10 reasons players are leaving your game

DeltaDNA gives top retention tips

10 reasons players are leaving your game

The F2P game market is now estimated to be valued in the billions of dollars, and around 80% of mobile app store revenue is generated by F2P in-app purchases.

However, despite the headlines, it is still the case that the vast majority of F2P games fail.

While a game like Candy Crush Saga might have over 100 million monthly users, a ‘typical’ F2P game in the App store probably only has around ten thousand monthly users.

It’s not unusual for a game to lose half of its players after the first session, never to return, and in most F2P games fewer than 2% of players ever pay.

Small changes to these numbers through better player retention can make a big difference to the success of a game.

The margins between success and failure are very fine indeed. A one or two percent improvement to your payer fraction can make all the difference.

At deltaDNA, we work with hundreds of games, providing analytics, player engagement and consultancy. We frequently see the same game design features that adversely affect retention crop up in both F2P and premium games.

We’ve identified the main points below, primarily looking at F2P, but many of the lessons can be applied more widely:

The deltaDNA big data analytics platform allows game designers to maximize player retention and engagement, by using active segmentation and in delivering live in-game engagement campaigns that have been tested and proven to work.

To find out more, visit our website, www.deltaDNA.com

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  • Game difficulty isn’t balanced

    Balancing the game difficulty is a very tricky situation. Developers often set the difficulty too high as they are very close to the game and have a vast knowledge of how the game plays.

    It requires a lot of thought and close monitoring of how your players are progressing through your game during beta, soft and hard launch, with the capacity to make changes to the game if a dip in retention is discovered as a direct result of difficulty or players not fully understanding what to do.


    We often see, particularly in linear games, that difficulty spikes are used as a means of trying to monetize players and often happen early in their gameplay. Players need to have fun and experience what the game has to offer before feeling challenged. Players will simply leave if they find that a game is too difficult, too early.

    So it is essential that you ensure players progress through the game at a steady pace and communicate difficulty clearly.

    Top Tip

    • Pushing too early for payment can have a major adverse impact on retention, especially with difficulty blockers. If in doubt, make your game easier as more players will stick around. Try soft launching in one region and use valuable player data to analyse and fine tune your game before releasing it into the wild.

  • Running out of resources

    Most games limit or enable progress through the availability of resources, whether it’s energy, virtual money or experience. Often these are tightly linked to real money purchases.

    Management of resources is one of the most finely balanced parts of a game. Not providing enough resources will adversely affect retention, while being too profligate can hamper LTV, as players find themselves with no need to spend.

    The key to this is maintaining a vigil on player progress, segmenting players by behavior and A/B testing potential remedies in combination with LTV and retention forecasting.

    Top Tip

    • Err on the side of caution as lapsed players rarely ever return and monetize. It’s also important to make it clear that spending real money on resources is simply a progression aid, rather than being a necessity for completion.

  • On-boarding process

    We’ve all been there. You’ve read the reviews, seen the screenshots and in a crescendo of excitement downloaded the game. You want to get stuck into the game, but one of two commonly occurring scenarios stops you.

    The on-boarding is either too contrived and time consuming, or you are just dumped into the game with little or no guidance.

    Don't force it

    We understand some designers may like to think their audience won't need much help and let players get on with it. However, we need to realise that not every player is the same.

    Why not provide options for players to express their ability or desired level of guidance?

    Otherwise, use rewarding as a carrot to encourage all users to progress through the onboarding process and learn the fundamentals of your game.

    One thing to keep in mind though is to keep the early stages of the game fun, interesting and above all engaging. Nobody wants to sit through reams of text or have their hand held through every step for several minutes.

    Top Tip

    • The use of a good task system to continue the onboarding journey works particularly well, rather than dragging out your tutorial. It’s also a good way to unveil the complexity of your game over time and reward players for learning.

  • Lack of rewards

    There’s innate satisfaction in completing a task or levelling-up, but players also need to be rewarded for their achievements.

    Providing players with increasing rewards as they make progress keeps them motivated and detailing upcoming awards can help keep players moving through the levels.

    For games that don’t have this mechanism, there is the risk that players will lose the motivation to keep coming back, or they may prioritize other games that give them a greater feeling of success.

    Top Tip

    • Making every success and reward a fun experience will boost morale and give the player a great sense of achievement. Be smart and direct players to cool new items, location unlocks or boosters in a clear way to encourage use of such items or to direct gameplay.

  • Poor first impressions

    First impressions are vital! Ideally the game should give as much of a taste of what there is to offer as soon as possible.

    Keep the tutorial engaging, don't bombard the player with information, use clear signposting and above all, make sure the player has a good time.

    Top Tip

    • If you have some cool gameplay features further into the game, don't wait until 90% of players have abandoned before showing them off.

  • Lack of task system

    A task system is an extremely good way to help players understand what they need to do to progress. Hosting a selection of tasks to complete at any given time will ensure players are never stuck with nothing to do.

    Some of the tasks can be achievement based, such as complete level X, reach Y score or try a certain game mode.

    Others can be used to encourage players to explore parts of the interface or to introduce a new feature

    Top Tip

    • Players should always be steered so they are gaining currency and learning how to progress in the game. Use tasks as an ongoing tutorial system, linked to rewarding that progresses players through a structure to keep players engaged and help with the difficulty curve.

  • Lack of appointment settings

    It is important to host incentives to bring players back to your game each day. Give players something to look forward to that offers good value to reward their engagement.

    Daily rewards, tournaments, regular content updates, weekly sales and scheduled challenges are all good ways to keep your players coming back on a regular basis.

    Daily bonuses are a widely used mechanic to encourage players to come back on a regular basis. However, it is also good practice to add extra options such as specific days or hours where rewards are doubled to give real value to returning players.

    Top Tip

    • The goal is to get your players to remember to return to the game once they have left it. Make daily-rewards explicit on their first session, ensure they offer good value to the player and integrate them into the theme of the game. Nobody likes a generic pop-up with a tiny reward that grants just a few more seconds of gameplay, make it worth coming back for.

  • Not fun!

    This is a no brainer. The game ultimately has to be fun, it needs to make players want to come back and play again.

    You need to deliver an experience that players will become addicted to.

    Top Tip

    • Ultimately. the game should be a fun and rewarding experience with a sense of bigger and better things to come. If a game requires an endless task of repetitive grinding with little reward or sense of achievement it’s only going to put your players off coming back.

  • Unoriginal content

    There has to be something that sets your game apart.

    We have seen enough Flappy Bird and Clash of Clans clones to last us a lifetime!

    Top Tip

    • There are very few original concepts, you need to make your game feel fresh and not simply a copy of something that is already available. If your game doesn’t differ enough from another that the player already has, then they’ll likely revert back to the original.

  • Lack of repeat play opportunities

    Being able to repeat parts of your game at different difficulty levels, or with new tasks or objectives, is a great way to enhance the replay-ability of your game.

    Players who enjoyed a level the first time around will get even more from it by adding a twist or making the level a little harder than before.

    Idealy, your game should be endless, as having a defined end limits how far a player can go. This makes it hard for narrative games to become successful in the free to play space. The games that work the best in F2P are simple, arcade games that can be played forever.

    Top Tip

    • Although a larger development effort, multiple game modes, online PvP and PvE lends itself to repeat play.

  • Summary

    Of course, the above reasons are largely down to good game design, but if you already have a good game, then there is a real opportunity to improve the in-game experience for all.

    Gain a better understanding your players’ behaviors and personalize the gameplay for each specific player segment. This gives players an enhanced experience based on their playing styles and will ensure they stay motivated in-game.

    The deltaDNA big data analytics platform allows game designers to maximize player retention and engagement, by using active segmentation and in delivering live in-game engagement campaigns that have been tested and proven to work.

    To find out more, visit our website - www.deltaDNA.com

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