Here's Why LTV Is The Most Important Metric
Best Practices for User Engagement and Retention  

COVID-19 Caused a Surge in Mobile Gaming — Here’s How to Retain New Users

Rebecca Castellani

When Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released in March 2020, it sold 13.4 million copies and generated millions of tweets in the first six weeks. Was the light-hearted, task-based gameplay responsible for these astronomical figures? The cute, anthropomorphic animals? The built-in social network? Or maybe, all of these appealing facets were amplified under the conditions of a global crisis? Read on to learn how COVID-19 has caused a significant increase in mobile gaming, plus helpful tips to retain new users post-quarantine.

Entertainment in isolation

“From mobile apps to traditional consoles, gaming has seen a substantial spike in revenue and activity as a go-to source of entertainment during quarantine,” says Pulse in a new report on Gaming Habits. Pulse’s data shows a staggering 81% of Americans started playing new games while abiding stay-at-home orders, half of which spent over one-hour playing mobile games a day. E-sports and competitive gaming have also seen a spike in user activity, which Pulse attributes to the medium “allowing new gamers and longtime fans to socialize and stay connected with friends while confined to their homes.” When respondents were asked about their gaming habits once this period of isolation is over, 67% planned to continue playing the same games; of those surveyed, the most likely to continue playing new games post-quarantine were Baby Boomers.

Pulse’s findings suggest the time is ripe to release new games, but when quarantine is lifted, how do you ensure users stick around? The following retention strategies pave the way for a long-lasting mobile game.

Top tips to retain new gamers

Retention data can be used to determine a myriad of metrics—audience size, growth capacity, average time spent in app, revenue potential, lifetime value (LTV)—making it a critical factor in determining the longevity of a game. The Tool defines good user retention as 40% after Day 1, 20% after Day 7, and 10% after Day 28.

Business of Apps reports, “the genres with the longest retention were puzzle, word, board, trivia, and casino game apps,” but with these helpful tips, you can improve user retention for any mobile game experience.

  • First time user experience (FTUE) sets a precedent. If the introduction to your game is boring or confusing, don’t be surprised if retention is low. Make sure your FTUE is well-developed, engaging, and informational to keep users coming back for more.
  • Make it a habit. According to GameAnalytics, the key to long term user retention is establishing feedback loops where the game reacts to some action taken by the player. “Good games are naturally good at enhancing habit formation. If gamification is so popular nowadays, it is because it has the power to both speed up and strengthen the feedback loop of any application.”
  • Stay on the radar. With a multitude of other games out there, it can be difficult to hold users’ attention; send push notifications or email reminders to keep your game in the foreground.
  • Use targets to create satisfying goals. Give users a feeling of progress by rewarding them with gifts and bonuses as they accomplish targets in the game.
  • More content. Keep adding new features and content to pique user interest.
  • Get social. Games that allow users to connect through the app or linked social platforms improve interactivity and encourage user attachment.

Looking ahead

While we’re all looking forward to the end of quarantine, the COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly been a boon for mobile gaming. But once social isolation ends, developers must be prepared to retain these new users. Optimize retention with easy, engaging, and satisfying gameplay. The more habits a game can form now, the better off it’ll be later. And most importantly, keep users connected to games by enabling them to connect with each other. Implement these effective retention strategies now, and your mobile game will not only survive post-quarantine, it will thrive.


Subscribe Today


Rebecca Castellani is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and content creator based in Connecticut.