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While in-game events can truly cover the gamut, from special, limited-time characters to tournaments, all good ones have one thing in common: they have a dramatic positive effect on revenues. In my last post on LTV, I touched on how using in-game events can be beneficial, but I’d like to talk here in more detail. If you think both creatively and strategically, you can host events that will affect engagement, re-engagement, retention, and your bottom line.
But first: what qualifies as an in-game event?
An in-game event is really anything that you build that allows players to interact with your game in a new, exciting way, for a limited time. Some of the most successful include tournaments; limited-time, themed characters; new, limited-time obstacles or challenges; and even celebrity appearances. The best in-game events thrill players with well-designed art and assets. They make the player think, “Oh, cool, I want to do that!” The limited time nature of events inspires the player to re-open an app that may have been neglected, which is no small feat.
What doesn’t qualify as an in-game event? An interstitial or banner ad offering a reduced rate on currency, or a push notification with a seasonal special offer. While these can be beneficial, those are qualified as re-engagement campaigns and don’t have the same impact of an inspired in game event.
What you can expect from a good in-game event
At AppLovin, we’ve seen in-game events increase retention, IAPs, and ultimately LTV.
A good in-game event can also improve your app-store ranking dramatically. We’ve seen games that were very successful, but had slipped in the charts in terms of gross sales and were languishing near the 20th spot or below. Then they did an in-game event and were immediately in the top ten or even the top five.
For some publishers, much of their recurring revenues can be traced back to in-game events, and in the case of Marvel Puzzle Quest, a comprehensive in-game event strategy rocketed the game’s monetization to $1 ARPDAU. I’ve even heard certain companies mention a $6 ARPDAU for event days.
How to create a successful in-game event
So what are best practices for successful in-game events? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Tip #1: Be creative, and make sure the event is really part of the game. Good in-game events require effort, including putting time into art and assets. Again, your event shouldn’t be just a notification announcing a promotion (e.g. Get 50% off coins if you play on Christmas Eve!) -- it should be something that players can actually do and engage with. Don’t be afraid to surprise your players with something funny or even timely that plays on a recent news event. A great example of this is when Imangi created characters for rival football quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick for its game Temple Run 2.
Tip #2: Make sure that the event gives players something that they want. It’s not enough for an in-game event to just be smart, creative, and well designed. It also needs to help give players something that they want, like progression to the next level or the reward of extra currency.
Tip #3: Make sure you can do events server-side. This is just good practice in general, but particularly for game events, make sure you can do updates server-side so you don’t get held up in the approval process. You can also remove the events when the time is right. Also, if you do events server-side, then you can be really nimble and respond quickly to anything that comes up, like a Pizza Rat-centric promotion. Lastly, one other real advantage is fine-tuning live events as they happen to make sure certain numbers of people reach each milestone and it remains a truly social experience throughout.
Tip #4: Pay special attention to holidays and events and plan accordingly. With Halloween and the holiday season coming up (and football and basketball season!) it’s important to start thinking ahead about enticing events. While of course in-game events can vary as much as games themselves, if we’re to think about just Halloween-themed examples, a casino game developer could launch a version of a slots game with creative featuring witches and ghosts; an adventure game could introduce a Headless Horseman for players to dodge; or a multiplayer game could create whole new environment riddled with zombies.
Tip #5: Host events often and regularly, and build a community. Ideally you should do an event a month at the very least, not including holiday-related events. Some developers do them as often as every two weeks. Look to the casino genre -- those publishers are great at hosting events and building communities around their games. Casino games are ultimately the same; the rules in poker and blackjack are what they are. There are only so many ways to set yourself apart if you have a casino game, and fostering a community with fun, social events is one of them.
So while in-game events can take some advance planning and investment in creative, they’re a great way to increase your revenues and customer LTV. Don’t be afraid to surprise your players with something a little unexpected, make sure there’s something in it for them, keep it server-side, and stick to a schedule. And don’t forget that well-executed in-game events can not only increase revenues, but also generate positive buzz in the game-playing community.