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game design

How important is Game Design for Player Retention?

Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes. Increasingly, elements and principles of game design are also applied to other interactions, in the form of gamification. Games such as board games, card games, dice games, casino games, role-playing games, sports, video games, war games, or simulation games benefit from the principles of game design.

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Academically, game design is part of game studies, while game theory studies strategic decision making (primarily in non-game situations). Games have historically inspired seminal research in the fields of probability, artificial intelligence, economics, and optimization theory. Become a game designer, find your course here.

Sensor Tower’s new meta feature filter within Game Taxonomy allows users to understand how mobile games achieve long-term retention through game design. This additional layer adds more context to dig into the mechanics of top-performing games in different areas of the market.

Below, Sensor Tower will explore how to use this new filter to guide your research. The new tags include:

  • Character Collection: Meta feature where players collect and build up a roster of characters like in Genshin Impact and Pokémon Go.

  • Levels: Meta feature where players are presented with a long path of levels to complete like in Candy Crush and Knighthood.

  • Resource Management: Meta feature where players have to manage resources to successfully optimize the economy of a civilization, empire, city, etc. like in Rise of Kingdoms and Lords Mobile.

  • Social Clans: Meta feature where players create/join a group of players on a permanent basis and cooperate together towards shared goals and interests like in Clash of Clans and Arena of Valor.

  • Narrative Stories: Meta feature where players are immersed in narrative content that progresses the story like in Fate/Grand Order and Arknights.

  • Decoration / Renovation: Meta feature where players have to decorate or fix an environment like in Gardenscapes and Royal Match.

  • Social GamblingMeta feature where players engage in fantasy gambling with other players like in Coin Master and Bingo Blitz.

  • None: Games that do not have any Meta feature, usually Hypercasual games built as short and easy to consume gameplay experiences like in Bridge Race and Tall Man Run.

Using the Meta Feature Filter

Let’s identify the top performing games in the U.S. for September 2022 using Sensor Tower’s Store Intelligence. We see September was a down month in terms of revenue for the top mobile games. These top 10 games combined for $286.7 million in September, down 4 percent month-over-month from a little more than $297 million from the top 10 in August 2022. This change is likely due in part to a decline in player spending  due to inflation.

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Although players were spending less, the number of active users has remained fairly consistent throughout 2022. The combined monthly active users for these games climbed 5 percent in September when compared to January.

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Similar to using Sensor Tower’s monetization tags to understand financial levers games use to impact revenue, our meta features also help users understand game mechanics that are impacting player retention.

Social Clans are the most popular meta feature among the top 10 games by revenue for September 2022. This meta spans the Casual, Mid-Core, and Casino game classes. Levels are the second most popular meta feature in this group. It’s interesting to note that 70 percent of the games here are using two or more meta features to sustain their player base.

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If you would like to continue digging into how you can use meta features to explore the in-game mechanics of your industry and competitors, download the full report here.

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