How to Keep People Playing Your Game

By Jennifer June |

So you’ve released your game. Congratulations! It’s finally out there for everyone to enjoy and the downloads will roll in. If you build it, they will come. Right? All the way from Brazil, Sabrina Carmona of Square Enix Latin America graced the Ottawa International Game Conference (OIGC) with her presence to talk to industry hopefuls and seasoned veterans alike about what it takes to keep your game alive and kicking after release.

In order to reach the top 10 free apps on the App Store in the US, you need to reach approximately 70,000 downloads/day. As if this weren’t enough of a challenge, most players delete games after downloading them. Carmona’s “first-date” metaphor was very appropriate here: how do you intrigue your date enough for a second-date? How do you make the relationship last? “How do you get lucky?”, she asked the audience with a coy smile.

User Acquisition – Ask them out.


Carmona described three types of user acquisition: organic, paid, and extra. Organic growth can be described as acquiring users based on methods that cost little to no money to execute, such as a stunning app icon, intriguing screenshots, a good video or trailer, an interesting game description, good reviews and fitting keywords. If executed properly, you can gain some serious traffic while giving your wallet a break. Alternatively, paid methods, such as burst campaigns, cross-promotions and email marketing can become expensive, but are often well worth it.

And then, there’s that extra effort. This, explains Carmona, is where you can truly make your game shine and distinguish itself from all of the other games out there. Doing something out of the norm with social media (outside the realm of Facebook and Twitter), having a unique press release or getting on some key app review sites can really give your game the extra love that it needs and well, deserves.

User Engagement – Get a second date.


Now that you’ve got yourself some players, you have to figure out how to keep them interested. Figuring out who is playing your game through analytics is one of the most important aspects of effective user engagement. “Who is playing your game? How do we cater to them?” asked Carmona. It is this information that will prove to be vitally important in your user engagement methods, such as events and updates.

To demonstrate effective execution of events, Sabrina referenced mobile game legend Puzzles and Dragons, which was the first mobile game to hit $1 billion in revenue. The game has mastered the use of events to keep users engaged and to turn casual gamers into mid-core gamers (Carmona defines these players as those who schedule gameplay around their lives). Events can be seasonal (“Christmas is here!”), limited time offers (“You better hurry!”), scheduled (“Only on Tuesdays!”) or involve social media (“Share this post!”). Each type is extremely effective in tapping into that user psychology, that voice inside that says, “I better open this game again.”

Updates are also extremely effective in enticing your user base to come back to your game, explains Carmona. A common mistake is putting all of your awesome content out at once, so don’t give it up so easily; make them crave it. Leak out your new content and new features slowly to build excitement among your players.

User Retention – Keep them wanting more.


Two of the best ways to keep your users coming back to your game are through push notifications and heeding user feedback. The “smart” way to do push notifications, according to Carmona, is by targeting niched casual players of your game so as not to annoy your loyal players that you’ve already won over.

Providing an effective support service can go a really long way as well, though it is necessary to prioritize users who are spending money when dealing with high volumes of user feedback. Always make sure to keep any complaints contained (especially over social media) with fervent apologies and reassurance. When users provide feedback, say thank you! And when they come up with a good idea for your game, implement it!

User Monetization – Get lucky.


And now the age old question in mobile games: how do you get your users to pay? Carmona explained that mastering the art of sales seduction is paramount when it comes to ringing in those sought after microtransactions.

One way to accomplish this is by effectively conveying the value of purchase; users need to feel like they are truly gaining something from the transaction that will make their lives easier. A great way to achieve this is by timing the opportunities to buy by offering your players a power-up or item right when it might come in particularly handy. Of course, you must always teach your players how to spend their money (a tutorial must-have).

So even though you’ve proven how awesome you are by finally getting your game out there (really awesome by the way), you might want to implement a few of these tips and tricks to make sure that your mobile game stays relevant in that oh-so-saturated market. Keep enough people coming back for more, and you just may be on your way to hitting that 70,000/day mark. See you in the top 10!

Jennifer June is a Social Media Strategist for the Ottawa-based game studio Arctic*Empire. The Ottawa International Gaming Conference, now in its third year, brings together top industry talent for engaging discussions. Learn more at

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