Player retention still key to game monetization for subscription models like Apple Arcade

Go to the profile of Dominique Busso
Dominique Busso – Apr 12 – Published on Medium

For several years now, the freemium business model has been predominant in the mobile games market. This model generates much more revenues than the premium model, but the impact on game design is important: the monetization strategy needs to be fully integrated into the game design and crafted carefully to balance a fun game play and a steady revenue stream. Once your freemium game is well tuned, a good player retention is key to a great monetization.

In recent years Apple has been doing a great job at supporting premium games on its App Store. In premium games, studios have less constraints on the game design. However the global revenues of premium games is well behind those of freemium games (usually the Top Paid Games are ranked at best around 50 in the Top Grossing list). Good player retention is useful in premium game (the more you play, the more likely you will recommend other players to download and play), but not key to their monetization.

The subscription model has been around for several years now, especially in the educational games market. At Happy Blue Fish we worked a lot with Fingerprint Digital, a San Francisco-based EdTech which publishes a white-label platform that offers subscription based educational games. The subscription model will certainly expand in the coming years for all games, as key contenders are entering the ring.

Apple announced the Apple Arcade with a great video showing the impact on studios and game designers: like with premium games, they will be able to innovate in game design without having to bother with a monetization strategy based on In-App Purchases and/or In-App Ads.

How will mobile game studios monetize their games on this plateform?

Each month, Apple will bill the players registered on the Apple Arcade, and the studios with games on the platform will get their share of revenues based on the usage of their games by the players (like Daily Active Users of each game for each day of the month). This means that the longuer players will stay in your game, the more you will make money.

Therefore, as for freemium mobile games, Player Retention is key to monetization of subscription-based games. Getting a good player retention takes time and strong competencies in data analytics. That’s why we created askblu.ai, a plug@play SAAS solution to improve Player retention in Mobile Games. This solution helps studio tune levels, conduct soft launches and optimize the difficulty level of each stage.

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Every Player Counts®

Let’s break the casual games retention ceiling!

Dominique Busso Feb 23, 2018 – Published on Medium

I have been working on casual mobile games for the past 8 years, and I worked on Nintendo DS & Wii family games beforehand. I realized how player engagement and retention are important for long-term sustainable revenues. Our studio had to spend a lot of time and effort to get our games properly tuned. We had to set up analytics, test and submit, try to make sense of all the metrics we got, update the game, test and submit, update… and repeat.

A retention ceiling

Sure, we can reach good game metrics after all this work. Yet there is a “ceiling” for retention, because game tuning is “global”, meaning it’s the same for all players. And one size does not fit all!

Players are very diverse — especially for casual games.

Some players will churn (leave the game) after level 3 because it’s too hard, and they are frustrated. Others will churn after level 3 because it’s too easy and they are bored. A “global” tuning ignores this and you lose those players.

Even those who enjoy the game do not enjoy it for the same reasons: be it the gameplay, the visuals, the story, the challenge, the pleasure to outpace a friend, to share results… Everybody has a personal experience with a game and there is no easy way to customize each player’s experience using traditional tools. We can code some “tuning rules” for our games but they will be the same for all players.

That’s why a “global” tuning hits a retention ceiling that‘s hard to break.

The benefits of personalized game tuning

As game designers, we want a simple and easy solution to personalize the gameplay and difficulty for each player using our games.

Let’s say I found the right “global” difficulty value for stage 3.

I want to know if I should use this “default” value, or make it “easier” or “harder” for the user currently playing. And this should be requested in-game right before the player starts stage 3, because the situation and context for each player changes all the time.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can see how this would increase the number of players enjoying your game, thus playing more, therefore increasing your overall retention and monetization.

Let’s break the retention ceiling!

One year ago, we decided to tackle this problem.

The solution is quite simple in theory: collect players data and learn about the players’ profiles and behaviors; then predict the best tuning data in-game in real-time for each player.

Simple in theory… but complex to implement. Anyway, we decided to do it!

And not just for us, but for all studios enjoying good revenues coming from their casual games, but not wanting to invest hundreds of thousands dollars in a complex data architecture, data scientists and machine-learning experts.

We think that Every Player Counts®

If you also think that player personalization can dramatically improve your game metrics, join the conversation, get involved, we will soon be looking for pre-release testers.

Startup on the Beach 2018

Le vendredi 6 juillet 2018 a eu lieu à Saint Malo la troisième édition de Startup on the Beach, organisée par LE POOL et Digital Saint Malo, sous l’égide de la French Tech Rennes St Malo.

Plus de 40 startups ont présenté leurs projets à plus de 40 investisseurs, venus de Bretagne et de Paris.

Dominique Busso, PDG de Happy Blue Fish, a présenté le projet askblu.ai, projet phare de la société, démarré en avril 2017.

La rétention est la clé de la monétisation dans les jeux sur mobile. Obtenir une bonne rétention est déjà difficile, mais en plus la rétention plafonne car les studios font des réglages “globaux” pour la moyenne des joueurs, et les joueurs sur mobiles sont très différents. La seul solution pour casser ce plafond est de personnaliser l’expérience de jeu, en particulier le “flow”.

Askblu.ai est une solution en SAAS, qui s’adresse à tous les studios et développeurs de jeux sur mobiles.

Elle permet de personnaliser en temps réel l’expérience de jeu des joueurs, donc d’améliorer la rétention et la monétisation.