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Support their autonomy

Working on player retention is always a challenge. You must be careful with all the levers you touch. By concentrating on one you can inadvertently change another.

As a general rule, I always recommend thinking in the long term. Very often to improve player retention on the first days, we offer just external motivators. Daily bonus, shop bonus, special offer, weekly tournament.

Anything that controls players’ autonomy is to the detriment of their intrinsic motivation.

  • “Come in every day for 7 days and you’ll get this”,
  • “Hey, check the shop now”
  • “Watch this ad, double your coins”

Especially that part of Players that enjoys our game, can see their internal motivation shrink. This translates into lower long-term retention (60, 90 days).

There are games with low short-term retention compared to the average. Those manage to retain players in the long term because those who stay motivated.

Why do match-3s work well in the long term?

  1. They offer a very intuitive mechanic: combine 3 or more elements of the same type in line to match
  2. Every match counts because it can unlock a cascade
  3. Players can create power-ups: special tiles that help them towards their goals.

Feeling that you can create power-ups with your ability is great for intrinsic motivation. There are many elements that support the autonomy of Players.

If we add rewards and bonuses for playing a match-3, we will see that D1 retention increases. But the intrinsic motivation of our PRO Players, true fans, can decrease.

If we add mechanics to support and encourage player autonomy, in the short term things can get complicated. This can mean lower D1-D3 retention. But in the long term, we could have a more stable curve.

It is much easier to think about rewards, deadlines (tournaments), and bonuses. But the art of game design is a Swiss army knife that offers many tools. If you see that in your pipeline there are only new bonuses and tournaments to develop, ask yourself: “how will that affect the long term retention?”.

Published inGame Design

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