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5 best practices for maximizing long-term player value with Unity Analytics
Learn how minimizing user acquisition costs and maximizing player value can lead to a strong lifetime value metric.

Value for player and creator

The value a player is looking for in a game might be quite different from what the creator wants and needs, but that doesn’t mean they are at odds with each other.

Monitoring your players' in-game pain points, balancing your rewards to help progression at a stable rate, and striving to get your players in a “flow” state can push your game towards long-term success where your players want to play and the studio can thrive.

But how is this done? Let’s dive deeper into strategies you can implement into your game.

What is lifetime value?

Lifetime value, or LTV, refers to the amount a player pays you over their tenure in the game. This generally includes revenue generated from in-game ad placements as well as in-app purchases. It may also take into account customer virality – indirect revenue generated via referral, word of mouth, or the size of their social media presence.

There are numerous ways to calculate LTV, some simple and some more complex. Here we will use a simple definition of average revenue per daily active user (across ads and in-app purchases) multiplied by the total number of days played. 

LTV = ARPDAU x total days played

Generally speaking this is a prediction of LTV, as the calculation is done before a player finishes their tenure in the game. Using historical performance from the past year or more, along with assuming both your game and the market are the same at both points in time. By using both historic and current player data, you can predict LTV.

This calculation can then be applied to various player segments to understand how certain user behaviors influence their overall value. Segmenting your users by acquisition channel allows you to see which channels are most valuable and ensure low acquisition costs for your team.

A good LTV should be higher than your customer acquisition cost. This can be done by acquiring new players.

1. Control the flow state to improve retention

There is obvious value for having someone play your game continuously and trying to find new ways to add extra days to their playtime. This ensures players are enjoying and engaging with your game along with increased potential for IAPs and the number of ads that can be shown.

However, that doesn't mean you just go all-in and give your players the tools to fly through your game with no problems. The game needs to be challenging enough to be interesting, but not so much that it becomes frustrating.

The golden mean here is the "flow state" developers should look for to get their players to enjoy their game at a good pace, provide monetization opportunities for creators, and prevent churn.

Try experimenting with different game difficulty levels to find an optimal balance between keeping players around and between having them spend real money to get past roadblocks. A/B Testing level difficulty and generosity will help achieve this balance and gain better control over the core “flow” state.

Using A/B testing, your team can determine various early game experiences to ensure the first time user experience is as optimal as possible. Try adjusting the length of the tutorial, its difficulty, or even adjusting the contents of a starter pack given to players after their first IAP.

2. Give struggling players a helping hand

Funnels are a great way to understand your players’ journeys and identify bottlenecks in your gameplay experience and insert a timely offer to incentivize purchase.

For example, with puzzle games, creating a “Level_Completion” funnel, you can identify high drop-off levels or levels with high completion time. With this information, you can use the advice above and smooth out the difficulty spike or even offer limited-time power-ups to overcome the hurdle and maintain the flow state.

If a player does make a purchase, it is then generally good practice to follow up with some slightly easier levels to return them to that optimal flow state. You can also add them to a nurturing campaign with regular, higher-price offers, detailed below.

You can find more information on measuring the payer journey here.

3. Reward and nurture your spenders

According to Unity Mobile Insights 2022, a maximum of 1.8% of daily active users make an IAP. With that in mind, once you have a player who has made an in-app purchase, it pays to reward them with as smooth and enjoyable an experience as possible.

In the example above, players who purchase a booster to help them through a particularly difficult level may experience serious frustration if they then continue to struggle with subsequent levels, increasing their risk of churn. Tailoring the difficulty of the game can help players feel that their purchase was worth it, and can incentivize repeat purchases in the future.

You can also consider tailoring your ad strategy for spenders. An aggressive ads strategy can drive players away from the game, so when you do manage to get a spender, it is a good idea to remove all interstitial ads for that player. This can keep them playing for longer and encourage repeat purchases.

Make use of segmentation to identify your spenders, and add them to a campaign with more targeted offers. Conversely, add your non-spenders to a different campaign where they will be targeted with low-price, high-value offers to incentivize that first purchase.

The trick here is to find a balance between incentivizing purchases and simply spamming players with constant offers. Remember that you want to nurture these players, not drive them away with constant pop-ups.

4. Optimize your ad strategy

Since only a fraction of players spend money on IAPs, in-game ads are a solid way to derive value from your players. Find a balance that maximizes revenue potential of your players without being so aggressive, causing them to churn.

This requires experimentation and iteration and is especially effective when different strategies are applied to different player audiences.

Here are some things you can test to maximize revenue from ads:

  • Interstitial ad frequency:
    • Should you show an ad after every level? Every third level? Experiment with different frequencies to find the sweet spot where players will consume the ads without feeling spammed and leaving the game.
  • Generosity of rewarded ads:
    • Rewarded ads give players an incentive to watch in order to receive an in-game reward, such as currency, power-ups, speed-ups etc. Try offering different currency amounts to see which are most enticing to users. If the offer isn’t tempting enough, they are unlikely to click, however if the offer is too generous it can cannibalize any possibility of the player spending real money.
  • Turn off ads for spenders:
    • As mentioned in the previous section, a player who spends once is more likely to do it again. Consider improving their gameplay experience by removing ads for this cohort of players. This will hopefully keep them in the game and encourage repeat purchase.
  • Timing of first ad shown:
    • It is generally a good idea not to show any ads during the player’s onboarding, but at which point can you introduce ads into the player experience? Experiment with different surfacing points to see which has the lowest risk of churn

The Unity Gaming Services Game Overrides allow you to A/B test your ad strategy and segment your player-base, and Unity’s Partner Managers can advise on optimum ad placement strategy.

Give players a reason to keep playing
5. Give players a reason to keep playing

If you want to maximize player value, through ads or IAPs, then those players need to keep playing. Daily rewards are a good way to encourage players to return each day, particularly if the reward value increases on each subsequent day. Combine this with a “battle pass” model or even incentivize an early in-app purchase.

Having a constant flow of content and information about what is coming up will keep players engaged. New missions, levels, puzzles, and seasonal content will keep the game feeling fresh. And the longer players stay, the more chance they have of spending or consuming ads.

Live ops strategies can give players something to stick around for tournaments, regular limited-time events, and leaderboards can add elements of competition to single-player game experiences, giving players another aspirational goal in addition to simple game progression.

Combine all of the above with a solid push notification strategy to alert players of new content, events, or rewards drops so players will be enticed to return to the game and play regularly. If your team is looking to deploy new content regularly, Unity’s Cloud Content Delivery service can be used to build, store and manage your content strategy.