Retention is the percentage of your players who play your game again after they have installed it. It’s a metric that is essential for measuring the performance and monetization potential of freemium software in the mobile world. Most publishers will carefully monitor retention figures for day 1, day 7 and day 30. That is how many players are still playing after a day, a week or a month.
It is not usually as useful for traditional (premium) games where the practice is that the player pays for the game upfront. There is an important exception in the premium games world where the figure for day 1 retention becomes very important again. That is online multiplayer games. When you’re making an online multiplayer game you are essentially providing a software as a service (SAAS) product.
Having poor retention in an online multiplayer game results in empty servers for large periods of time. The more your game depends upon player interaction for gameplay, the greater your retention figures need to be. If the unique selling point of your game is “massive space battles with hundreds of players” then you’re going to need really good retention.
A healthy figure for day 1 retention is about 30-40%, day 7: 15-20% and day 30: 10-15%. With those figures we can run some numbers and work out how many new players we need to be acquiring every day to keep the concurrent player count at an average of 100 players. To make it easier we’ll assume the game has settled down after the initial launch spike. We’ll also assume a single server, so multiply any final results by the number of servers you are running.
First lets assume the average session length is two hours per day, that may be a bit generous, so bear that in mind and adjust the final figure based on your own estimation. That means that to get 100 concurrent users online at any particular time we will need at least 1200 (24 hours / 2 hour avg session * 100 users) daily active users (DAU). That’s very achievable for a game with decent retention. I’m skipping over the fact that there will be quieter periods on the server depending on geographic location. 1200 DAU is a good enough ball park figure.
A quick calculation for how many players we fail to retain on any given day is our day 30 attrition rate divided by 30. Attrition is simply the inverse of retention figures. So if day 30 retention is 10%, day 30 attrition is 90%. Divide that by thirty days and you get a daily attrition rate of 3%.
So we’ll be losing about 3% of our 1200 DAU each day which works out at 36 users leaving. However our daily active users are only a small portion of the total number of active users of our game. Depending on the game, the DAU figure is between 10-20% of the total active user base. Lets be generous again and say its 20%, which means we actually will be losing five times our DAU count (3% of 6000) or 180 users being lost every day.
That means to keep the game populated in the long term, using those fairly generous figures we need to be making 180 new sales of the game every day.
Now that’s probably possible if the retention figures are good enough. Even if the game’s price were reduced to $10 that would be $1800 of gross revenue per day (minus store cuts). That’s plenty of income to fund a paid user acquisition (PUA) campaign to keep the new players coming in. Somebody at INovae will need to become an expert in PUA because it’s unlikely that organic discovery will keep the game alive for very long.
But all that is dependent upon fixing retention, which is what my next post will be about.