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Why making marginal gains should be every developer's prime strategy for 2024

LifeStreet, CEO Levi Matkins gives us his simple but effective, six-step game plan to deliver substantial results
Why making marginal gains should be every developer's prime strategy for 2024

Last year was a big one for the gaming industry in both good and bad ways.

We saw some of the best game releases of the past decade, and mobile gaming once again proved to be the most popular way to play with the release of smash hits such as Monopoly GO! But we also faced a series of mass layoffs throughout the industry, with many left wondering how they can keep business profitable and continue to create.

So, to kick off a new year, we have the return of LifeStreet’s Levi Matkins to share a market strategy that developers and studios, big or small, can adopt by taking on minimal changes that - with the right wind behind them - should result in a long-term gains.


As the saying goes, little things add up. And, in today’s mobile gaming economy, making small improvements to drive long-term gains is more crucial than ever.

The mobile games industry, which saw a 1% decrease in revenue in the first half of 2023 year-over-year, is navigating a new landscape shaped by economic shifts, shorter attention spans, and privacy regulations. For mobile game developers, this slowdown has prompted the need to shift from making significant leaps in growth to securing incremental progress in user engagement and revenue.

“If you can make a 1% enhancement every day, by the end of a year, you’ll have an improvement that’s 37x better.”
Levi Matkins

Embracing the philosophy of 'marginal gains', similar to the ideas set out by James Clear in his New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits, can significantly improve game developers’ apps and marketing strategies. Simply put, if you can make a 1% enhancement every day, by the end of a year, you’ll have an improvement that’s 37x better than when you started.

This approach involves making small yet impactful enhancements to every aspect of a mobile app’s marketing funnel, from discovery to retention. These tiny improvements, while seemingly insignificant on their own, can compound over time to yield substantial results.

Developers must ask themselves, how can they make marginal gains across the entire user acquisition strategy for sustainable growth? For example, given the realities of the market and the absence of traditional device-level signals, marketers can start to prioritize smaller, more achievable steps to improve overall user engagement instead of investing resources only to capture the attention of a game’s “whales”.

Small steps - big wins

At LifeStreet, we’ve been applying this philosophy day in and day out across several different functions and can attest that incremental wins add up. While most app developers are already making continuous improvements to keep up with users' evolving needs and expectations, this is just a reminder of a few small but mighty ways they can apply the philosophy of marginal gains to drive long-term results.

  • User experience optimisation: Improve app loading times, optimise images and content, and refine code to enhance overall performance. Small improvements in speed and responsiveness can have a considerable impact on user satisfaction.
  • Iterative design updates: Instead of large, infrequent updates, implement smaller, more frequent changes based on user feedback and data analysis. Conduct periodic assessments and updates and add new elements, levels, characters, or features to maintain excitement and engagement among players.
  • Data-driven decisions: Test variations of UI elements, features, or layouts to see which versions perform better. This could help address user drop-off points or enhance features with low engagement rates.
  • Adjustments based on feedback: Continuously address minor bugs and glitches reported by users. A bug-free experience contributes significantly to user satisfaction and retention. Minor adjustments based on user suggestions can boost satisfaction, retention and foster community with your players.
  • Monetisation tweaks: If your game monetises with in-app purchases or ads, fine-tune these aspects thoughtfully. Subtle modifications in pricing, ad placement, or reward systems can optimize your monetisation strategy without detracting from the user experience.

“Success stems from the strategic use of existing resources, incremental improvements, and the ability to adapt swiftly to the changing landscape.”
Levi Matkins

  • Marketing improvements: Apply a mindset of continuous improvement to your marketing tactics as well. Test and refine strategies, messages, channels, and focus on incremental enhancements. Keep a close eye on performance outcomes and strategically allocate your resources to the most effective channels and campaigns.

In today's mobile gaming economy, success stems from the strategic use of existing resources, incremental improvements, and the ability to adapt swiftly to the changing landscape. It's about recognising the power of small steps to create a significant impact and ensuring that every element of the gaming experience is continuously refined and improved.

By embracing the concept of marginal gains and applying it judiciously across all facets of mobile game development and marketing, developers can navigate the changes to the mobile gaming marketplace and achieve sustainable growth.

Edited by Paige Cook