5 Ways to Ensure Social Game Players Come Back

Mark Stephens

Bells and whistles are fine: all the bright colours, jazzy jingles and dancing bears that attract players to games, convincing them to download and play a few times. But what convinces them to keep coming back? What gives a game that elusive, semi-addictive quality that compels players to log in every single day?


For that a game needs a little more substance; and there are also a number of tactics that game developers can use to encourage repeat visits.
The below five strategies won’t guarantee you a blockbuster game – but they can certainly help increase player visits.

1. Ease of play – anywhere, anytime

Cross-device and cross-platform support for a game has become a basic requirement. It stands to reason that, as long as your game is good enough in the first place, people will play it more if you give them the opportunity to do so.

In fact, it has already become the ‘norm’ for people to play games on their tablet on the way to work, their smartphone on their way home, and on their PC when they get home.

This presents some major challenges for developers of course, with different SDKs and languages to accommodate, as well as processing powers and screen sizes to consider, but the potential reach (and attraction) of the game is at stake.

2. Create a vested interest

In-game micro-transactions have become a standard way to monetise ‘free-to-play’ social and mobile games. In fact they now account for almost 80 percent of the revenue generated by such games in the US on the App store and Google Play store.

They play another important role within a game too – creating a sense of ‘vested interest.’

Simply, a player who has ‘bought into’ a game through purchases is more likely to want to come back and make the most of his or her money, than a more casual player who comes and goes.

3. Break it up into fun-size pieces

Segmenting a game into short ‘sections’ that allow players to pick it up and put it down is an important element of a social game that encourages repeat visits.

Social games are generally not competing with the console or PC gaming where players can commit hours (or days!) to each session. Breaking the game into bite size pieces is all part of making it attractive to the casual, mobile gamer.


Think of it like a pack of ‘fun-size Snickers’ – rather than tackling a whole full size one before dinner, a bite size one is perfect!

4. Throw down the gauntlet of challenge

I won’t go into this too deeply now as the element of challenge was covered thoroughly in Bacon and Eggs: Social Gaming and Challenge last week.

Suffice to say that challenge is a key ingredient of any game and there are many tools that developers can use to throw down the gauntlet to their players: challenges can be against themselves, other gamers, or the bot and can be introduced through a system of levels, time pressure, increasing complexity, tournaments and so on.

Great games encourage their players to constantly want to improve and to keep coming back to strive for better.

5. Tell them to come back

People like to be told what to do sometimes! Push notifications can remind players that they have an appointment at an in-game event, that an opponent is waiting for them to make their move, or that they are running out of time to collect a reward and it’s time to log back in.

This has been used to notable effect in the pet care and farming games. You know – the chickens are going hungry, and you need to feed them. Such playing on a person’s guilt works a treat!

The idea with this tactic is to make it part of the gamers’ daily routine –the Promised Land for game developers. But don’t forget they can have ‘annoyance’ factor too and you should provider the option to turn notifications off.

You want players to come back – not run away forever.