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Last update: January 2022


OpenBack Delivers Keynote at Games Gathering on Improving Push Notifications

On November 30, OpenBack’s Head of Gaming Technology Dylan Grace gave a keynote speech at Games Gathering 2021 in Kiev, Ukraine. His talk, “Improving Push Notifications to Boost Player Retention for Mobile Games,” took a deep dive into mobile engagement strategies for retaining players of your mobile game for the long-term, and maximizing player life-time value (LTV). Grace’s keynote speech covered 3 areas that are key for mobile game retention: mobile engagement, data privacy, and mobile edge computing.

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games gathering 2021

Games Gathering Keynote: Mobile Engagement

F2P mobile games have an extremely high install rate, but they also have a steep churn curve. According to a report by GameAnalytics, over 85% of mobile games have a 65%+ churn rate after the first day the game is installed. And by the 30-day mark, the average free-to-install mobile only retains around 9% of its users.

mobile game churn curve
Data Source: OpenBack Engine

The competition in the mobile game industry is fierce, which is why a robust player retention campaign is crucial for a sustainable app. And to achieve that, push notifications are a driving tool to optimize mobile engagement and improve player UX.

Studies have shown that, thanks to GDPR consent prompts, email opt-ins have fallen from 75% to 25%. With mobile devices being the primary interface a brand or game has with their user, a push notification is often the most immediate way to reach out to them. When done correctly, successful push campaigns have been shown to boost retention rates up to 57%. And even a 5% boost in retention can mean a major surge in profits, a growth of anywhere from 25% up to 95%.

Notification Fail

Grace talked at length about the pejorative effect push notification fails have on user retention. He even took a few questions from the audience, asking their thoughts on mobile push notifications. The responses were all the same: I hate them, I turn them off, they’re a nuisance, etc.

Essentially, all push notifications have to be designed in terms of content, personalization, and timing of delivery with the user’s benefit in mind. An app that blasts out generic or irrelevant notifications multiple times a day is going to annoy its users. And with such a supersaturated market as mobile games, users will have a fairly low tolerance for keeping an app where there are 5 identical ones waiting to replace it.

What’s more, devices are leaning in the direction of providing users greater control over how and when they receive push notifications, as with the iOS15’s Focus Mode and message summaries. So your push notification game needs to be 100% en pointe, or else you might be muted, opted-out, or deleted altogether.


So, if push notifications are such a fraught channel of mobile marketing, how can you ensure you’re using them correctly, to draw players in rather than drive them away? The answer is personalization. This means notifications should be scheduled so they deliver when the user is at leisure to pay attention to them. Rather than send ten notifications at random times during the day, it’s better to leverage device-side data points to determine times when your user isn’t sleeping, or working, or doing something that needs their full attention. This is called “adaptive scheduling.”

However, personalization is also important when it comes to content. Push notifications that are contextually relevant to users have higher click-through rates than generic notifications. For example, send a push notification that references the level of game your player just completed, or let them know that one of their friends has logged on and has challenged them to a battle. Use language that varies according to different user segments, and spice it up with rich media and emoticons.

To learn more tips for writing engaging push notification content, check out our content tutorial: Content Tutorial: Writing Push Notifications That Shine

Data Privacy

Although different data privacy regulations around the world focus on different things, they all have in common the 4 key pillars:

Consent, Private User Data, Right to Be Forgotten, and Data Storage Control
Image Source: OpenBack

According to both the US FTC and the EU’s GDPR regulation, the push token – the unique code that enables apps to send push notifications using traditional services – counts as personal data. As such, all mobile apps are liable for the data processing practices of their push notification SDKs. In fact, many smaller mobile games and app publishers have been fined for violations committed by 3rd-party SDKs integrated into their apps. For this reason, it’s key to always make sure all 3rd-party SDKs and plug-ins are fully compliant with all local regulations.

Mobile Edge Computing… the Future of Push Notifications?

The pain points outlined above can all be solved with the same innovation: introducing device-side processing – also known as edge computing – to the push notification architecture. By leveraging personal data directly on-device, apps can deliver personalized, real-time notifications without ever removing the push token from the device. By cutting out the cloud server (APNS for Apple devices, and Google Firebase for Android) from the process of sending notifications, developers can neutralize the data privacy weak point.

This means their push notification SDK is fully privacy regulation compliant by default, without the need to obtain user consent. What’s more, without the delays and time lag inherent to traditional push notifications SDKs, which deliver notifications by way of a cloud server, apps can time their notification delivery to the moment. Without the fear of notifications going missing, or delivering in the wrong order, developers have unprecedented freedom and control over when and how to reach out to their users.

To learn more about how mobile edge computing is ushering the push notification industry into a new era of user engagement, get in touch with one of our experts.

To read more about how to use OpenBack to boost player retention and maximize revenues, download our Case Study: Dreamworks How To Train Your Dragon App, School of Dragons



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