Five Things Your Free-To-Play Game Should Have (And You Should Track)

July 28, 2015

When creating a free-to-play (F2P) game, most developers focus on tracking the obvious: number of downloads, installs, and in-app purchases. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on these metrics, it is important to study how your players are interacting with your game by receiving details on the performance of specific elements.

This will help you make the necessary tweaks and adjustments you otherwise wouldn’t know you needed. For example, realizing that no one is trying to complete your game’s achievements can say a lot about their level of difficulty or fun. As we’ll mention later, achievements can even affect how many people stick around long enough to use your cash shop.

Below are five ways to help you see which parts of your game are acting strongly, and which are making you lose players.

1. Have stages to complete

The first one on this list is perhaps the most important because it could be the easiest way to compare players based on their level of skill and progress. Although time-based measures can sometimes be effective, you may not receive very useful information if you’re comparing data from a player who just installed your game with someone who has been checking it out for a month or two. And since outside factors such as poor internet, or gamers who multitask while playing games, can mess up your time-based data, developers with experience instead recommend stages, levels, or whatever you’d like to call them.

Stages are perfect because they allow you to measure different groups of players based on their progress. You can then see which stages need to be toned down in terms of difficulty, especially when a low percent of the players that completed the previous stage are able to complete the one in question. The more stages your players check out, the more likely they are to invest at the cash shop.

2. Analyze the First Time User Experience (FTUE)

Studies show that most players tend to open up a F2P game and only play it a few minutes before deciding if it’s worth keeping or not. That is why it’s very important to track the user flow during this initial time, and see at what point players lose interest. Like we previously said, the longer someone plays your game, the more likely they are to buy something with actual currency. The best way to track the FTUE of your game is by either flagging certain events the first time they appear, or having players go through a specific sequence of events.

For example, you can set it up so that you know when players install the game, open the title screen, start and complete the tutorials, collect the post-tutorial reward, start the first stage, complete the first stage, and so on. If a large percentage of players stop playing during your tutorials, you know there’s something that needs to change.

3. Know what players are buying

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing that a good number of players like your game enough to spend their hard-earned virtual currency on new stages, items, and more. Of course, it’s even more thrilling when that virtual currency was obtained by paying actual money, and not just grinding for it in-game. Either way, you should keep track of how many players are earning your game’s currency by playing the game and how many are doing in-app purchases.

Like many popular F2P games, such as Clash of Clans, your game probably gives (or will give) players two options for earning currency: pay actual money or perform certain goals that earn you the currency. And like Clash of Clans, you want to design a perfect balance between the two so that players keep coming back never feel like the only way to truly enjoy the game is by paying real cash.

4. Ask them to link their social media sites

You’re not likely to find an F2P game that doesn’t ask you to link your Facebook, Twitter, or other social network profile to the game. This feature is very useful to developers, as it not only allows players to invite others to the game, which is a great way to gain popularity, but it also gives them access to specific demographic information.

The reason you want to track his is simple: if no one is linking their social media profiles with your game, then perhaps the incentive isn’t enough. In other words, you should be giving them rewards for doing so to increase the chances of it happening. Study which rewards convince players to link their profiles so that you have a better chance of drawing in new players.

5. Have achievements or objective system

A good number of F2P games feature achievements that are not necessary to progress further, but allow players to give themselves a pat on the back and feel good. If there’s one thing that Gamerscores, Trophies, and Steam Achievements have taught developers over the last decade, it’s that gamers love receiving that sense of over-achieving, and being able to show it off as well.

So what do achievements have to do with earning profits via a F2P model? Simply put, players that find your achievements interesting enough to try and complete are more likely to spend money in your cash shop. This is because they will spend more time in the game and get more invested, which usually results in buying items that will help them earn the remaining achievements.

[su_note]Dream of becoming a game designer? Learn more about the School of Game Design at the New York Film Academy. [/su_note]