The Player Experience: Lifecycle Marketing for Your Game

By Taylor Odgers | August 28th, 2015

Gaming is the most popular category in the App Store. With almost half a million competitors in the app store, you need more than a fun game to find success. So how do you find ways to stand out in such a crowded space? By making sure you are providing your players with an exceptional experience at every...single… step.

Customer lifecycle marketing is a practice used to identify milestones along the path that most customers follow throughout their relationship with a product. It is a great tool to anticipate what customers expect in “make-or-break” moments in order to capitalize on each.

While you might know your game inside and out, sometimes the best way to provide the best player experience is to take a step back and see it from their perspective. Below is the typical player life cycle along with the questions you need to answer to create a self sustaining cycle of engagement and retention.

App Store Experience: “Do I want this game?”

Okay, so the users found your game. (Discoverability is a monster of its own. There are many great articles and resources on ASO. I recommend you check out Apptamin’s ASO cheat sheet.)

Once they’re here, this becomes the pivotal moment for your app. Your game’s page in the App Store is your storefront and therefore the first opportunity to convince users that they absolutely NEED to press that download button.

Don’t: Rely on Graphics Alone

You could have the most beautifully designed game on the market, but you can not expect that images alone will convey your game's value.

Do: Mix it up

Your screenshots should both show and tell how your game works. Add minimal text to explain gameplay and unique features. If you have a preview take advantage of Apple’s new video feature. After all, 90% of people prefer to watch videos over reading.

First Open: “How does this work?”

The first time a user opens your game is critical. You have about 30 seconds to give your game a compelling storyline that convinces users it is worth playing. No pressure!

Don’t: Leave your users Hanging

Confusion only leads to app abandonment and anger. Level two of your game may be spectacular, but if your users don’t understand how to get past the first level they aren’t going to stick around.

Do: Start with the Basics

Tutorials create an instant understanding of the game storyline and controls, improving both engagement and usability. Start by demonstrating the essentials first - like how to jump - then slowly progress towards teaching the more advanced multi-combo face slaps.

First Purchase: “What do I gain from this?”

If you have a F2P game, you will most likely turn to in-app purchases as a source of revenue. In order to convince your players to pay, IAP’s should always enhance gameplay and demonstrate clear value. You can do this by offering personalization, power ups and bonus packs.

Don’t: Pay to Win

If your users NEED to pay to win your game, you are doing it wrong. The truth is only 1.5% of players will make a purchase in your game. Forcing players to pay to win will only discourage engagement.

Do: Use a Decoy

The best in-app purchase strategy offers a range of prices. This allows players to pick their own price points while giving you a good opportunity to segment your players. The benefits should obviously increase with the price. But having one overpriced item or package will help players justify purchasing cheaper alternatives.

First Ad: “Really?”

Yes. If your app is F2P, don’t ignore ads as a source of revenue. With proper context and timing, ads can be both profitable for you and acceptable by users.

Don’t: Interrupt the Action

Everyone has been there: You are playing a super fun game when, seemingly out of nowhere, a video ad appears. You might get a short-term payout, but the only thing this leads to is game abandonment. And fast.

Do: Be Picky

Rather than forcing your players to watch a pre-roll out, pick moments when your users will be receptive to ads and show content they will actually want to engage with. At Tap for Tap we do this by rewarding players for their achievements and rescuing them with rewarded video in times of need.

First Re-Engagement: “What did I miss?”

Congratulations! Your players came back. However, the battle is not won yet. Leanplum estimates that 75% of users abandoning a mobile app within 3 months. How you treat your first return can be just as important as the first open.

Don’t: Press Rewind

There is nothing worse than opening an app for the second time and having to go through the tutorial all over again. Your players are smart, so give them some credit.

Do: The Highlight Reel

If the story has changed since the first session, take the time to fill players in on what they missed. Fallout Shelter does a great job of telling its players what happened in the Shelter while they were away. If you add some urgency to the mix it will promote more frequent returns.

First Referral: “Why should I tell my friends?”

You might have noticed that discovery was left out of the lifecycle. This is because according to EEDAR, the number one reason people download a game is because a friend told them to. The second is because they saw someone playing it. This means having a good referral program in place can drastically improve discovery.

Don’t: Ignore the Reviews

It’s unfortunate but the truth is one bad review has so much more power than 10 positive ones. This is why it is important to stay up to date with what your players are saying about your game and put out fires as quickly as possible if needed. Apptentive has a thorough guide to App Store Reviews.

Do: Ask

This might seem basic, but you can’t just hope that your players will tell their friends if they like your game. You need to ask your players for support, and make it extremely easy for them to do. Social shares are an awesome way to do this. You can increase the incentive by offering rewards for referrals, or take it to the next level by allowing players to set up tournaments amongst their friends.

Treating your game’s success as a true lifecycle project - one with a beginning, middle but truly no end - ensures that everything you do is done from the user’s perspective. Have fun remembering what it was like the first time you “discovered” your own game as you built it. If you act like a user at each step you will have the greatest chance of success.

PS: a last one...

Don’t: Forget to check out the Tap for Tap blog..

Do: Share this article with your friends!

Taylor Odgers
Taylor is the Community Engagement Manager at Tap for Tap an indie-focused mobile exchange that delivers moments-based ads. When not at her desk she can be found in the office VW writing her next post or running outside. For more indie insights check out the Tap for Tap blog or tweet @tapfortap

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