Navigating UA and Player Retention Challenges in the Post-IDFA Era

Navigating UA and Player Retention Challenges in the Post-IDFA Era

With the increased competition due to IDFA regulation changes and the continuous influx of new games in the market, publishers and mobile game studios face two major challenges: acquiring new players (user acquisition or UA) and retaining those players in their games (player retention).

King of Avalon’s minigame tutorial and permanent Frost and Tears mode

To address these challenges, publishers and studios are always searching for innovative ways to improve user acquisition and player retention. One strategy that has proven highly effective for boosting both UA and player retention is the implementation of mini-games that feature mechanics different from the game’s core gameplay.

For instance, a casual puzzle game might introduce a reaction-based or thinking-based hyper-casual mini-game, while a mid-core RPG could incorporate a fully-fledged side mode with core gameplay elements from a completely different genre.

Since the IDFA changes, mini-games have gained significant popularity, especially among casual and mid-core games. Current popularity data of the top 200 grossing games in the US market reveals that 23% of casual games and 47% of mid-core games are utilizing mini-games. This highlights their importance, particularly in achieving success within the mid-core gaming space.

Implementing mini-games in your game offers several benefits, although the specific advantages may vary depending on how you utilize them. Firstly, mini-games serve as a great way to enhance engagement by providing players with new and exciting ways to enjoy the existing game. They can also be used as a means to test player responses to new gameplay mechanics, allowing for potential integration of these mechanics as permanent features within the core gameplay loop.

Furthermore, incorporating mini-games into your game presents an opportunity to introduce new monetization elements. For example, a puzzle mini-game may include consumable boosters or rewarded ads to assist players during levels, while a more complex standalone mini-game could introduce an entirely new monetized meta layer.

One significant advantage of mini-games is the ability to experiment with new genres, thereby broadening the appeal of your game to a wider audience. This expansion can lead to a larger player base and reduced reliance on UA targeting since the inclusion of mini-games makes your game relevant to a broader range of players.

Regarding UA, many of the top-grossing games opt to implement hyper-casual-like simple yet addictive mini-games and incorporate them into powerful ad creatives as part of their comprehensive marketing efforts. These mini-games can often be observed in advertisements for mobile games on social channels, such as Austin’s Bad Dream in Gardenscapes.

Moving on, let’s explore different archetypes of mini-games and examine how some of the top-performing games have successfully implemented these modes to reap the aforementioned benefits.

There are four main archetypes for mini-games, ranging from UA-boosting to retention-increasing:

  1. UA creative mini-game levels (pure UA approach): These mini-games typically feature a simple but captivating gameplay mechanic and are predominantly used in ad creatives to enhance UA and engage players through tutorial levels. Examples include Royal Match’s King’s Nightmare levels and Playrix’s match-3 games Gardenscapes and Fishdom.
  2. UA creative mini-game as a side mode (hybrid approach): Taking the first archetype further, these mini-games serve as a permanent side mode, combining the UA creative approach with the goal of increasing player retention. Notable examples include the idle RPG X-Hero’s SaveDoge mode and the 4X strategy game King of Avalon’s Frost & Tears campaign mode.
  3. Proper mini-games in live events (retention approach): These mini-games are typically integral parts of the game, supporting the main gameplay or event loop. They often offer more depth compared to UA-focused mini-games and are primarily used to introduce refreshing game mechanics from other popular genres, thereby boosting engagement and long-term retention.

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