We recently released the Mobile Benchmarks for Q3 2015, a collection of engagement stats from across the mobile ecosystem. One surprising discovery we made was just how many users per day gaming apps see on average: up to 10 times as many as other verticals. Since games comprise more than a fifth of all apps, we figured a more detailed look into user behavior would shed some light on this phenomenon.
Low retention rates for the first after-install week, but good mid- to long-term retention
In the Benchmarks report, we found that retention is an issue for apps across all categories. The daily retention metric tells us how many users return to an app on each post-install day. In the following graphic, you can see the varying rates of returning users over the first 30 days after-install. As expected, there is a drop-off across the board where the subgenres of Games range between 20% and 40% of retained users for day 1 after-install (25% to 40% on iOS), and fall to between 5% and 15% of retained users on day 30 after-install.
User retention in Games subgenres, day 1 through 30 after install
The less than 40% of retained users on day 1 after-install shows us that more than half of an average game app’s users do not open their app again after the first day. Of the users that do open the app on day 1 after-install, more than half stop using the app in the first week. However, most users can be retained after that, so that in most of the Games subgenres three quarters of the active users from day 10 after-install are retained on day 30 after-install.
Android games see lower retention rates than iOS games
Take another look at the graph above: throughout almost all subgenres we see lower retention figures for Android than for iOS, starting not long after install. So why do we see slightly lower retention figures among Android users? There are two possible explanations for this trend. Either the difference stems form the apps themselves, with the average iOS app offering a better user experience than its android counterpart, or there are inherent differences between the user groups.
But most games are developed in parallel for Android and iOS, so it’s unlikely that the explanation would stem from differences between the apps. Given that the device types also come at different price points, we think that the Apple users will tend to be older and slightly more conservative in trying out new apps than Android users; and consequently they stick to the apps that they do try out for longer. Android users on the other hand try out more games, leading them to be more trigger-happy with the delete button than iOS users.
Cards & Board games have the best retention
As seen in the graph above, Cards & Board shows the best average retention rates among the Games subgenres: on iOS 20% of the Cards & Board users return on day 10 after-install, and almost 15 % of the users still use the app 30 days after-install.
As for the rest of the Games subgenres, their average retention rates fall into a rough continuum throughout the investigated after-install period of 30 days, but we can see two more rough groups: Brain and Gambling games form a cluster of relatively high retention rates, whereas Action, Strategy, and Family games cluster together in the nether regions of retention rates.
You should also note that for most of the subgenres, the average retention rate relative to those of the other subgenres are comparable between iOS and Android. Adventure games, however, see a relatively better retention rate on iOS than on Android in general. To a lesser extent, the same is true for Strategy games.
How much do users play per day?
Of course, games come in different shapes and sizes: from one-minute mini games to epic adventures and board games. So let’s split up the question of much users play into two parts: how many times a day do they play, and for how long?
How many times a day do users play?
Take a look at the graphic below: the number of times per day that users play their games. We immediately find that there is quite a range of times the app is opened, depending on the genre. We also see that throughout the first week, the averages shift quite a bit. As we saw above, apps lose about half of the initially interested users during this time – and we see now that the average number of times the remaining users open the app moves towards a more stable point.
Let’s look at mature users, i.e. those that don’t just try out the game. Rather, users that use the app on day 10 after-install first. By this time, the subgenre trends are very stable, and we see that they are very similar between for iOS and Android: Strategy games prove most addictive with users averaging three sessions per day, and even slightly more on Android. They are followed closely by Adventure games, especially on iOS, and Gambling apps, which perform slightly better on this metric on Android than on iOS.
The Games subgenres with the fewest daily sessions per user are Action and Family; on iOS these average around 1.5 or 1.75 sessions per day, on Android they are just above 2 sessions per day.
In the comparison of iOS and Android apps, the trend from retention rates is reversed here, with the retained Android users being slightly more engaged on average.
Note that Cards & Board games differ quite a bit here between iOS and Android: iOS users use these around 2.7 times a day on average, whereas they are among the games least often opened by their players on Android, averaging just over 2 opens per day there.
A quick look at session trends
A last point to note is the development of this metric: After the first week, in which the metric is still under the influence of users rejecting the app, we see a small positive bump, a local maximum, in the curves for almost all subgenres around day 7 after-install. This may well be due to re-engagement campaigns that are often used around this time.
Note also that strategy games find more and more engaged users: the daily average events count per user is rising throughout, even after 10 days into the user journey, in contrast to the stability in the other genres. Notably, Action and Family games see slowly declining events per user on iOS, as does Adventure, although on a higher level.
How much time do users spend on each session?
Take a look at the following graph, which shows how much time users spend per session on average in each of the Games subgenres.
As before, this metric needs some time to stabilize in most subgenres, and most apps see a bump on day 7. The average session is shorter on iOS, but this only occurs in the first week. This could indicate that less-interested users reject their apps more quickly on Android. We also see some verticals close to one another on this metric: Cards & Board sees long sessions on both iOS and Android, and the session length for players of Strategy games grows throughout on Android, with the same trend being seen towards the last third of the examined user journey on iOS, when the less engaged players stop playing.
The Adventure and Action players group with similar session lengths per platform, but Android users spend much more time here than iOS users. Session in Gambling games are shorter than in any other genre on both iOS and Android, but the difference is less stark on iOS. Note also that Brain games exhibit very similar playing times on iOS and on Android, averaging just over 10 minutes per session.
Also, take a look at the early days of Action games and Adventure games: While their averages end up with very similar curves after a week, Adventure games see longer session averages early on across both platforms.
What we learned from this
Over all three metrics, we saw that there are stable differences in the averages between Games subgenres.
- The Cards & Board subgenre shows the strongest performances in User Retention and Session Length, but a surprisingly low average Session count on Android. In contrast, it is among the top 3 for this metric on iOS.
- Strategy and Adventure games do not retain as many users as other games, especially on Android, but make up for it with very active users: they lead the session count average on both platforms. Strategy games also have long sessions on average, but this isn’t the case with Adventure, which has relatively shorter sessions.
- Action games are among the lowest in daily sessions per user and average among the time spent per session, despite also retaining only few of their users.
- Combining the overall trends form session length and sessions per suer, we can also say that Android users spend more time on each of the apps they eventually choose.
Overall, we can see that subgenres in which users reject games relatively early see more active retained users. Android users tend to reject apps earlier and in turn be more active in the apps they keep. Android and iOS user behavior is most similar in Brain games, possibly because these have a very particular audience. Family games are the only genre that sees lower average retention on iOS than on Android.