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

Posted by Moonlit Wang, Partner Development Manager at Google Play
Games, & Tammy Levy, Director of Product for Mobile at href="http://developers.kongregate.com/">Kongregate

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, href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/dev?id=7580247376460930437&hl=en_GB">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 players

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]

  • 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 href="http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2016/01/new-features-to-better-understand.html">Google
    Play 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 href="https://developer.android.com/distribute/users/user-acquisition.html">Developer

  • Use A/B testing to find the price that will maximize your total
    . 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 offers
    based on the player’s predicted probability to spend using the href="https://developers.google.com/games/services/android/stats">Player Stats
    predicts players churn and spend.

For example, in href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Kongregate&hl=en_GB&e=-EnableAppDetailsPageRedesign">Kongregate’s
game href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kongregate.mobile.spellstone.google&hl=en_GB">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
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.
    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, href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kongregate.mobile.battlehand.google&hl=en&e=-EnableAppDetailsPageRedesign">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:

  • 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
  • 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]

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
    • 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 href="https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/answer/6334373?hl=en&ref_topic=6075663">local
      pricing conventions of each currency for you.

out the Android Developer Story from games developer, Divmob, who improved
their game’s monetization threefold simply by adopting sub-dollar pricing
strategies. Also, href="https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Google_Inc_The_Building_for_Billions_Playbook_for?id=cJEjDAAAQBAJ&e=-EnableAppDetailsPageRedesign">learn
more best practices about building for billions to get more tips on

the 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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