11 Techniques for Player Value Maximization: Part 1
Remember Bob? His awesome game, Angry Hedgehogs, attracted a small but engaged user base of hedgehog-launching fans, yet he’s not maximizing his game’s potential value. In the last post we discussed LTV and the components of value. Talk is cheap, actually increasing value is the challenge.
Here are the first 6 of 11 techniques for increasing player value.
1. Satiate your Whales’ Appetite
As we all know, a very small percentage of players drive a LARGE portion of in-app purchases. These whales love your game and want to give you tons of money yet many games don’t offer enough or underprice purchasable content. Don’t make that mistake.
It’s not a fluke that most of the top grossing games in the Apple App Store offer several thousands of dollars of content, maximizing IAP limits with $99.99 virtual currency packs to appease their marine mammals. As Kongregate recently stated at GDC SF 2012, make sure your players can spend $1,000+.
2. Offer a Balanced Diet
If you walked into a grocery store that only sold bananas, would you return next time you need groceries? Probably not (unless you’re Donkey Kong). As with grocery stores, it’s important to provide a variety of options to appeal to a wider audience.
Some of the most successful freemium titles offer a varied mix of purchasable content. Games that appeal to players’ inherit desires attract a larger audience of paying users and extend purchase activity. Consider how Gabe Zichermann’s SAPS model can be applied by tapping into players’ desire for:Status: e.g. avatar customization, limited or exclusive items Access: e.g. new levels, unlockable abilities, expandable inventory or real-estate Power: e.g. power-ups, weapon upgrades, accelerators or boosts Stuff: e.g. decorative or cosmetic items
It is also important to keep the fridge stocked with consumable content to facilitate repeated purchases. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the majority of money spent is for non-durable, one-time-use content.
3. User-Initiated and Contextual, FTW
Much of today’s advertising and marketing promotions are designed to interrupt the game experience in an effort to drive a large volume of impressions; however, players will only tolerate so many pop-ups or banners within a single session before they wield blinders or leave the game frustrated. This concern is an even bigger issue for non-freemium titles.
But what do you do when you have several value- generating promotions? Take full advantage of your game’s real-estate and position user-initiated interactions in contextually relevant locations. Want to promote your other titles? Try adding a ‘more games’ button to your main menu. Seeking more loyal email subscribers? How about including a ‘newsletter’ button after your players finish a level. Wouldn’t it be nice to be popular? Link to your Facebook page in the pause menu. Disappointed that no one is purchasing your super discounted battle axe? Surface this special deal on the loading screen.
Not only do these provide a better user experience, but naturally users that choose to engage, convert much higher than from more disruptive presentations. At PlayHaven, we see 4-8x higher engagement rates for these type of interactions.
4. Trust Your Gut But Verify
Face it, you can’t be right all the time. We all make bad choices.
Game designers often rely on their experience and intuition; however, that shouldn’t be a replacement for A/B testing and experimentation. Presentation, copy, frequency, and context are just a few variables to tweak with any campaign but the proper formula can make the difference between success and failure.
More importantly, ensure all campaigns align with business goals and account for opportunity cost. Although an interstitial ad may generate a lucrative $40 eCPM, a cross-promotion for your other game may yield twice the eCPM from the LTV generated from new players. Experiment with different ad networks to maximize eCPM and revenue. Determine the conversion rate and value of a new Facebook ‘like’ vs. Twitter follower. Identify the effectiveness of daily rewards to increase engagement compared to revenue generated from promoting purchasable content.
Don’t trust your instincts too much – quantify, measure, and evaluate.
5. Players are Like Snowflakes
Every player is unique. Location, age, gender, device type, purchase behavior, virality, and engagement are just a few dimensions of a player, yet we often treat them all the same.
It’s important to customize the game experience to meet the expectations and needs of a varied user base. Some players are happy to spend $100’s on cows and carrots, others never drop a dime. Players in the U.S. patriotically celebrate Memorial Day as Chinese players introduce the Year of the Dragon. Veteran bird-flinging gamers enthusiastically launch birds all day as newbies start the tutorial for the first time.
While one promotion may appeal to a particular user, it may have the reverse effect on others. Games customized for these varied user segments will perform must better and ultimately lead to a better user experience.
6. Expose and Make Purchases Dead Simple
Far too often games hide purchasable content deep within the store. This is particularly counterproductive when new content is added and never surfaced to the player. Shout it out, make it known. Promote purchasable items, level-packs, virtual currency bundles, and other content throughout the game experience.
The key is relevance. Promote content at contextually relevant moments such as:
- When the enemy defeats the player, introduce a power-up
- Upon game launch, promote a limited time, currency bundle sale
- After leveling up, present a newly unlocked items only available to experienced players
If you’re lucky enough to capture players’ interest, make sure it’s easy for them to complete the transaction. One-click in-app purchasing is great, simple, fast but many games that use virtual currency add unnecessary friction to the process. If players don’t have enough currency to purchase a particular item, immediately launch the in-app purchase (IAP) process or direct them through a streamlined flow to complete the transaction before they bail.
Take a queue from the guys and gals in e-commerce – every bit of friction impacts conversion.
For your own safety we won’t crank it to 11 in a single post so look forward to five more techniques for maximizing player value shortly. If you have any strategies, tricks, or great examples of your own, please drop them in the comments below!