In 2016, consumers spent $41 billion on mobile games, surpassing PC and consoles as the largest game segment. Individually, mobile gamers spend an average of $87 per year on in-app purchases and up to $550 annually on top grossing games, like Game of War: Fire Age.
How are game publishers able to keep customers so engaged? In Iterable’s 2017 User Engagement Top 100 Report, we analyzed the push messaging strategies adopted by the top 100 freemium iOS games in the U.S. (as ranked by the Apple App Store) to study how they communicate with their customers.
We note how and when pushes were sent, as well as how push strategy varied by game genre. For the purpose of this study, each game was categorized as either Puzzle, Simulation, Sports/Arcade, or RPG.
Here are the key takeaways about the push notification strategies of the top 100 freemium mobile games.
Push notifications are a widely adopted way to message players: 81 of the top 100 freemium mobile games sent at least one push to users. Of those games, 75 percent requested permission to send push notifications immediately after launching the app.
It’s not a common practice to wait to request permission. Only 12 percent of games asked to send pushes after opening the app a second time, 8 percent requested after a third app launch and the remaining 5 percent asked after playing a fourth session.
Once permission was granted, then the floodgates opened. Over the course of two weeks, we received 1,817 total push notifications from all 100 mobile games, for an average of about 18 messages per game or 1.3 messages per game per day.
However, a few outliers that messaged most frequently skewed this data: the median number of pushes was only six per game. This amounted to one push being sent by each game every 2.3 days.
Because app usage drops off precipitously in the days after an initial download, it’s no wonder why most mobile games request to send push notifications immediately. Don’t wait to communicate!
A closer look at the data revealed greater variance between game genres. Role playing games were by far the most active in regards to push messaging, while simulation games sent the fewest number of pushes.
Of the total number of notifications received by all 100 games, 61 percent came from RPGs. 29 percent were sent by sports/arcade games, 6 percent by puzzle games and 4 percent by simulation games.
Notably, the genre distribution of the top 100 does not mirror push frequency. Although RPGs sent the majority of pushes, they only consist of 34 percent of the leading games, followed by sports/arcade (30 percent), puzzle (23 percent) and simulation (13 percent).
Even within RPGs, several outliers skewed the results: the average number of pushes sent in two weeks was approximately 32.5 per game, but the median number was only about 5.5 per game. The other genres were more consistent, with the average number of push notifications ranging from approximately 5 per sports/arcade game to 17 per puzzle game.
Because messaging strategy can differ widely even within an industry, it’s important to set expectations early. Ask your users what types of messages they’d like to receive to avoid a dropoff in push permission acceptance.
While push messaging strategy varies by game genre, it is also determined by the level of user activity across the lifecycle. It seems that it is difficult for mobile game publishers to message users in real-time: the data shows that the number of pushes increases in the 24-48 hours after a user opens the app.
Over the course of two weeks, messaging was lowest on day zero when the app was downloaded. Only 43 push notifications were sent on this day, presumably because permissions had just been granted. Afterward, message frequency ebbed and flowed like the tide, depending on how active the user had been.
We logged into each game on days zero, four, eight and 11, typically when push frequency was low. Push notifications then spiked in the days after, with a peak of 187 total messages received on day six.
However, when drilling deeper into the data, it becomes clearer that this messaging trend across the user lifecycle is determined primarily by RPGs. There is less variation over time with sports/arcade games, and the push frequency of puzzle and simulation games is even more consistent.
More specifically, a few timing glitches caused the spikes in RPG activity. On day six, Mobile Strike single-handedly disrupted overall trends with 50 simultaneous pushes that all read, “You’ve received an Alliance Gift!”
These outlying incidents may be a technical issue of the game publisher, Machine Zone. Another of its role-playing games, Game of War: Fire Age, sent an onslaught of notifications with the same message.
It can be difficult for game publishers to personalize messages with specific user data when player progress can change so rapidly. The right growth marketing technology can make real-time response easier by simplifying segmentation and scheduling.
Acquiring new users is challenging, but to achieve rapid business growth, it’s just as important to engage those users with targeted content. Whether you’re developing a mobile game or marketing it, optimizing your push messaging strategy is essential to strengthening customer loyalty and boosting ROI.
Download The 2017 User Engagement Top 100 Report: Mobile Gaming to learn more. Contact us to learn how Iterable empowers B2C growth marketers to create world-class user engagement campaigns throughout the full lifecycle, and across all channels.