What are live-ops and how can mobile game developers utilize them?

So you’ve developed an incredible game. You created a concept, designed the mechanics, and thought about the ways in which you’re going to monetize your players. However, your work really begins once you’ve officially launched your game.

After building and launching your game, there are so many factors that come into play - from business intelligence and segmentation, to customer service and constant content updates. In order for game devs to keep their retention high, they must constantly optimize, adjust, and update their games throughout their lifespan in order to remain both relevant and successful.

So, how can this be done? One option savvy game developers utilize is live-ops.

What are live-ops?

Put simply, live-ops, or live operations, are any changes that can be made to the game without having to release a new version to the app stores. They can be thought of as improvements made to games once they’ve already gone live. Generally speaking, they provide new twists on existing features that are already active within the loop of a game.

Successful free-to-play games today recognize that if they want their game to be in it for the long-haul, they must grow over time with new content, live events, and frequent updates. Updating frequently stabilizes DAU and increases both engagement and monetization - however, it can be quite costly and time consuming. That’s where live-ops come in.

Live-ops is all about iterating and improving your game for the long term, while simultaneously keeping costs as low as possible. To create a user base that plays for months, even years, you must incorporate live-ops into their overall strategy in order to keep things exciting, and have their players constantly come back for more.

Live-ops and monetization

There are many types of live-ops that devs can utilize in order to successfully monetize their players. In fact, live-ops strategies can contribute to a 30% increase in revenue.

Offers and Promotions

Consider offering your players more currency or rewards for a limited time. One way of doing this could be to offer double the credit on offerwall rewards for a 48 period around a holiday.

This strategy can result in you turning your non-paying users into paying users, as you’re educating users on the benefits of IAPs, and once they get a taste of what IAPs can offer them, chances are they’ll be far more encouraged to make IAPs in the future.

Holidays offer a lot of flexibility in terms of planning and creating interesting and engaging content. Consider featuring different items for players to purchase, bundle items at a discounted rate, and even shuffle around the order of objects within your store.

You can also set up other offers where players watch a rewarded video and get double the rewards, or even set up a “spin the wheel” challenge where users can either watch an ad or buy credits, and in return for the spin they’ll be guaranteed a rare item.

Multiplayer competitions

Multiplayer competitions are a great way to engage users and monetize them. For example, you can set up a competition where your users are encouraged to join a team and capture a fortress. Whichever team is able to hold the fortress for the longest wins, and the entire team is rewarded with a rare item.

Go one step further and monetize the challenge by requiring participating users to own a specific item that can only be purchased in your store, or won through a user-initiated ad unit like rewarded video or offerwall.

Live ops and retention

When you incorporate live-ops into your game, you’re extending the lifecycle of your title far beyond launch. Utilizing live-ops is a great way to bring back players to your game. One way to do this is to send a notification to inactive players offering them a reward for coming back into the game - but make these rewards increase in value as the time they’ve spent outside of your game increases.

For example, after a player has been inactive for 4 days, send a notification inviting them to return, but offer no reward. After day 9, offer a small reward, after day 15 a medium reward, and so on.

Additionally, consider making events like competitions recurring. Why? It’ll give your users something to look forward to.

Segmentation and live operations

Segmentation is the process of dividing up your user base into groups based on their behavior and demographics - such as age, country, gender, paying or non-paying, app version, level reached, etc. As each and everyone of your users engages with you game differently, you should tailor your ad monetization strategy accordingly.

Once you’ve segmented users, use live-ops to generate more revenue through ad monetization. With live-ops, developers can react even quicker than usual, and make in-game changes  to increase longevity and revenue according to daily analysis, without releasing a new version.

For example, one approach to take is with IAPs. If you have a segment of users that are known to make IAPs from time to time but you see their LTV suddenly drop that day, consider a targeted sale depending on their purchase history. Basing your promotions or sales on data you’ve generated on your user’s behavior will almost guarantee higher conversion. The more relevant your promotion is, the more likely a user will engage.  

Some tips:

  1. Don’t feel pressure to constantly deliver new content. While players will react positively to new ideas, they’ll be pleased to see returning favorites.
  2. Plan live-ops events for weekends and/or holidays. Why? More free time, of course.
  3. Make a calendar. You’ll be able to stay on top of your promotions - don’t forget to include your KPIs, too.
  4. Consider live-ops from the get go. You don’t want to completely overhaul your internal game mechanics to support constant iterations and changes.

Wrapping up

Live-ops is a monetization strategy that focuses on paying attention to the players already in your game - essentially making your game more engaging in order to generate additional revenue without the hassle of making updates that require changes in code and a new version to be uploaded to the app stores. Think of it this way: live-ops is a way to continuously update your game without bugging your developers.

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