Last update: May 2021

4 mins to read - 2019/11/08

6 Mobile Engagement Must-Haves to Boost Your Mobile Game

Launching a mobile app is a tough business, with very high competition. After all, this is the age of the attention economy. There’s only so much time one user can devote to an expanding pool of apps. In 2016, according to a study by eMarket, US smartphone users were using on average only 21 mobile apps. This number is projected to have fallen to around 20 by the end of 2019. And of course, the lion’s share of that is likely to be taken up by recognizable brand apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

With the mobile game industry an especially dynamic and competitive one, it’s crucial to use every advantage you have to keep users coming back again and again. Here are some of our key tips and strategies for boosting user engagement.

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mobile app usage by year
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1. Provide a Stellar, Addictive Mobile Game UX

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people are releasing mediocre games. Your mobile game will be going up against old favorites like Angry Birds and Candy Crush, re-releases of classic consul games like Mario Kart adapted for smartphones, and a slew of atmospheric and innovative indie games.

To start off, make sure you have a strong development team. This means developers, designers, and content writers who have a solid vision of the app. Make sure all bugs and glitches have been fixed before launch. Nothing drives away users like a glitchy app.

When it comes to addictive gameplay, take inspiration from other games that have gone viral. And you don’t even need to stick to mobile games – think Fortnite, Mario Kart, and Untitled Goose Game. What makes people so obsessed with them? Why are they fun? How can you replicate that?

2. Rewards and In-App Purchases

Whether your app is going to be monetized or not is up to you. Maybe you want to offer a free game, with premium levels or bonus material to be purchased as add-ons. This can be a great strategy for getting large numbers of initial downloads and then let your UX do the talking. Who can say no to a free game, right? Keep in mind, if your business model involves processing or selling an unnecessary amount of user data, that can be a turnoff.

A strategy that has worked wonders for other games is offering in-app purchases that can kick user experience up a notch. For example, Fortnight, the first-person shooter with its 3D gameplay and colorful world, distinguished itself from similar games by being free to play. The fact that it went viral almost immediately gave it a considerable marketing punch. However, the real reason it turned out to be as lucrative as it did was thanks to in-game microtransactions. While the game itself is free to play, players are given the opportunity to personalize their avatar by purchasing “costumes” or “skins,” as well as novelty weapons, dances, and other paraphernalia. What’s more, they give players the opportunity to purchase a “Battle Pass” for a quarterly fee of $10.

The micro-prices are attractive to users who probably don’t have a lot of expendable cash, such as kids and college students. And Fortnite’s viral status means they brought in $2.4 billion in revenues in 2018 alone.

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3. Make Gameplay a Shared Experience

Call it social gaming or call it peer pressure. But some of the best viral games give users the opportunity to play in tandem with their friends. This was another one of Fortnite’s strategic successes; they were able to turn gameplay into a social experience, both on and off the console.

According to Investopedia, Fortnite’s battle royale mode encourages friends to challenge each other and compete for the championship. But, crucially, it also gives them the option to team up with each other. And they’ve even turned it into a spectator sport:

“But Fortnite fans not only play together, they also watch together. On March 14, a game of Fortnite pulled in 630,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch TV, Amazon’s YouTube-like service for watching competitive video game streams, shattering the previous record of 388,000. Fortnite has since amassed almost 30 million viewers, nearly doubling the streaming service’s runner-up, League of Legends, owned by the Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings.”

For a similar example of a mobile game that has become a phenomenon thanks to its social nature. Critics have raved about the benefits of Pokemon GO, the Augmented Reality (AR) game that has users walking around looking for collectible digital monsters in their surroundings. If nothing else, it gets gamers sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. But certain Pokemon bosses can only be defeated by a group of people in cooperation. This leads to groups of gamers participating in “raids” together at a common outdoor location. The availability of making trades, teaming up, and sending friend codes with fellow Pokemon GO gamers makes it a shared experience, which is much more likely to draw users back to the app than a solo pursuit.

4. Figure Out Your Target Player Demographic

While certain games transcend demographics, you may wish to target a more specific segment. In this case, you will want to figure out what type of game you want to design – strategy, shooter, sandbox, etc. – and then figure out how to make it even more enjoyable.

TechCrunch offers the following chart looking at people’s preferences of game, according to their gender and age. According to them, based on a study by Flurry, women tend to gravitate towards more social turn-based games, casual sims, slots, and solitaire. Conversely, men would opt for more card-battle and strategy games.

 5. Learn To Change With the Times

Embrace new updates, re-releases, and re-vamps. Unless you regularly introduce new levels, in-app purchases, services, and so on for your players to explore, there’s only so long they will continue to engage with your mobile game. Keep your source material fresh and imaginative. This means keeping an eye on the competition to see what they’re doing right.

What games are making a big splash? How are the newest target market for mobile games – Generation Z – interacting with their gaming apps? How can you open up your game to a new target user who may have been excluded from it previously?

6. Use Push Notifications to Boost App Experience

Push notifications may seem like such a small step in the user retention process. But they are really one of your best mobile engagement tools to keep driving your users back to your app. They can be personalized to specific segments of your gamers, and timed down to the moment that will best inspire users to pick up their device and start playing. And far from being a mere marketing tool, push notifications can actually boost gameplay as well, making for a more engaging, immerse experience.

Check out our previous blog post on some other creative ways of using push notifications to drive user engagement with your mobile game.

Otherwise, if you’re interested in getting in touch to talk about dynamic, COPPA-friendly ways you can use push notifications to get the most out of your mobile game, contact 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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