October 20, 2023
3 key findings
Acquiring mobile gamers has become more difficult and expensive year over year, with 2022 being particularly challenging for gaming app growth. While Q1 of 2023 showed a hopeful 7% growth in installs, it’s clear that maximizing your current users’ retention and lifetime value (LTV) is essential for success in the modern mobile gaming landscape.
The effectiveness of advertising, gameplay loops, monetization, LiveOps, and other engagement methods all feed into how likely your user base is willing to keep playing and paying – ultimately, indicating how loyal they are to your game. That means loyalty is critical to sustainable and profitable growth in today’s mobile gaming industry.
To help mobile game publishers better understand the current state of player loyalty in mobile gaming, Mistplay has launched the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report. This report aims to uncover how different genres stack up in garnering player loyalty, along with new gaming insights on how players discover, play, and spend in mobile games today.
Below, we cover three key gaming insights from the report focused on what genres drive player loyalty, why players play and spend, and what influences their decision to install a game.
Mistplay’s 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report highlights key game trends through a quantitative analysis of millions of gamers across 500+ unique mobile titles in the Mistplay ecosystem, combined with a qualitative look at player behavior derived from a survey of 3,000+ of those gamers.
The Mistplay loyalty rating is a holistic score encompassing each genre’s rating across six key metrics – three monetization-based and three engagement-based KPIs explicitly picked to evaluate the depth and breadth of player loyalty across mobile gaming genres.
In the 2023 Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report, we use all of these metrics to identify monetization and engagement game trends across different mobile genres.
RPG games garner the most loyalty of all mobile game genres, achieving a loyalty rating of 75 out of 100. Strategy (70), Simulation (67), and Lifestyle (61) are the runners-up, as all these genres successfully keep players coming back to play – and spend – in their related titles.
Mobile RPGs are also the most consistently loyal genre, ranking within the top three across four of the monetization and engagement metrics. Insights from Data.ai show that RPGs lead in mobile game consumer spend, totaling $25.5B and accounting for 31% of in-app purchase (IAP) spend worldwide in 2022. With deep gameplay experiences to navigate, all part of a clear progression, RPG players spend more, spend more often, and play more frequently with longer sessions than nearly all other genres.
Mobile RPGs often feature deep, immersive gaming experiences where there’s always something to do – from exploration to multiplayer gameplay and well-balanced meta-games providing rotational content, new challenges, and energy refills, all timed to elicit a feeling of endless content per session.
Pocket Tactics’ article on the best mobile RPGs of 2023 explains that the top titles in the genre feature common tropes also present in PC and Console RPGs. There are open worlds to explore, compelling stories to unravel, well-rounded characters to interact with, and complex mechanics and systems to get engrossed in. The article further explains that these deep experiences don’t always translate well to 100% free-to-play, but players can get a lot of bang for their buck when spending in the immersive, compelling worlds mobile RPGs offer.
👀 Related reading: Cracking the code to player loyalty: 4 metrics driving LTV
What keeps players returning to their favorite games, time after time? A feeling of progression.
In our survey of engaged mobile gamers, players shared that the top two reasons they continue playing a game is their desire to continue progressing (57%) and to avoid abandoning their progress (50%). On the flip side, progression (or lack thereof) also drives player churn, with over half of mobile gamers reporting that they stop playing a game if they can no longer achieve progress.
As Udonis details, progression systems in your mobile game keep players hooked by creating a compelling journey of growth and excitement. But progression can look different across every genre – from collections systems to leveling up characters.
In RPGs, progressing might mean unlocking the next quest or leveling up your character. In Simulation games, it could mean unlocking a new set of cosmetic items to further customize your virtual playground. But regardless of the specific mechanics that drive it, ensuring your players feel like they’re advancing through the game is crucial to maintaining their engagement. Sunk cost fallacy is working in your favor here, as they don’t want to abandon those achievements.
And players won’t only spend time to progress in your titles – they’ll also spend money. Well over half of mobile spenders (65.7%) report that the desire to progress further in the game and reach new milestones is a significant reason for their spending. By strategically offering consumable boosts, unlockable content, and limited-time items for purchase, you can encourage players to continue playing and spending in your titles over an extended period.
Developing player loyalty requires examining and optimizing all steps of the user journey, but it starts from the very first ad impression. With half of all players choosing to install a game within a few days of first seeing an ad, making a positive first impression is vital. And one major thing players look for is truth in advertising, with 71.7% of mobile gamers reporting that it’s important to see actual gameplay footage in ads.
The use of fake gameplay in ads may not only be ineffective for UA, but it could even get your ads banned – which is exactly what happened to Playrix in October 2020, when they became the first publisher to have their misleading ads banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). As Omdia games analyst, Matthew Bailey, states:
“It would not be surprising for a publisher to target certain types of gamers with ads featuring the more competitive and problem-solving elements of their title, even if they don’t make up the bulk of gameplay. However, an increasing number of gamers are becoming annoyed with irrelevant, misleading, and badly implemented mobile game ads.”
That annoyance can go beyond the ad footage as well, with 36.7% of players ignoring and disengaging with all advertising when they play – regardless of how enticing the ad or game looks.
When a player does click through to your app store listing, the sentiment from other players is a significant driver in whether or not they’ll actually install the game. Roughly 60% of players believe that star ratings (59.6%) and written reviews (61.9%) are important when considering downloading a new title from the Google Play Store – with over 30% saying they’re very important.
But what star rating is acceptable? Surprisingly, the average lowest-acceptable star rating for most players is a 3. Anything lower than that, and the chances of them downloading your game diminish significantly. Some players are even pickier, with more than one in three requiring 4 stars or above.
With reviews and ratings being so crucial in the decision-making process, all teams must work together to focus on delivering quality gameplay, customer service, and content updates to keep the ratings and reviews positive.
To stay ahead of this requirement, check out App Radar’s guide on creating an app rating and review strategy that covers everything from requesting reviews to designing prompts and tracking success.
From top genres for building loyalty to motivations for play and churn, this is just a taste of the gaming insights uncovered in our new Mobile Gaming Loyalty Report.
Our Loyalty Index and Loyalty Survey insights highlight the multiple levers that publishers can push to maximize retention and monetization, pulling from the successful trends of top genres and direct input from players.
To better understand the state of player loyalty in today’s mobile gaming landscape, jump into our full report to discover what makes the top genres the best at garnering loyalty and what drives player motivation, spending habits, and retention. Download the report to get actionable insights on how to grow your player loyalty and drive LTV in 2024 and beyond.