Appsee Mobile Analytics recently conducted research in which 100 gaming apps were examined in order to deeply understand user retention, return rate after the first session, and the average time between sessions.

2015 is all about the app. App usage (i.e. number of user sessions) grew 76% year over year – a staggering figure. The focus today, however, is specifically on gaming apps. According to research by Statista conducted in 2015, the game category is the most popular category in the Apple App Store with a 22.21% share of available apps.

Gaming apps have seen a 30% growth YOY in the number of user sessions, after having seen a 61% increase the year before. There is no doubt that games are dominating the app world and that the options for games seem endless. For app game creators, the number is also somewhat frightening because competition is so fierce.

Low User Retention for Gaming Apps

We assessed how well gaming apps performed when it came to user retention, looking at the one-day, one-week, and one-month user-retention rates. Looking at the one-week rate, for example, will show you the percentage of users who returned to use the app during the second week after the initial week of use.

User retention Rate - Gaming App

As indicated in the graph, it is clear that the retention rate for each of the time frames is relatively low and decreases incrementally with time.

The reasons for low user retention of gaming apps may include the following:

  • Traffic Source – The reality is that a lot depends on the source of traffic. In the case of games, users are often acquired and most of them tend to be actually less interested and less relevant. These users are not particularly interested in the app to begin with and more likely to skip out after one or two visits. Users who researched the app and downloaded the app on their own accord are the ones who will probably stick around longer, likely filling up that 22% user retention you see after one month.
  • Poor Onboarding Experience – Apps get one chance to impress a user and the likelihood of a user returning after a poor initial experience is extremely low. App makers need to make sure to perfect their app’s onboarding experience so users are: a) clear on how to use the app and b) do not experience any technical problems that may inhibit their desire to revisit.
  • Users Expectations Not Met – Sometimes, a user simply is not satisfied with what the game has to offer or the app does not deliver what the user had expected. In some cases, an app might even miscommunicate the benefits it provides.
  • Fierce Competition – Most gaming apps are free, thus when a user does not have to pay for downloading the app, they will have less qualms about abandoning it after, especially when there are so many other options out there for entertainment. Also, because price does not serve as a main point of differentiation, apps must instead focus on how they can deliver the best mobile UX and unique value.

First Impressions Matter: 24% Never Returned

When focusing on users’ first impressions of the app and how they react to it, we see that nearly 1/4 of users never returned to it the app after their first session. The relatively low return rate correlates with the low user retention rates seen above and may be attributed to the same reasons.

Return Rate - Gaming App

Engaged Users Stick Around

The final graph studies the average time between sessions, paying close attention to how long it takes a user to return to using the app between the first and second session, the second and third session, and so on.

Average Time Between Sessions - gaming Apps

From here we learn that even though there is low user retention, the users who choose to stick around tend to be very engaged. The decrease in intervals, such as the 14-hour interval between the first and the second session compared to 11.5-hour interval between the fourth and fifth session seen above, show that down the line users visit the app with greater frequency.

Final Remarks

The core take-aways from all this is that companies need to do their best to deliver great UX overall and fully improve their onboarding experiences to keep users from leaving. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance that you create a game that your target audience will ultimately love. Even a game with the greatest onboarding experience will lose users if the game is not fun, unique, or interesting. First impressions count a lot in the app world, so app makers need to make sure that the UX is top-rate and the game is appealing enough at the time of release to avoid giving users a reason to jump ship. Create something so great that users will have no choice but to keep coming back.


* * This article originally appeared on the Appsee Blog