Retention is another word for “Fun”

The gaming industry has grown from a $8 Billion industry to a whopping $90 Billion in just under 12 years.  

The smartphone market has absolutely ripped through the tech industry as this new industry made way for many $ Billion company valuations and self made millionaires. With that said, with money comes larger investments and risk, paving the way for advance metrics and game analytics and the attempt to minimize risk and quantify everything that was creative in this industry.

KPI ( Key Performance Indicators) is here to stay.  The group that has the most difficulty embracing this radical change are the old school game designers and creative directors that are approached with data that represents their creativity.  To be fair, i do understand their frustration as free 3rd Party KPI tools are readily available to anyone to use and  to analyze their game.  Only problem is that these tools are only effective based on the person who is actually using it.  In the wrong hands, this can be a disaster. This is  no different than working with a creative director that feels that he understands users, completely based on nothing but his own intuition.

On the other hand, when used correctly, KPI tools can help guide game designers and Creative Directors in the right direction when making difficult decision with their overall vision of the game.

The one metric that is universally followed by pretty much every app developer in the world is Retention.  I”ve obsessed over this metric for years as a Producer, Game designer, Product Manager, Publisher, Designer, Gamer or whatever role i was during the production and launch phase.  One of the main reason why is because in the gaming industry, Retention is essentially another word for “FUN”

Yes!, F – U – N.  If you’re game isn’t interesting enough than you will not Retain these users.  This is more so evident in the freemium market as user have absolutely zero commitment or loyalty towards your hard work or vision.  This metric was no so much obsessed over during the PC / Console era due to the fact that it was a Premium based industry.  Once you’ve taken the users money, it didn’t matter if the users progressed through the game or not.  ARPU started and ended at the cost of the product.

On a psychological level paying upfront money for a product usually binded me to a product until i got my money worth for this product, no matter how piss poor the product was.  In this case, the game.  This is time invested in my life that was exchanged for a value in dollars. Much like how some freemium companies use the time mechanic to monetize their games.  (ie, Pay $1 to speed up the development of your building)  This cost versus rewards are all measured by the users and pay for the time.  Thus, translating that into an upfront cost of a console game, a users paying $X amount binds him to play at least X amount of time for this game, to get the minimum value of the game he or she has spent on the game.  

As the mobile market gets even more saturated with Freemium games, Retention or “Fun” becomes a huge a major metric to follow and analyze to maintain success in this industry.  Why are these players coming back?,  what is it about this game that makes them want to play more?, why did they choose this game over the this one?  For those old school designers and creative guys in the industry, if you’re completely against the idea of having a BI breakdown your vision into data, i completely understand but i highly recommend you embrace just 1 metric which is Retention because its a tells a wonderful tale of whether your users are actually enjoying your game / vision or not.

With this, ill leave you with the current (written June 18, 2016) standard benchmark Retention marks that you should be achieving or be warned that top management will look to probably shut your game down.

Retention is usually broken down into 1 day, 7 day, 14 day and 30 day.

As a Creative Director, Producer or Designer, you should look to achieve the following:

1 Day:  30% and up  (at least)

7 Day:  20% and up  (at least)

14 Day: 10% and up (at least)

30 Day:  5% and up  (at least)

Good luck!

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  • 15+ year mobile application industry veteran, probably product managing multiple apps. If he's not busy running this website, you can probably find him at the gym shooting half court shots, while playing the latest mobile rpg game.

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