November 2, 2023
User retention makes all the difference if you want your mobile game to succeed. Whether you’re targeting ongoing growth for years to come or searching for a short-term win to set up whatever’s next, mobile game retention metrics are the most reliable way to ensure that your game performs as desired.
Strong performance means that your game is likely to meet even greater goals down the line. But not all ways of measuring metrics are equally valuable, and not all of them are applicable to every situation. Here’s how to pick the right measurements that fit for your mobile game retention tactics.
Retention is one of the most valid measures of a mobile game’s success because it communicates how well your game is delivering on its value proposition. Plus it’s much more reliable than anecdotal measurements, such as review scores or even potentially misleading figures like total downloads. It’s also necessary for understanding the “lifetime” part of your lifetime customer value.
Day X retention is the best way to break down this key measurement of your game’s health. Here’s how it’s calculated:
(Number of users who open your game the Xth day after first opening it, AKA Day 0) / (Total number of users who first used the app on Day 0) = Day X retention rate
DX retention is often measured across three common benchmarks:
Many publishers are beginning to turn their attention toward even longer-term rates, such as Day 360 and Day 720 retention, to track how their games continue to perform deep into the user journey. Evaluating these figures can help publishers roll out new retention strategies and optimize elements of their game that might otherwise be left untouched in the typical stream of content updates. For instance, a game with higher D1 retention than D7 retention indicates a poor first-time user experience (FTUE).
Additionally, a cohort analysis of retention rates can reveal both overperforming and underperforming UA channels, allowing you to isolate factors that lead to successful acquisition and more reliably replicate them. These figures can go a long way when it comes to demonstrating a game’s success to executives and potential investors.
Note that Day X retention is not the same as rolling retention, despite the two occasionally being conflated. In the following section, we’ll go into detail about rolling retention, alongside other metrics that publishers incorporate in their mobile game retention tactics.
Though Day X retention should be your first stop for assessing how well your game maintains its players, it shouldn’t necessarily stand alone. Here are more mobile game retention metrics, as well as when and why you might want to add them to your repertoire.
Lifetime value (LTV) uses the retention rates you’ve already calculated to evaluate how well your marketing channels are performing. It’s one of the most crucial mobile game retention metrics that places a direct value on the different types of campaigns you run.
When you know what campaign made a player join, and you know the average lifetime value of each player that joined as a result of that campaign, then you know what types of campaigns tend to create the most value for your business. All that remains is to optimize for the two levers that determine LTV – user value and user lifetime – perhaps by refocusing your efforts on high-value user acquisition.
Here’s how to find your customers’ lifetime value:
(Average revenue per daily active user) * (Average player’s lifetime in your game) = Lifetime value
Churn is a commonly used term across all industries, and it simply represents the percentage of customers who have left your service over a given period. Your churn rate provides you with a quick and effective barometer for how many people tend to give your game a try and then decide it’s not for them.
It can also be effective for drilling down into how certain features of your game are used. For example, if you offer a monthly subscription with certain in-game benefits, your churn rate could reveal how many subscribers stuck around for at least a year.
Churn rate can also be an early indicator that your user acquisition strategy is out of alignment with your overall growth goals. According to Martech Zone, games with growth lower or significantly higher than the median tend to have higher churn rates.1
Here’s how to calculate your game’s churn:
(Total number of lapsed users who have not opened your game on or after Day X) / (Total number of users who first opened your game on Day 0) = Churn
Stickiness (sometimes referred to as DAU/MAU ratio) represents how common it is for users to engage with your game over and over again, rather than trying it out once or twice and then leaving it in the depths of their phone storage. It’s an essential figure to prioritize for any game marketer, because the more likely your players are to keep coming back, the more likely you’ll be able to convert them to become paying customers in the future.
Beyond the concept of user retention, stickiness is a simple way to decipher player loyalty. As traditional avenues for user acquisition become ever more challenging in the modern market, loyalty is one of the most critical things for a mobile game to secure in order to ensure profitable growth.
Here’s how to evaluate your game’s stickiness:
(Daily active users) / (Monthly active users) = Stickiness
Rolling retention (also referred to as unbounded retention) calculates the proportion of users who have run your application at least once on a specified day or any day after that. The open-ended nature of rolling retention is what primarily differentiates it from Day X retention. The longer an app stays on someone’s phone, the more likely they are to eventually open it, which means the proportions for rolling retention are often substantially higher than those calculated through Day X retention.
For instance, your Day 7 rolling retention could shift upward because a number of players happened to open it on Day 30. For those unaware of how rolling retention differs from other forms of retention, this sudden boost could lead to confusion. Still, it may be useful in cases where you place importance on the fact that your app was, indeed, opened again after a certain point, rather than about determining exact falloff points for users.
Here’s how to calculate rolling retention:
(Total number of users who last opened your game on or after Day X) / (Total number of users who first opened the game on Day 0) = Rolling retention
Bracket retention works the same as Day X retention, while allowing for more variety when a user is considered “retained.” For example, the typical Day X retention milestones of Day 1, Day 7, and Day 30 count a user as retained if they open your game on those exact days. The first bracket of a bracket retention analysis could also be Day 1, then the next Day 2 to 5, then Day 6 to 10, as well as Day 11 to 20. A fully retained user would open the app any time within each of those brackets.
So, when would bracket retention be useful? Say your game intentionally spaces out chunks of content over time, but it isn’t important that players go through that content immediately upon its availability – just that they access it within a few days or weeks. You can set up custom brackets to see how each content rollout phase impacts retention.
Bracket retention is calculated the same way as Day X retention (shown above), with users “retained” for a bracket if they opened the game at any point in its duration.
With these metrics in your toolbox, you’ll be well-equipped to evaluate your mobile game retention tactics. When in doubt, look at your Day X retention, find the relevant windows for your own player journey, and proceed from there.
While these tools are a handy way to track your progress, the bad news is that there’s no single solution for building player retention. On a positive note, however, you’ve already handled the hard part: making a great game that’s fun to play.
If you’d like to help your game reach even more engaged audiences who already have a strong built-in incentive to keep on playing, bring it to the Mistplay platform. Our loyalty app uses an AI-driven recommendation engine to connect players with games they’ll love – then honors their loyalty with rewards that go beyond the game, such as Amazon gift cards.
Reach out to our experts to learn more about how Mistplay can help your app grow retention and foster player loyalty.