5 Tips to help you improve game-as-a-service monetization

In today’s world of game-as-a-service on mobile, the lifetime value of a player
is a lot more complex, where revenue is now the sum of many micro transactions
instead of a single purchase with traditional console games.

Of course you don’t need a sophisticated statistical model to understand that
the more time a player invests in your game, and the more money they spend, the
greater their LTV. But how can you design and improve monetization as a mobile
game developer? Here are 5 tips to help you improve game-as-a-service
monetization, with best practice examples from mobile games publisher, Kongregate:

1. Track player behavior metrics that have a strong and positive correlation with LTV

    • D1, D7, D30 retention indicates how well a casual player
      can be converted into a committed fan.
    • Session length and frequency measures user engagement and
      how fun your game is.
    • Completion rate at important milestones can measure and
      pinpoint churn.
    • Buyer and repeated buyer conversion, represents your most
      valuable user segment.

    2. Optimize for long-term engagement and delight your best player


    Retention is the first metric that can distinguish great games from mediocre
    ones. Games with higher retention rates throughout the user’ lifecycle, monetize
    better consistently. Retention is king, and more importantly, long-term
    retention should be prioritized.
    Therefore, when designing your game,
    aim to create a sophisticated and engaging experience to delight your most
    committed fans.

    [This chart shows the retention of top games / apps over time]

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    • When considering long term retention, focus on achieving a strong D30, but
      also look beyond the first 30 days. Measure long term retention
      by assessing the following rates: D30 to D60, D30 to D90, and D30 to D180. The
      higher the rate, the stickier your game is in the long term, which will increase
      your LTV.
    • Players are willing to pay a fixed amount of money per hour of “fun”, so
      think about updates when designing your game, to make
      the content rich and fun for those who will play at very high levels and
      spend the most time within your game
      , don’t gate your players or hinder
      their in-game progression.
    • Use the -GooglePlay Games Services – Funnel Report to help you track different
      milestone completion rates in your games, so you can identify drop off points
      and reduce churn

    .
    3. Increase buyer conversion through targeted offers

    First-time buyer conversion is the most important as player churn rate
    drops significantly after the first purchase
    , but stays relatively flat
    regardless of the amount spent. Also, past purchase behavior is the best
    predictor of future purchases. Find your first-time and repeated buyer
    conversion rate directly in the DeveloperConsole.

    • Use A/B testing to find the price that will maximize your total
      revenue
      . Different people have different willingness to pay for
      a given product
      and the tradeoff between price and quantity is
      different for different products, so don’t decrease prices blindly.
    • Tailor your in-game experience as well as in-app purchase offersbased on the player’s predicted probability to spend using the Player StatsAPI,
      which
      predicts players churn and spend.

    For example, in Kongregate’s
    game Spellstone,
    testing two pricing points for a promotion called Shard Bot, which provides
    players with a daily “drip” of Shards (the premium currency) for 30 days, showed
    players had a much stronger preference for the higher priced
    pack.
    The first pack, Shard Bot, priced at $4, granted players 5 daily
    shards, and the second pack, the Super Shard Bot, was priced at $8 and granted
    players 10 daily shards.

    [Two week test results showing preference for the more expensive pack, which also generated more revenue]

    Kongregate decided to keep the higher priced Super Shard Bot in the store,
    although both packs resulted in very similar retention rates:

    4. As well as what monetization features to implement, take into consideration why, when and how to do so

    • Why: “Buyer intent” is most important. Any item with a
      price tag should serve to enhance your players in-game experience.
      For
      example, a new map, a new power, something exciting and additional to the free
      experience. Don’t gate your players with a purchase-only item as happy users
      means more time spent with your game, which will lead to higher
      revenue. Educate users by gifting some free premium goods and currency during the tutorial, and let users experience the benefit first.

    • When: Time offers based on when users may need it.
      If your IAP is to continue gameplay after timeout, then you should surface it
      right when the timer ends. If your IAP is to offer premium equipment, then you
      should surface it when users gear up their characters. The offer should be
      contextually relevant, such that the content should cater to the player’s
      current status and needs in-game.

      In particular, Starter Packs or New Buyer Promos need to be well timed. Players
      need to understand the value and importance of all the items before they are
      shown the promotion. If surfaced too early, players will not feel compelled to
      purchase. If surfaced too late, the offer will not be compelling enough. The
      Starter Pack should appear within 3 to 5 sessions since install, depending on
      your game. Additionally, limiting its availability to 3 to 5 days will urge
      players to make a quicker purchase decision.

      For example, BattleHand’s
      starter pack is surfaced around the 4th session, it is available for 36hrs and
      contains the following items to aid players in all areas of the game:

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    • Powerful cards that have an immediate effect in battle
    • High rarity upgrade materials to upgrade your card deck
    • A generous amount of soft currency that can be used in all areas of the game
    • A generous amount of hard currency so players can purchase premium store
      items
    • Rare upgrade materials for Heroes

    [Example starter pack offer in Battle Hands]

    Thanks to the strength of the promotion over 50% of players choose the Starter Pack instead of the regular gems offerings:

    • How: There are many ways you can implement premium content and goods in your game, such as power-ups, characters, equipment, maps, hints, chapters etc. The two most impactful monetization designs are:

        Gacha – There are many ways to design, present and balance gacha but the key is to have randomized rewards, which allows you to sell extremely powerful items that players want without having to charge really high prices per purchase.

    [Example of randomized rewards in Raid Brigade’s boxes]

        LiveOps – Limited time content on a regular cadence will also create really compelling opportunities for the players to both engage further with the game and invest in the game. For instance, Adventure Capitalist has been releasing regular limited themed time events with their spin on the permanent content, their own progression, achievements and IAP promotions.

    [Example timed event for Adventure Capitalist]

    Through this initiative, the game has seen regular increases in both engagement and revenue during event times without affecting the non-event periods:

    [Timed events drastically increase engagement and revenue without lowering the baseline average over time]


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    5. Take into account local prices and pricing models

    Just like different people have different willingness-to-pay, different markets have different purchasing powers.

      • Test what price points make sense for local consumers in each major market.
        Don’t just apply an umbrella discount, find the price points that maximize total
        revenue.
      • Consider charm pricing but remember it doesn’t work everywhere.For example, in the United States, prices always end in $x.99, but
        that’s not the case in Japan and Korea, where rounded numbers are used. Pricing
        in accordance to the local norm signals to the customers that you care and
        designed the game with them in mind. The Google Developer Console now
        automatically applies localpricing conventions of each currency for you.

    Checkout the Android Developer Story from games developer, Divmob, who improved
    their game’s monetization threefold simply by adopting sub-dollar pricing
    strategies. Also, learnmore best practices about building for billions to get more tips on
    monetization.

    Getthe Playbook for Developers app and stay up-to-date with more features and
    best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.


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