How Social Features Can Boost Player Retention and Discovery

By Thomas Sommer | February 13th, 2015

The number of games in the app stores is staggering. There are over 1.2M apps in Apple’s App Store, almost 1.5M in Google's Play Store and 293K in Amazon’s app store. More apps are created every day. Although the Big Three tech giants like to boast about those numbers, for app developers they mean extreme competition and only a tiny chance to make a profit from their games. According to, 62% of developers earn less than $500 a month on their apps. The extreme competition in the mobile gaming market jeopardizes developers’ ability to make a living through game development.

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Along with the intense competition created by the huge number of apps available for download, another serious problem affects developers. Users who download your app often don't give it a real chance and abandon the game after a very short time. According to Swrves’ April 2014 report, 66% of players abandon the game after 1 day. In other words, most players download the game, play it a bit and never open it again. Because of the intense competition, users know that they can always try another game so they don't give the current one a real chance. To prevent this, developers and publishers need to make use of the fundamentally social nature of games. Here's how integrating social features to your app can effectively improve retention and foster discovery in the process.

Social Features to Foster Discovery, Engagement, and Player Retention

We cannot control the number of apps in the app stores. But we do have control over the design of our games and the features we implement in them, two factors that are crucial for creating successful games and increasing player engagement and player retention. When building your game, give some thought to which tools you could use to improve your game's numbers.A successful game has to be fun. At the end of the day, all that players want is to enjoy their time in the game. For that to happen, the game has to be enjoyable. That is the first and most important quality to build into a game, but it's not enough. Even the most enjoyable game in the world will have a hard time growing organically without the right features, and more specifically the right social features.

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Social feature example: Nextpeer's friends invitation screen

There are a number of successful games which credit their success to a successful implementation of social features. The most recent example is QuizUp, a trivia game in which users compete against one another during seven rounds of timed multiple-choice questions on various topics. The game has grown at a rate of 130,000 organic downloads per day and attracted over 3 million registered users in a little more than 3 weeks. Forbes attributes the game's success to the social features it offers: "One of the reasons users are spending 40 minutes of their precious time inside this app is because of the social features QuizUp offers. Not only can users compete against one another, but they can also chat with each other and post on discussion boards." Another reason why the game's success is that players can invite their real-life friends for a match. This feature creates viral loops through which more and more players invite their friends to the game and increase its growth.The invitation system in QuizUp increases the game's discoverability because players become the game's marketers. By inviting their real-life friends for a match, they expose the game to more people who then download it. Another great method for increasing your game's exposure is to give players the ability to post game snapshots to Facebook, WhatsApp or other social network they like. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool there is. Using your players to spread the word about your game can have a significant impact on its reach.

All Players Are Not the Same

Social features are important for more than just acquiring new users: they can also help upgrade the gaming experience. According to Bartle, there are four types of players and each of them plays games for different reasons. For our purposes, the two most important player types are achievers and socializers.

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Achievers focus on gaining points, reaching higher levels and showing that they are the best in the game, while socializers are more interested in the social aspects of the game. They enjoy the game most when interacting with other players: chatting, messaging and even voice calls are what make the game entertaining for them. Both groups enjoy the game more when multiplayer features are implemented in it. Achievers enjoy receiving praise from socializers about their abilities, and seeing their names on top of the scoreboards and ladder systems. For socializers, just gaining points is quite dull. Socializing and interacting with other players, chatting with other players and making new friends: these are the reasons socializers enter the game in the first place. Without that social interaction, the game becomes boring. As socializers make up the largest population of the different player types, they are also the group game developers should focus on on the most.To accommodate the varying needs of these different types of players, you should implement social features that offer different interaction options inside the game. The first feature to offer, and the most important, is a messaging system with which players can talk to one another. The second interaction feature you should offer is a newsfeed, through which players can post status messages to the entire network, and offer praise and complements to each other for their performance in the game. We also recommend to use a friending system through which players can create long-term relationships. Other features you could offer include in-game snapshots, a chat system, leaderboards and so on. Implementing any or all of these features will greatly improve the gaming experience for players.

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Newsfeed example: Nextpeer's "Stream tab", where players can post status messages to their whole network

Not only do social features improve the gaming experience for players, but they also increase player retention and engagement, the two most important KPIs in converting players to paying customers. Think of what happens when you receive a message on Facebook: you immediately go and read it. The same happens when players receive messages or challenge invitations from their peers. Naturally, this means more players return to your game and so increase retention. The same pattern applies for other communications players make inside the game.You should use the best tools available to overcome the fierce competition in the app stores. By using the right marketing weapons, you increase the discoverability and viral reach of your game and improve its capabilities for player retention. Adding social features to your game enables you “to kill two birds with one stone”: your players become your marketers and they stay longer inside the game.

To conclude

The number of games in the app stores is immense. This huge number means that it's very hard to attract players to your game and even harder to retain them inside of it. Integrating social features into your game can help solve both these problems. Social features can help you acquire more players and increase their retention, giving you more opportunities to convert players to paying customers and increasing your revenues.Users are the most important asset of your game. They are what makes it succeed and what makes developers reap their harvest. Acquiring those users is the biggest challenge developers currently face. Retaining those users once they've been acquired is the second one. Fortunately, implementing social sharing tools should help your tackle them.About NextpeerNextpeer is a social network for gamers available on iOS and Android with more than 7K live games and millions of users. Nextpeer's SDK for developers provides a social platform focused on players together with deep multiplayer functionality. Games with Nextpeer are more engaging, fun and viral because players compete, interact and communicate with each other.You can watch a static demo of the new SDK here or a video here. You’re also welcome to sign up for the private beta in this link.

dor hadadi

About the authorDror Hadadi is the head of Business Development and Data Analysis at Nextpeer. He loves leveraging data to see how players use Nextpeer’s SDK and improve their gaming experience. He also writes about the current trends in the mobile gaming market in Nextpeer’s blog. On his free time you'll probably find him climbing a mountain on his bike.

Thomas Sommer
Thomas heads up content marketing at AppLift. As such he’s in charge of sourcing, curating, creating and distributing insightful content to increase visibility and thought leadership for the company. Thomas loves to scrutinize the relentless and trilling developments of the mobile industry. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.