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Establishing your core game loop
Guy Bar Sade, CEO at Simpool, joins LevelUp Academy. In this class, dive into the game economy by exploring its foundation: the core loop.
Hey there, I’m Guy from Simpool. Over the next few episodes of this course, we’ll be talking about creating a game economy. And, we’ll cover best practices for monitoring this economy with proper data utilization.
Before diving right into building an economy, we need to think about the core game loop. Your economy will revolve around this loop and support it. So what does it even mean when we say game loop? It’s what keeps users playing. Think of it as those little actions that repeat themselves throughout the game. For example, a loop could be users collecting coins to build a city then expanding their kingdom. They’ll keep repeating these actions as they progress through the game. The longer they play, the more opportunities for driving revenue, like showing them ads or creating monetization opportunities.
Keeping users engaged for longer and monetizing them effectively is the goal of the game loop. Now let’s dive a little deeper into defining it.
Defining the loop
There are three things to consider when defining the core game loop: expectations, emotions, and experience.
Let’s begin with expectations. What does expectation-setting have to do with retention and monetization? Well, your expectations should help you define the emotions you want your users to feel. When users experience these emotions, they’re motivated to reach your expectations. Maybe it’s making sure they feel accomplished by winning many levels or getting lots of boosters. Or maybe it’s creating a frustrating feeling with a more challenging gameplay experience and fewer resources. Let’s say you expect users to get to level three and you want them to feel frustrated. You should create a gameplay experience that makes them feel just frustrated enough to keep playing and reach level three.
Whatever emotions you want your users to feel so they keep playing, you can encourage those feelings even more with the right in-game experience. You can inflate some resources, like currencies or bonuses or weapons for players who struggle to progress. And for your rising stars, try increasing the difficulty so you avoid boring them.
Here’s another example – you want users to retain until at least day 4 (that’s the expectation). Making them feel frustrated will encourage higher engagement and retention (that’s the emotion). So you make your levels challenging by adding more obstacles (that’s the experience part). But, you notice user dropoff is high before day 4. Maybe the game is too challenging. Sure, you can make levels easier but then you’d lose that frustrating feeling. Another solution is giving users a lifeline at the level they’re getting stuck at. This will help them pass the level and continue playing while keeping the experience challenging in just the right way.
Just when users could get exhausted or too frustrated, providing the right amount of resources at the right time encourages them to keep playing.
So now we’re on the same page: We know all the components of the game loop. But how can you actually tell if yours is working?
Measuring the effectiveness of the game loop
Now’s the time to talk metrics. Looking at your KPIs can reveal user trends and track their progress. It can also help you identify the optimal point where players are having a full and engaging experience. Or where they’re exhausted or overly frustrated.
No matter your game or genre, there are certain KPIs that always matter for measuring the effectiveness of your game loop – and by extension your game economy. The number of users, retention rate over time (after all retention is king – it’s probably the best indicator of user satisfaction), where your users are coming from (for example which country, platform or UA network), what they bought in your game and how much they paid – are all examples of important metrics. Your game may value a KPI more than another. Prioritize looking at the ones that matter most for your specific use case. For example, PvP games need many users to make sure the core loop feels rich and full. For these games, DAU and retention will be key metrics to look at.
We’re going to take a deeper dive into data in another episode. For now, it’s important to recognize the impact that tracking your KPIs can make on your game loop and economy. Only by understanding performance can you find ways to optimize these two.
Now that we understand the game loop and how it works – next, we’ll be discussing how the game loop connects to the game economy. In fact, we’re going all-in on the game economy in our next episode, covering what it is, why it matters, and how to optimize it. See you there!