Red Alert: What to do if your game is the next Pokémon GO (Part 1)

by Sean Webster on Jul 21, 2016

As was the case in many workplaces the past couple of weeks, Pokémon GO was all the talk around the proverbial watercooler here at AppLovin. One colleague spent the past two Sundays running around Golden Gate Park and has caught well over 200 Pokémons, another expressed frustration that a Cubone slipped away before she could nail it, another has competed with his roommate to capture a Pikachu that’s outside his apartment complex, and yet another has set her sights on getting enough candies from Magikarps that one can evolve into a Gyarados.

But as for me, the sudden rise of Pokémon GO got me thinking about what a challenge it can be when your game unexpectedly takes off, and specifically about what to do if your game is climbing in the charts to ensure that you have good retention.

Here’s what I advise:

Revisit your marketing budget. If you have a marketing budget, be prepared to follow up on your success with some additional marketing spend with top partners in the space. For example, you should consider ways to re-engage your existing users. Campaigns that bring them back to your app and keep them playing will help your overall LTV and make for a more engaged player.  And focus on ROI rather than budget if you can — that’s the best, most strategic way to think of marketing spend in this industry, where you get attribution on everything you spend.

In-game events! In-game events like tournaments or limited-time characters and challenges  are great for re-engaging users and getting active users even more excited. The bonus is that they don’t just affect retention — done right, they also affect IAPs because the excitement they generate increases engagement and ultimately LTV. We’ve seen games deploy a comprehensive in-game event strategy propel a game to $1 ARPDAU, and we’ve heard of games getting to $6 ARPDAU with events. All this to say that in-game events should always be in your toolbox, but particularly when you’re on a roll.

Offer incentives. Make sure you offer your users incentive to come back again and again. Rewarded video is a great way to do that, and note that rather than decreasing IAPs, rewarded video often increases them. Another good strategy when it comes to incentives is offering daily bonuses, daily bonus wheels, or game item collection.

Monitor your reviews closely. Of course you want to fix any bugs that reviewers points out, but also be responsive with feature requests: include them in your updates, and then highlight them in re-engagement efforts.

Launch in additional countries. It doesn’t always make sense to localize in other markets, and if a foreign language is involved, localizing can be a tremendous amount of work. But it can also be a relatively quick and easy way to build on your momentum. “Quick fix” countries of course include the UK and Canada if you started in the US market, but New Zealand and Australia can also be good bets. Do your research first to identify the best fits, for example on App Annie.

Use push-notifications for re-engagement. Invite users to unlock a new level or check out a new feature or even use push notifications to let your users know that your game is climbing in the charts.

Be on your game with social media marketing. Make sure you have a community manager on top of Twitter and Facebook, as well as engaged in independent gaming forums. Social media is a great way to keep on top of user issues, and it’s a great way to build a dedicated community that has a positive impact on your LTV.

Having your game make a sudden leap in the charts is an enviable position to be in, but succeeding in that situation can take some finesse. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to great retention. Next week check out Part 2 of this series, where I’ll cover the importance of having a server infrastructure that can handle rapid scaling.

Read Part 2 in this series: Managing Infrastructure Demand

Sean Webster is AppLovin’s senior director of Business Development.

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