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How to boost retention in Idle Arcade?
game designgame retentionidle arcade
With the emergence of the Idle Arcade, a lot of games in this category have been unleashed into the market. Yet there are few successful ones. Today we’ll be talking about retention in Idle Arcade. As compared to the hyper-casual category, Idle Arcade games need better retention to support a stronger LTV (2-3 times higher than the LTV of hyper-casuals). We have found that developers often encounter such a problem: a lot of content has been added, and optimizations & tweaks have been going on for months, but there are still no huge improvements in terms of retention. If you are also puzzled by this, here are 2 methods that could be effective for you to design your idle arcades:
1. Set a clear and visible goal.
The goal is not a macro one, such as running a supermarket, managing a school, exploring the dungeon and finding a destination, etc. The goal is that players always should know what the next step is: what actions player needs to take, where player needs to go, what resources player needs to collect… It can also be regarded as the game’s short-term targets, which must be clearly visible. The reason for this clear goal is, idle arcade is full of freedom for player (such freedom is also the key to keeping up the high playtime) and without a visible goal, player will easily lose focus and churn. In other words, Idle Arcade just needs goals and guidance, not just on FTUE, but throughout the game.
We would also like to give some practical solutions for designing a clear and visible goal in Idle Arcade, which is already widely used in some of the successful games:
1) Design of Unlocking: Player enters the game and only sees limited content. However, they can always see the next area/item/facility they need to unlock nearby. Such an unlocking design works a lot in Idle Arcade. It doesn’t only provide guidance and a clear goal, but also some sense of mystery, which makes players wonder what next things they are going to experience.
Take Casino Land and one of our testing prototypes as examples, these games took a short time to finish the MVP build with such a mechanic and showed very good retention and playtime.
2) Design of Large-Area Cleanup: Players can see what their level goal is at the beginning of the game, for example: collecting all the stones in the whole area, cutting all the trees, and digging down to the bottom …. These goals will accompany and guide player throughout the game, and provide a strong sense of progress in the meantime, as player shall know where has been “cleaned up” and where hasn’t been yet easily. It’s perfect to serve as a short-term goal.
2. Focus on the core loop.
It was mentioned in some of our other sharing that the core loop would be crucial to Idle Arcade games. It will not only affect CPI performance, but also the scope of your project. If your team is spending more than 1 month to make your MVP version, probably you should think about if the core loop is way too complicated. The core-loop design should meet the following requirements:
1) Simple and understandable. Keep it concise and keep the core loop fresh in the market. There’s no need to create too many steps for it. If the process is too complicated, it’ll be hard for players to remember them all and go through it. The more steps you are having for the core-loop, the more phases players might churn. On the other hand, a long and complicated core-loop will greatly increase your CPI, as your video can’t tell player what the game is in the first several seconds, not to say showing what’s fun about the game. Players won’t give much patience to the long and tedious steps in the video ads. Let’s take a “bakery theme” idle arcade game for example:
Core Loop A: To make some bread, player needs to get one ingredient and process it into bread: Fetch wheat->deliver to oven->get bread.
Core Loop B: To make some bread, player needs to get several ingredients and process them into bread: Fetch wheat -> fetch milk -> fetch eggs -> deliver to oven -> get bread.
If compare the two core loops, it’s very easy to find out that when adding more steps to the loop, the fun won’t really increase along with the steps. Instead, it makes things complicated, and player needs to take more effort to complete this core loop.
2) Satisfying and Replayable. The core loop is an action that players will repeat a lot in Idle Arcade games. So, the only way to keep players from getting bored with this action is that such a process can always provide them with satisfaction. Stacking is a way that is widely used nowadays, as we can achieve a sense of satisfaction through quick stacking and release of items: straightforward visual feedback, and along with sharp sound effects. However, be careful with simply using stacking in your game, as mentioned this mechanic has been quite saturated in the market.
In addition to stacking, players can also explore how to create new satisfactions of the core loop, which is also an innovation for your idle arcade core gameplay, such as how to use new effects, new destruction, and even new techniques from unity to achieve special and fresh visuals.
In short, Idle Arcade games is a category that requires long playtime and retention, but it still maintains a similar design logic to hyper-casual games, which is: with a complete core loop/core gameplay, your MVP version should already show some potential metrics, instead of constantly adding new content and optimization to make up for the retention or playtime. Here is an MVP data reference for developers.
Want to make your first Idle Arcade hit game? Submit your game and let’s discuss now!