Engagement is a critical metric for all video games, regardless of their genre, audience, or budget. Low engagement can mean low sales, low expectations, low player retention, and a low overall game ranking. In this article, we'll explore the causes of low engagement and offer some tips on how to increase it.
There are many possible reasons for low engagement. Some games, despite the effort put into them, may simply not be that interesting or fun to play. Others may suffer from low-quality graphics or redundant gameplay. Still, others may have been released at the wrong time when there are already several high-quality games in the same genre available. And finally, some games may be poorly marketed and not well known to gamers.
Whatever the reason, there are several things developers, specifically indie developers, can do to increase engagement and make their games more enjoyable for players. The following are a few of the best practices:
1. Make Sure the Game is Fun and Interesting to Play
This may seem obvious, but it's essential that the gameplay is engaging and entertaining. If the game isn't fun, players will quickly lose interest. There are many different ways to make a game fun, but still feel different at the same time, so make sure you experiment with different mechanics and features.
One way to keep players engaged is to introduce new content on a regular basis. This could be new levels, characters, items, or achievements. If players feel like they're constantly getting something new, they'll be more likely to stick around to see more of how the game develops.
2. Keep the Graphics and Gameplay High Quality
Yes, it's true that graphics alone don't make a game better; but it certainly doesn't hurt either. Players are much more likely to stick with a game that looks and plays well. Graphics and gameplay that are low quality or dated will quickly turn players off.
One easy way to make your game look and feel better is to use high-quality assets or textures. You can find a variety of textures online, or even create your own. Just be sure to avoid using low-quality ones, as they will stick out like a sore thumb and ruin the overall look of your game.
In addition to graphics, it's also important to focus on gameplay mechanics. Make sure that your controls, for example, are responsive and that the game is challenging but not too difficult. If players feel like they can't progress or that the controls are too complicated or cumbersome, they will quickly lose interest and stop playing.
3. Choose an Appropriate Release Date and Target Your Audience Size
There are several factors to consider when choosing a release date, including the month and the time of year. If your game is a sports game, release the game during sporting seasons when players have more free time to play and are vested in watching their favorite team.
If your game has a unique fantasy or sci-fi theme, release the game during holidays when people are spending more money on entertainment such as gifts for friends and family members.
When it comes to choosing the size of your target audience, keep in mind that a smaller, more specific audience is often more willing to spend money on a game than a large, general audience. Try to target an audience that you know has an interest in your game genre or style.
4. If Your Game is a Sequel, Release the Sequel During the Off-Season of the Original Game
If your game is similar to a popular arcade or handheld video game released in the same year, release the game around their anniversary date. Releases for games with historical themes may coincide with an event such as World War II or something that is retro-inspired to maximize the marketing attention your game can receive.
Plus, older games (retro) may have features or mechanics that today’s games don’t have, so releasing at these specific dates can give you an advantage over the competition.
5. Develop a Marketing Strategy Before the Release
Before releasing your game, develop a marketing strategy that includes multiple traditional marketing methods such as press events, interviews, and print advertisements.
Research how social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used by your target audience, and include this in your marketing plan. The game industry is constantly changing and evolving, and yet, the principal methods of promoting games have remained relatively the same.
With the release of new gaming platforms, such as the iPhone and iPad, comes new opportunities for marketing your game, so make sure to take advantage of each one of them.
6. Raise Awareness
Reach out to gaming journalists with your press kit before your launch. This will allow them the time to review your game and get the word out about it in their publications.
Make sure you are including key details such as when gamers can buy the game, how much it costs, and what platforms (if applicable) are supported. This will give them a chance to write a more in-depth and robust review and it will help generate buzz around your title.
7. Upload a Trailer and Screenshots
Upload a trailer and/or screenshots to your game's website as early as possible, so people can see what it's about. To generate positive press attention, you'll need to get the word out about your game before people start playing it. You can do this by having a launch party or announcing on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
When promoting your game, think about what will motivate people to buy it. Some players might be interested in the storyline, others might be impressed by the graphics, and others might be interested in the gameplay mechanics. Go online or on the Steam forums and look at the games that are currently 'trending' and use similar keywords that best describe your game.
It is important to appeal to as many of these niche players as possible in your marketing materials as these groups then become your target audience. Also, Market your game by creating a website, social media accounts, email list, press releases, banner ads, and more before launch day.
8. Get Support from the Press
Gaming sites, press, and social media influencers who share your game's vision can go a long way in grabbing the attention your game deserves. Reach out to them for coverage before you launch your game by sending them a press kit. Make sure you're following them on social media, and consider sending them a free copy of the game to review if possible.
This is especially useful if you have a strong following on social media since you can get the word out about your game in the quickest amount of time. Post previews, trailers, and other information to get people excited about your game. You worked hard on it so be proud to show it off.
9. Listen to your Gaming Audience and be Open to Feedback
After release, keep an ear to the ground and listen to your audience's suggestions. Take this feedback and work on implementing it in future updates for your game if applicable. And never, ever, take these criticisms personally no matter how hurtful they might seem.
If certain features or suggestions are impossible to implement, let your audience know why. This will show that you're invested in your game and that you're willing to improve it based on player feedback. Remember, players, especially those who have purchased your game or who have shown interest, are the best source of information on what's working and what's not, so don't be offended by their suggestions.
10. Don't Call Updates 'Patches'
Over the years, players have been adversely hardwired by the term 'patches' which has gotten a negative connotation associated with broken games. Try to avoid using the term 'patch' when updating your game and instead use words like 'features' or 'gameplay improvements'. This will make players feel that you're listening to them and that you're working hard to improve the game, rather than just fixing it.