Why the first ten minutes are crucial if you want to keep players coming back

Post 1 of 3: How to analyze your mobile game’s retention data

Adam Carpenter
Nov 2, 2017 · 7 min read

Average player retention for games on Google Play

Retention is one of the key installs performance metrics, along with buyer conversion and average revenue per install. In many ways, retention is the primary metric, since if you can retain your new players, you can always figure out how to make money. If you can’t retain any players, you have no ability to make money.

Day 2 retention rates (where day 2 is the day after the first player session)

What to focus on to improve retention

Many developers focus on metrics like the level players reached on their first day, or the tutorial checkpoint their users passed. However, such metrics are game specific and do not help you understand how you compare to your peers.

Day 1 is the date of the first player session

The first ten minutes is crucial

This chart zooms into those first 10 minutes, and this is where we can see very distinct patterns emerge.

Avoid the retention ‘flats’ and the ‘gorge’

The first pattern is called the “Flats”. This anti-pattern shows largely flat retention for up to 10 minutes, with the percentages only rising meaningfully after the 5th to 10th minute. The second is the “Gorge”, whereby retention appears to drop minute by minute for the first five minutes or so, and then begins to rise again.

  • Are your tutorials fun? Do they give players a good sense of what the game is like?
  • What are your loading times like? New players are especially susceptible to long loading times as they aren’t yet invested in the game.
  • Does your lobby make instinctive sense to new players? Does someone coming out of the tutorial know how to get back into the action, how to build their base, and how to start having fun again? All of these considerations are important in ensuring users stick with your game.
  • Are you running a large number of discount sales or offers on the first day? This tactic might earn some short term revenue at the expense of lower overall retention. Consider running tests which eliminate offers on the first day, but instead makes players feel rich to maximize their fun.

Start an upwards trend in your player retention

The first few minutes in a game are a critical time in a player’s life cycle. At this point, their only investment in your game has been the time and effort spent downloading it. Any negative experiences may lead players to quit, or switch to another game.

What do you think?

Do you have any comments on anti-patterns in game data and player retention? Continue the discussion in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.

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Tips, trends, and industry thoughts for app and game developers building businesses on Google Play.

Adam Carpenter

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Google Play Apps & Games

Tips, trends, and industry thoughts for app and game developers building businesses on Google Play.