For those who don’t know, my background is in computer games and my current role is with mobile games and the free to play model. We are having a very interesting discussion with a games publisher about retention. I know that this will not be relevant to everyone, but hopefully I can make a point about being obsessed with hitting certain arbitrary targets.
Most free to play games companies measure player retention at day 1, 7 and 30 because the longer you keep your players the more value they add and this theory is broadly applicable to all communities. Retaining members/players should be more important than recruiting new members right? Maybe not.
Take for example a game that gets 10,000 downloads a day and has a 30 day retention rate of 20% over a game that has 50,000 downloads a day and a 30 day retention of 10%.
Now a publisher might be saying, 10% retention is not good enough, it needs to be higher. We are obviously attracting a lot of people, but not enough are sticking around, what can we change? But does change really need to happen when the overall figure is better? In the above scenario, the game with better retention is less profitable than the one with poorer retention.
So the actual questions should be, why is the game with poorer retention getting more downloads? and how can we get more downloads for the game with the higher retention? and in an ideal world we would want to look at how to further boost retention without harming downloads.
Now the reason for posting this is that we are currently chatting with a publisher who is obsessed with hitting retention targets and this obsession is going to end up costing them a lot of money in the long run. Retention is important, but it’s certainly shouldn’t be the only thing to consider. Sometimes we need to step back and see the bigger picture, a lot of people can be obsessed with making sure their community hits certain targets and this obsession could ultimately harm the long term prospects.