What is game retention?


Game retention is a metric that indicates how effectively your game engages players and gets them to return. It’s always measured over time, and represents the percentage of users who continue playing 1 day, 30 days, or even 180 days after install. Let’s explore why player retention is crucial, how to measure it, game retention statistics, and top game retention strategies.

Why is game retention so important? 

Player retention is crucial to understanding your game's overall health and estimating its long-term success.

High player retention rates suggest that your game is consistently delivering a compelling and rewarding experience, encouraging players to invest their time - and possibly money. Meanwhile, low game retention rates (if you aren’t a niche midcore genre) often indicate your gameplay and player experience needs adjustment - and quick. This could be a simple fix, like better explaining the game mechanics in your onboarding experience, or a more serious overhaul, like rethinking your core loop.  

Since retention is one half of the lifetime value (LTV) equation, higher game retention rates also mean a longer average user lifetime and a higher LTV - in other words, more mobile game monetization

So, how do you know whether your game has a good or bad game retention rate? First you have to know what your retention is.

How to measure game retention percentage 

Calculating your game retention percentage is a multi-step process: 

Step 1: Choose between bounded vs. unbounded game retention

First, it’s important to understand the difference between bounded and unbounded game retention, and choose the right one for your game. Hint: it’s almost always going to be bounded retention.

  • Bounded retention, or N-day retention, measures the percentage of users who engage ON a specific day post install. For example, if you’re measuring Day 30 retention, you would calculate how many users played your game ON day 30 post install - it doesn’t matter if a player engaged on day 29 or day 31. Usually, if you’re benchmarking, N-day retention is your gold standard. 
  • Unbounded retention, or rolling retention, measures the percentage of users who engage AFTER a specific day post install. For example, if you’re measuring Day 30 rolling retention, you would calculate how many users played your game on day 30 and beyond - day 31, day 32, and so on. If you want some extra information about your player’s habits, measure bounded retention and compare it to unbounded retention.

Step 2: Decide the time frame

Be sure to measure your game retention percentage with time in mind. Day 1, day 7, and day 30 retention rates are the most common measurements, but you can also turn your attention to longer-term KPIs like day 360 or even day 720. The time frame you measure will tell you something different about your game’s flow and mechanics. 

  • Day 1 player retention is a great indicator of whether users understand your core mechanic and how well your onboarding experience kicks off the game flow.
  • Day 7 player retention informs whether your game’s basic economy can sustain engagement.
  • Day 30 player retention tells you whether you have enough content and social systems to drive engagement in the long-term.

Step 3: Calculate it!

Once you’ve decided on bounded or unbounded game retention and chosen your time frame, it’s time for the calculation. Divide the number of players who engaged with your game N-days after install by the total number of players who downloaded your game on that same install date, and then multiply by 100. 

(# of players engaging on Day N / # of players who installed) * 100 = game retention percentage

So, for example, if 100 players installed your game, and 20 of them returned on day 30, your 30-day game retention rate would be 20%.

(20 / 100) * 100 = 20%

Mobile game retention benchmarks

With a simple Google search, you’ll find many mobile game retention benchmarks - but be careful blindly focusing on any given figure. For example, according to Mistplay, here are some general game retention statistics:

  • 40% D1 retention
  • 20% D7 retention
  • 10% D30 retention

While these give you benchmarks to aim for, it depends on your game. It can be equally useful to look at top performing games that are similar to yours. For more game retention statistics, check out Game Analytics, Google Games Reports, Data.ai, and Sensor Tower.

Here are some factors to take into account when choosing your mobile game retention benchmarks:

  • Genre: Genres have wildly different mobile game retention benchmarks. For example, a 50% D1 retention is considered low for match-3 games but a 40% D1 retention is great for a midcore strategy game. Similarly, high LTV midcore and casino games don’t need a high D1 retention but want to see their long-term retention rates stay fairly flat, like 4% D90 and 3.6% D180. 
  • Player population: Mobile game retention benchmarks can also vary based on the players you include in the data set. First, look at geography - emerging markets often have lower game retention rates than developed ones, for example. Second, understand what percentage of your users were acquired organically vs paid. In general, users you pay for are more important than organic users, and typically have much higher game retention rates. For example, social casino games usually have a >50% D1 retention for paid users but only a 20% D1 retention for organic users.
  • Stage: Finally, it’s important to look at metrics that will give you a good read of your retention performance no matter the stage of your game. For example, games in soft launch with just the core gameplay and no metasystems shouldn’t expect to have strong long-term retention, and should measure D1 or D3 retention. Meanwhile, massive games that consistently top the charts may have many organic users that aren’t necessarily a good fit, and therefore lower retention - these games should look at D30 and beyond. 

Now, let’s dive into best practices to reach these mobile game retention benchmarks. 

How to increase my retention rate in games?

Here are a few game retention strategies for keeping new players coming back and ensuring old players stay locked in. 

1. Low D1? Tailor your onboarding experience

If you have a low D1 game retention percentage, it could be one of many things, but there are two places to look first - an issue with your onboarding experience or a deeper issue with your core gameplay. Look at drop off triggers and events data to find out what’s actually happening right before users leave your game for good. 

For example, if the issue is with your onboarding experience, double check it’s tailored to the complexity of the game experience - some games are more complicated than others and will require more explanation during onboarding. 

For a complex game genre, like puzzle or strategy games, the onboarding experience should be relatively long to ensure players don’t churn on Day 1 out of confusion. For more intuitive game genres, like slot games, your onboarding should be quick and easy - otherwise, users may drop from boredom before they get a chance to experience your gameplay. 

If that isn’t the issue, it might be worth checking on how well your core, moment-to-moment gameplay is engaging your users. 

2. Low D7-14? Expand your content 

As players spend more time in your game, they’ll attain a higher level of gameplay mastery and skill - getting more acquainted with the basic economy and the core mechanic. If you have a low D7-14 game retention percentage, especially if your game is still in development, players might be enjoying your core gameplay but running out of content. 

A low D7-14 game retention rate could also mean your game lacks a strong metagame to create deeper progression and drive long-term, meaningful engagement - and it may be a sign to expand your offerings, add more meta systems, and give players more reasons to keep playing and stay excited: social systems, progression mechanics, live ops, etc.

First, look at the completion rates for the content in your game, like level types, challenges, or even in-app purchases or micro transactions. Then, expand on the content that’s performing well and add more of it. For example, if players enjoy your premium booster, add variety with new booster unlocks to keep the game’s content engaging and non-repetitive. If you notice that players are enjoying certain types of levels, you could follow in Royal Match’s footsteps and introduce bonus levels that occur periodically throughout the game. 

game retention
Royal Match

The game retention strategies here all come down to understanding what users like about your game and expanding on it. 

3. Low D30+? Spend resources on retaining high-value players

With CPIs rising, more developers are spending resources on retaining existing, high-value players, like those who are still there on Day 30 and beyond. Depending on your game, you might be tracking user retention even up to 3+ years post install. New users are still important, but there are more immediate opportunities retaining your current players, who are often your best and most important spenders. 

There is no one-size-fit-all for improving long-term retention, but there are a few game retention strategies all developers should keep in mind when building a game that engages players beyond D30. 

  • Create deep, long-term systems that make your game meaningful: The system can either be inherent to the gameplay, like skill-based gameplay which enables players to develop mastery. Or it could be extrinsic, like adding a narrative metagame progression. 
  • Drive player loyalty and ownership: Give players a reason to keep playing THIS game over others. For example, with a special status as long-term players, users can accumulate a large collection of premium content they won’t want to leave behind.
  • Develop social systems: Allow users to play with people - like friends or clans. This not only improves the gameplay experience, but drives long-term engagement when users need to show up for their team. 
  • Introduce new content, live ops and events: Likely the most important game retention strategy is ensuring your game stays fresh. Release new narrative elements to your multiplayer title, introduce new character abilities to your strategy game, or switch up the meta of your competitive PvP title. You can also host regular events and conduct active live ops that reward players for staying engaged.

4. Got a game that users are playing? Go D2C!

Maintaining games, adding new content and investing in live ops are great game retention strategies for the long-run, but they’re also expensive. 

Meanwhile, going direct-to-consumer and building a game website is a guaranteed - and easier - way to increase long-term retention. That’s because with more flexibility on the web to create new ways for players to engage with your game, you improve the overall game experience for your highest value players and deepen their affinity with your brand. For example, you can broaden your IP universe with a content hub to host limited time events or create a tier-based loyalty program that rewards playtime, retention, and other in-game activities. 

game retention

Take a look at the game retention strategies top developers use: 

  • Riot Games integrates their broader lore universe (Arkane, KDA, etc.) and competitive esports scene into their player experience.
  • Playtika Rewards offers premium customer service and VIP loyalty tiers for their most engaged players through their web interfaces.
  • The Walking Dead hosts multiplier events that reward users with 5 loyalty points for every $1 spent in the web store - which they can cash in for in-game items. 
  • The Plarium Points Program allows users to play Raid on PC and rewards them with points for their spend there. 

The goal? Ensure high value, long-term players keep coming back to the game and never want to leave. 

Increase your player retention today

Stash can help you set up your own D2C channels and start increasing your game’s retention, engagement, and LTV. Reach out to our team to learn more.

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