Last update: July 2021

4 mins to read - 2021/07/19

Using Notifications in Your Roguelike Mobile Game to Boost Retention

They used to be considered a niche gaming genre, only for hardcore gamers with the drive to invest hours into gameplay. Now, roguelikes are having their moment in the sun, having shot up in popularity in recent years. This is owing to multiple different reasons. Modern roguelikes have made themselves more accessible to mainstream players, due to incorporating familiar gaming mechanics and making the gaming interface less complex. It also may be a result of recent hype around the game Hades, the dungeon-crawler inspired by Greek mythology which has won over haters of the genre due to its engaging storyline and different modes of gameplay. At any rate, as more and more roguelike games are released on mobile, player engagement and retention becomes a top priority. Here are a few tips on ways you can use push notifications to boost retention for your mobile roguelike game.

A Quick Recap of Roguelikes…

Basically, you either love them or you hate them. Roguelikes take a familiar core game loop – the player explores an environment (traditionally a dungeon, hence the term “dungeon crawler”) while solving puzzles and defeating adversaries. However, the catch with a roguelike is if you die, you go back to the very beginning, rather than to a more recent save point.

Modern roguelikes, often have methods of softening the blow, to make going back to the beginning slightly less of a punishment. For example, one of the draws of Hades is that they offer a God Mode of gameplay, reducing enemy damage by 20% – and then if you die, your resistence to damage increases by 2% each time, ultimately flattening the learning curve. (Maximum damage resistance is 80%… they don’t want to make it too easy, after all.) Other roguelikes offer weapons and gear that you can pick up along the way that improve your chances of making it to the end of the game in one go.

Still, player dropoff rates tend to be very high for roguelikes, due to the difficult (and, some would say, maddening) nature of gameplay. This is where push notifications can be a key engagement tool for reducing churn and keeping steady retention rates for your mobile roguelike.

Roguelike Games, Push Notifications and Player Retention

Free-to-play (F2P) games tend to want to make things as easy and addictive as possible for players, to keep them playing long-term. However, this flies in the face of the defining concept of roguelikes. And this can be intimidating, especially for players who are new to the genre. So how can you make things easier for them?

Hades, for example, offers different modes of gameplay, to make progression easier for players of different skills levels. Like other roguelikes, it also offers various weaponry, currencies, and consumables along the way that increase your skillset and the likelihood that you’ll survive. When you die and respawn, you then retain the loot you pick up along your way, which lengthens the amount of time you survive for the next iteration of gameplay.

The F2P industry has made an artform out of monetizing these extras – cosmetics, skins, consumables, etc. Sometimes they necessary for making gameplay easier – for example, a legendary sword that increases your damage points. Or sometimes they’re just for fun – such as different skins or unique tattoos with which you can customize your character. In-game currencies are a way to purchase these keys to premium gameplay, or sometimes they can serve as a toll to skip over a certain length of the dungeon.

So where do push notifications come in?

Notifications and In-App Messages, and How to Use Them

Push notifications are the ideal way of directing struggling players at risk of churn towards purchasing gear and currencies that can improve the gaming experience for them. For example, if a player keeps dying at a certain point, and isn’t advancing in their skillset at all, you can point them towards an armory of elect weaponry that will help them break past this pain point. (Use a deep link to convey them straight to the page in-app where they can make the purchase.) If they need extra convincing, a push notification is a great way of sending them a limited-time discount.

Other games, such as RogueJack: Roguelike Blackjack (a combination of an old-school pixellated dungeon crawler where you battle enemies by playing them in blackjack) take an alternate monetization tactic. When players die, they have the option to keep playing by viewing an ad. In this case, a full-screen in-app message can do the trick: “You’re so close! Watch this quick ad and move to the next level of the dungeon instead of going back to the beginning.”

roguelike roguejack player retention
Image Source: Screenshots from RogueJack game

Alternate Monetization

For games that are monetized with in-app ads, push notifications are a great way to get players back into the game on a regular basis. Send notifications at the same time each day to build habitual usage of your app. Use various data signals to gain insights on contextual factors for moment of delivery that players are most likely to have a positive response to.

If a player is repetitively struggling with a certain point in the game, one bold and counterintuitive move might be to send them an in-app message, suggesting they take a break to clear their head. Then, after a few hours have passed, follow up with a push notification: “Are you ready to come back to DungeonWorld? The Necro-Boss is waiting for you!” Ultimately, if you’re noticing a certain player is starting to churn, it’s worth a try sending them a request for feedback via push notification. If there is a problem they have with your game and it’s within your power to fix, push notifications are the perfect way of communicating this. Whether through liveops or by directing them to custom gear or an in-game tutorial that can help improve UX, this ultimately provides a way to keep players invested in your game and having fun.

To learn more ways push notifications and how to use them to boost retention for your roguelike mobile game, 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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