Game Development Reference
These kinds of motivations that lead directly to user engagement are criti-
cal to achieving positive retention metrics, numbers that measure daily visits
and average time spent per visit. By keeping your users coming back and mak-
ing sure that when they do return, they're engaged and having fun, you also
increase virality, by making them want to tell their friends about the game.
This motivation creates the positive feedback loop that leads to very successful
7.10 Tracking Retention
The unexamined life may or may not be worth living, but the unexamined
social game almost assuredly is not worth playing. As we've emphasized
throughout this topic, without properly studying metrics, there's just no way
to improve the quality and stickiness of your game. So how do we recommend
you track user retention?
First, you should track users along several different scales. We recommend
daily, weekly, and monthly tracking for active user values. This schedule will
make it easier to track the effects of changing demographics as well as the
effects of changes the development team makes to the game. Finally, by com-
paring against other major events in the industry (like the release of a competi-
tor's game), a team will be able to work from a clear picture of the role their
offering plays in the greater marketplace.
There's also value in tracking information about the number of different visits
any given user makes in a day. This information will help in tuning the types of
game design mechanics we discussed earlier, as having such numbers makes it
much easier to do A/B testing on micromechanics designed to bring users back
for multiple sessions within a particular day.
Tracking time per visit can be beneficial, as well; this information clarifies
what types of engagement users have with your game—what they are really
doing in the game—and lets you understand the difference between how users
actually play and what your design team intended. A collection of 30-second
visits implies that users are just checking in. Lengthier stays mean a greater
level of engagement with the gameplay itself. Both of these might be okay, but
only if either interaction creates value for the user and a monetization opportu-
nity for you.
Understanding the average lifetime per user will help you understand your
retention rate at a macro level. If most users are checking out after a few days,
there's probably a reason. Are they running out of engaging gameplay? Have
their friends moved on to something new? Is there some difficulty spike that
is frustrating them into finding new ways to spend their time? Have they been
staring at the same content for too long? If you know when users leave your
system, never to return, you can potentially fix those issues and keep them in
your funnel longer.