, and I’ve definitely forgotten something. It is important to pace the introduction of new features/gameplay modes to not overwhelm players with a long and intimidating tutorial.
RPG is defined a bit loosely here, and really means that you’re building up your account over time, leveling up, adding skills, etc.
The very top games have both synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer because more things to do is better, but asynchronous generally the focus. Aysnchronous allows players to play and interact at their pace and convenience which leads to deeper engagement.
Now let’s look at best practices and examples to optimize monetization
Shopping should be easy AND frictionlessExample in which user could not find the shop because it was a hot air balloon floating above your town. You had to move your screen up there (and there is no reason to do that if you didn’t know there was a store up there). Make it easy for users to find the storeMake it easy for them to shop and find what they are looking for (meaningful categories and descriptions, no massive scroll bars)Mix soft and hard currency items But don’t try to sell too hard, too fast. First few sessions should focus on fun and giving players reasons to come back and play and get hooked
Provide bonuses % or/and items provide incentives for buying larger hard currency packagesClearly call out bonuses of larger packages! Decrease friction, do the math for the player and make shopping easier.Make all packages visible in one pageHide $100+ packages until after first purchase. Prevents sticker shock and users getting turned off by seeing $250, $500+ packages early on
Make sure players can spend $1k+ if they want to
Okay, so what do I need to do to build my awesome linear business? The first one seems sort of stupid but is actually both hard & complicated once you add that 6 month caveat. There’s lots of fun games that you enjoy for an hour or two, or even a week or two, but quickly run out of steam. Here are some ways to fight that.
We’ve got chat next to every game, and forums just below, and we think it’s a big contributor to games reporting significantly higher ARPUs (generally 2-3x ARPU over FB and other platforms, sometimes 5-10x) on Kongregate than on Facebook.
Revenue is generally 20x higher for guild members than non-guild members, though generally true of late-stage players it’s a bit hard to tease out causation. However the addition of guilds, especially competitive guilds, is often an inflection point for revenue for games. Upbends dynamics of pay-to-win – symbiotic relationship between time-rich and money-rich users
1) And ideally, fun – let the players see you’re human2) You don’t have to agree. Players sometimes want things that are batshit crazy. But if they know you heard them, it immediately feels like a dialog and a partnership.3) Explaining your “why” goes a very long way4) Advance notice gives players time to adjust OR get excited5) Engage the rational in calm discussion, but never let yourself get combative and disengage once 1-4 have been satisfied. This can be hard.
This includes fixing bugs & exploits as well as answering emailsIn the face of a real problem/issue, how much does some virtual currency or items cost you? Token amounts are often enough to acknowledge the issue, and keeping the player = pricelessBecause news will spread and players will (correctly) think you’re unfair. So have rules for what you will and won’t do and why, so you can be consistent.
Example of an Asian developer turning a weakness into an opportunity to have fun with their community. Players appreciate the humor and the developer acknowledging the issue, explaining the situation and letting players know that they will work on it
This is about how you think about your business.
Kongregate - Maximizing Player Retention and Monetization in Free-to-Play Games: Comparative Stats for Asian & Western Games
Maximizing Player Retention andMonetization in Free-to-Play Games:Comparative Stats for Asian & Western GamesDavid P ChiuDirector of Business Development &Developer Relations (Kongregate)Principal, Business Development(GameStop Digital Ventures)Emily GreerCo-Founder & COO (Kongregate)
What is Kongregate?• Open platform for browser-based games– Flash, Unity, HTML5, Java, etc.• 15M monthly uniques visitors worldwide• Core gamers – 85% male, average age of 21• MMOs, RPGs, CCGs/TCGs, TD, shooters, etc.• Platform level virtual currency “Kreds” for F2P games• Mobile publisher of F2P games for core gamers• Acquired by GameStop July 2010
Some of Kongregate’s Existing Developer Partners
Stats both reflect & shape mind-setSo what statistics does F2P focus on?Daily Active Users, DAU$/DAU1- & 7-Day RetentionTo a lesser extent MAU & 30-Day30-Day Retention is a good stat, but 30 days isnot “long-term” retention, it’s the start.
A little background• All stats are lifetime, min 6 weeks on platform• ARPU: average revenue per user• ARPPU: average rev per paying user• Player: a Kongregate registered user who loadedthe game page at least once• Plays = Sessions: our preferred method to measureretention
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 Asiangames, important factor for all games
Asian vs Western Style• Asian games: High ARPPU, tight player funnel– Monetization caters well to big spenders• Western games: Lower ARPPU, wide playerfunnel– Monetization focuses more on initial retention andbroad 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
Best Practices for Optimizing Retention:Keeping players engaged
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 regularlyin longer term• Doesn’t reset after 5-7 days• Doesn’t “punish” players formissing a day
Daily Play Bonuses• Add an element of chance- make it exciting!• Repeat logins opens upbigger potential rewards
Don’t punish people for taking a break• Psychologically, punishments or the possibility of punishment detersunwanted behavior• Base/castle raided, loot stolen, crops withered, troops dead, accountde-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/workconference/being sick but my base iscompletely destroyed, my resources are gone,troops are dead. No point in getting back in thegame since I lost everything already.”
Don’t punish people for taking a break• It can sting but it shouldn’t handicapyou permanently• Limit amount of resources that canbe looted or # times you can beattacked while gone• Enable shield or protection time ifyou lose a significant amount• Mix positive reinforcement withpunishment• Quick one-button rebuild• Resources still available for harvest• Gain XP or gold while away
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/GearSynthesizing & Upgrading• Astral Collecting andCombining• Etc.It is important to pace the introduction of new features/gameplay modes to notoverwhelm players with a long and intimidating tutorial.
Without progress you have nothingThe foundations of a F2P game are a strong RPGelements and a sense of progress over time.Surprisingly it’s more important than multiplayerType % 50+ Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPUMultiplayer RPG 2.6% 0.75% $69 $0.51Multiplayer Non-RPG 1.0% 0.45% $9 $0.05Single-player RPG 1.8% 1.29% $12 $0.10Single-Player Non-RPG 0.2% 0.53% $4 $0.02
Asynchronous > SynchronousType % 50 Plays % Buyers ARPPU ARPUSynchronous 1.4% 0.54% $43 $0.25Asynchronous 3.6% 0.80% $88 $0.66Both 2.9% 1.07% $51 $0.55Single-Player 0.8% 0.85% $7 $0.05Multiplayer is a good way to keep players engaged and busy in the long runbut not all types of multiplayer are created equal
Best Practices for Optimizing Monetization:A happy customer is a paying customer
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 shouldfocus on fun & giving players reasons to come back to play and gethooked.
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
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 asplayers level up and featuring seasonal and time-limited items
Gamification of buying• VIP program – customer loyalty program like airlines and hotels• The more you buy, the more status points you earn which unlock more benefits/bonuses
Make sure players can spendas much as they want• The longer someone plays your game the more likely they are to buy andthe 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 playerand price them higher (if possible) than items meant for early/mid-gameplay. [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!
Best Practices for Community Building:When you’re here, you’re family!
Make it easy for community to buildChat, forums, player-to-playermessages are all greatReal relationships build whenpeople interact. The more waysthey can do it, the better.
Guilds are awesome100% of our top games have them.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 disappointthem• Improves the psychology of purchases I’m doing it for theteam, not me• Upends the dynamics of pay-to-win can set up asymbiotic relationship between buyers and non-buyerswhere both add value to the same group
Community Management andCustomer ServiceIf a player invests many hours intoa game they begin to feel someownership. It may be YOUR game,but it’s THEIR experience1. Be visible – forums, chat, email2. Listen to their concerns and acknowledge their emotions3. Be transparent, honest, and accurate4. Give advance notice of changes and downtimes5. Don’t feed the trolls
Opportunity ComplainsCustomer 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 itfor everybody
Surprise and delight• IGG rewards its players with some resources after each of itsweekly 30-minute maintenance
THANK YOUFor a copy of the presentation or questions, email@example.com or come by the Kongregate booth in theSilver Sponsors room (Table#5)For more talks & data visit developers.kongregate.comFor web games contact us at firstname.lastname@example.orgIf you’re interested in mobile publishing it’s email@example.comFollow us on Twitter: @EmilyG & @KongregateDevs