"Engagement is the key to success," opened Stephane Baudet of Behaviour Interactive during his talk at Game Connection Europe in Paris.
"If you spend on user acquisition and those users don't engage with your game, that's just money you've wasted."
Indeed, as previously detailed many times on PocketGamer.biz, the key to mastering user engagement is not to confuse it with acquisition in the first place. Engagement isn't about getting people to play once rather, it's using that first play session wisely to ensure they come back time and again.
And Behaviour Interactive should know. Though the studio "doesn't have much of a presence in Europe," Baudet admitted, it's "pretty huge across North America", with 28 million users tapping into its free-to-play titles.
Steps to success
Baudet himself has worked on everything from Test Drive: Unlimited developed by the studio he later sold off, Eden Games as well as Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.
During this time, he's compiled an eight point plan to keeping users engaged one that can, in theory, be applied to paid releases and free-to-play titles alike.
"All the rules that you put in place should be to ensure that the player enjoys your game, because if you don't, they'll quit and play something else," opened Baudet.
Step one? "Make it fun. Sure, that's obvious, right? But it's not that easy," he continued, with many studios getting wrapped up in issues such as monetisation, rather than ensuring the core loop in their game is actually enjoyable.
The second step follows a similar path. "Make sure you offer a compelling first time experience," added Baudet.
"You only have one time to convince your players to come back again, and this is also the first point where you can lose masses of players.
"It has to feel simple and accessible, and the depth of the game should be revealed very very slowly step by step. However, the game's opening also has to reflect the core loop players will experience later on."
That's my goal
Another trick to ensuring players don't give up early? Give them definable goals a clear sense of progression so they feel like they're moving forward, rather then being left adrift.
Similarly, the next step is to give people a reason to come back every day. "Give them content that's only available for a set period, or an event that runs the following day," added Baudet.
Step six? "Allow everyone to progress, however good or bad a player they are," continued Baudet, suggesting that monitoring what levels users drop off in and ironing out any problems they encounter is key.
"Candy Crush Saga is brilliant at this. There must be a solution for players who can't get past a specific level the ability to get help or skip it entirely. You have to balance the core players needs with keeping the casuals on board too."
In terms of game design, Baudet also argued that you need to have consistent elements throughout your game a language the user can identify with from the start that forms a thread right through to the end.
Also, make it social. Let players take on people they know, and people they don't.
"The more casual your game, the more people will want to play with or against their friends," said Baudet. "If it's a more core release, that's not so important.
And lastly? Make your game alive, and make it endless. While a sense of progression is important, to hold onto players long term you need to make sure their isn't an end point. Run events and let them invest in the game bring it to life so they're happy to live in your world longterm.