“From the Devs”: How Events Can Boost Player Retention, by FearMeIAmLag
Retaining players is the most important thing a game developer can do. The more often people play a game, the more likely they are to spend money and invite friends to play, who in turn may also spend money on the game. No matter how fun a game is to play, it will eventually become boring for players if there is nothing new and interesting for them to explore. So, how does a game developer make their game fun without having to spend the time to add new features? One solution is to have limited time in-game events, which reward both new players and dedicated players.
The most common event that Roblox developers utilize are sales. If a game announces they are going to have a sale for a weekend or a special occasion like a holiday, that will get more players into their game and spending the in-game currency and possibly Robux as well. Players will spend time gathering in-game currency if they know a sale is coming very soon. If there is a sale, players often feel enticed to buy more in-game currency with Robux, as sales introduce a social element to the game and, in some cases, cause fear of missing out: “if I don’t buy this item now, it might never go on sale again and I’d have to spend more money to get it!”
Although sales are a good way to increase revenue and retention in the short-term, they also have downsides. Sales may hurt revenue and retention at times when there is not a sale. If a game has a sale at a recognizable interval, players will take notice and not spend money or as much time playing the game between sales. This is why it is important to stagger sales so that players cannot predict when the next sale will happen.
Sales should also stagger what items they give at a discounted price so that even if players know a sale is coming up, they don’t know what is going to be on sale so they will spend time playing the game in order to save up some currency. What can you do to avoid this issue? Have events with exclusive content, temporary features, bonuses and more!
Events are better
A fun way to get more players into your game is to have limited time events. Having events in your game should be fun for everyone; they should entice new players to play and excite dedicated players. In fact, one way to alienate dedicated players is to design an event exclusively catering to new players. Many Roblox developers utilize events centered around holidays or special occasions/milestones, which is a good practice as it will drum up hype in their community and get more people playing the game leading up to the event.
It is important that you inform your playerbase about an upcoming event to get more people playing your game before the event, which will increase the likelihood of them playing after. Events show to increase player retention as users who play during the event are likely to keep playing after the event ends to utilize the rewards they earned during an event and because they may find to enjoy the game the more they play it.
Including events in your game will also extend its lifetime as players will continue to play if they expect new and interesting content and experiences. A great example of this is Niantic’s Pokemon GO. It was released in July 2016 to a large, eager audience, but due to lack of variety in the gameplay, the user base quickly started to dwindle. In late 2016 however, they started to introduce limited time events and would make small incremental updates around holidays and special occasions. Now, over two years later, their fanbase is growing again as more players that once abandoned the game are now returning for these special events.
Don’t give handouts
One mistake that many game developers, even AAA game developers, make is giving out too much content for free as part of these events. Although giving content away for free for an event might be fun for players, it isn’t going to help your game because players obtain these items for free, without investing time in gameplay. Alternatively, one idea is to make free content in the form of rewards, such as a prize for completing a specific challenge. The annual Roblox Egghunt offers a good example of this type of free prize as the majority of the eggs are easily obtainable, don’t require users to pay to earn them, and require the players to spend some time to earn each one.
Although giving out some items as exclusive prizes is a good start, that shouldn’t be the entire event. Some exclusive items or content must cost in-game currency so that you entice players to spend more time working towards obtaining these rare goodies. Making items tiered in pricing is a great way to get players to continually play your game as a way to get better items. Players will recognize that many people can easily obtain the lower tiered items, so they will spend more time grinding away to get something from a higher tier, especially if it is more appealing than the items in the lower tiers. You have to make sure it’s realistic to obtain everything though. You can’t expect users who want to obtain every limited or exclusive item will have to spend fifteen hours a day for the duration of the entire event or thousands of Robux to accomplish this goal; the barriers to obtain these items must be manageable and realistic. Some people are natural completionists, where they won’t be satisfied if they can’t fully complete something, so make it possible to get everything but not too easy: make players put in the work.
Don’t overdo it
Having multiple events in a short timespan in your game will end up negatively impacting it. If you have too many events in your game, events are dragged out too long or events happen too close together, users will notice. This is a dangerous position to be in, as players will grow accustomed to having events and will not play as often or at all when an event is not occurring. Although events are a great way to get people excited and playing your game, you don’t want to take it too far or you run the risk of users getting burnt out. If your game continually has events, then even the events themselves will begin to feel boring or lame to users, and they likely won’t keep playing.
It will take developers time to determine what cycle or frequency of events work best for their games, so if you’re looking to increase player retention, start off small and slowly grow your events to see how players react and how your game statistics change. There is no secret recipe with events; you’ll have to spend some time seeing what works best for you and your game.