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The 20 Mobile Game Metrics Publishers Need to Track

When thousands of games are released every single day on iOS and Android devices, finding success takes more than simply making a good game. Publishers seemingly able to crank out hit after hit aren’t getting lucky — they’re leaning on a set of critical KPIs and endlessly testing and refining their games to maximize their chances of finding an audience.

By analyzing crucial mobile game metrics and making adjustments based on that analysis, good mobile games can become great, with increased player retention, engagement rates, and optimized revenue streams. Read on to discover which essential metrics you should track to improve your chances of success in 2022.

Key mobile game metrics by category

Acquisition

Downloads and installs

What they measure:

These KPIs are the raw numbers of users who have downloaded and installed a game from the respective iOS and Android app stores and form the foundation of many other KPIs you’ll need to measure.

Some marketers use the terms “downloads” and “installs” interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences to keep in mind. For example, users may initiate a download but may choose to cancel before it completes the installation. The best way to track these KPIs is to view “downloads” as the number of times a user initiates the download from the app store, while “installs” signifies the number of completed downloads ready to play on a user’s phone.

While not definitive in isolation, these numbers provide an overall sense of a game’s popularity. Significant numbers over short periods also make for attention-grabbing talking points. To get the most out of these KPIs, you’ll need to drill into what users do after they’ve installed the game and whether they’re sticking around.

Cost per install (CPI)

What it measures:

CPI is a valuable KPI for determining the effectiveness of your game’s user acquisition and marketing strategy by calculating the average cost per install through ad placements.

How to calculate CPI:

Total ad spend / Total number of installs

It’s important to measure your CPI in its proper context, as CPI rates often fluctuate between regions and mobile platforms. For example, the average CPI in North America is around $5.28, while Latin America’s average CPI is about $0.34.  Globally, iOS game installs cost more than Android — $4.30 to $1.15, respectively

 

Subscriptions

What it measures:

Some mobile games include seasonal upgrade tiers (often known as “battle passes”) or even require a monthly subscription for access. This KPI will tell you how many people have signed up for these subscriptions, how long they’ve maintained them, and when they drop off.

Registrations

What it measures:

This KPI will let you know how many users have provided an email address or other contact information from within the app. If you’re running a promotional campaign — such as providing exclusive in-game loot in exchange for email signup — this is a handy metric for determining its effectiveness. If registrations are low, you may want to rethink where your registration process lies within the player’s onboarding experience.

New user growth rate

What it measures:

As you attempt to expand the user base, you’ll want to ensure you’re growing at a healthy rate — both to retain current players and make sure the game can scale without impacting performance.

How to calculate new user growth rate:

(New users from this month / Total number of users last month) x 100

Net growth rate

What it measures:

 

Calculating new user growth rate does not factor in churn — that is, the number of existing players who leave the game each month. That’s what the net growth rate KPI is for.

How to calculate net growth rate:

 

((Total number of users for this month / Total number of users for last month) – 1) x 100

 

The resulting value will be either a positive or negative percentage value, informing you whether you’re gaining or losing users as a percentage of your monthly player base.

These numbers will ebb and flow during a game’s natural lifecycle. Ideally, you’ll see spikes during sustained advertising campaigns or the launch of new or updated content.

Monetization

Average revenue per user (ARPU)

What it measures:

ARPU is the backbone KPI for determining how much money your game is making per user. Thus, it shows how effective your overall monetization strategy is.

How to calculate ARPU:

Total revenue from your game / Total number of users

Average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU)

What it measures:

 

Getting a high-level snapshot has its uses, but you can adjust the ARPU calculation to figure out average revenue over any given period, including day-to-day operations. It’s perfect for understanding how seasonal updates, changes in game flow, or recent ad campaigns may have affected your revenue stream.

How to calculate ARPDAU:

 

Daily revenue / Daily active user count

ARPDAU can also calculate weekly or monthly averages — simply update the revenue and user values based on the time you want to calculate.

 

Average revenue per paying user (ARPPU)

What it measures:

 

ARPPU calculates in-app monetization effectiveness, separate from any ad-based revenue your game might be generating.

How to calculate ARPPU:

 

Total revenue / Total number of paying players

As is true of other KPIs, it’s important to understand your results in their proper context. These values will vary highly depending on the platform, region, and game genre. RPGs and Strategy games tend to see higher ARPU and ARPDAU values than other genres like hyper casual, as players are more invested in their progress and are more likely to spend on IAP.

Lifetime value (LTV)

What it measures:

 

The LTV provides information regarding how much revenue the average user brings in during their entire time playing your game. This value is often the primary metric for determining profitability from your user base.

How to calculate LTV:

 

ARPDAU x Average user lifespan

 

LTV will give you an average dollar amount each user generates throughout their entire interaction with the game.

When paired with customer acquisition cost KPIs like cost per install, you can see how much total profit each user brings in. Suppose it costs more to add new users than the revenue they’re bringing in. In that case, you’ll likely need to investigate ways to improve your monetization, whether increasing passive revenue through ad placement or optimizing the customer journey through your IAP pipeline.

 

 

Average transaction value (ATV)

What it measures:

 

In addition to finding out how much each revenue each user generates, you’ll want to find out how much they’re spending on individual IAP transactions.

How to calculate ATV:

 

Total revenue earned / Total number of purchases made through the app

Low ATV may tell you that you need to rework your IAP on-ramp or generate interest through bundling items or providing special offers for low-spend users. Conversely, a high value will inform you that your users are providing high overall value, and it’s worth investigating ways to retain them.

Time to purchase (TTP)

What it measures:

 

When you want to determine how long it takes for non-paying users to become paying users, you’ll want to examine your game’s TTP. This value tracks the average time between installation and the first purchase. You want this time to be as fast as possible, so experiment with IAP messaging, entice users with deals, and implement offerwalls to give non-paying players a taste of premium content.

 

Estimated cost per mille (eCPM)

What it measures:

 

When you want to determine how well your in-app ad monetization is working, it’s time to use eCPM. It stands for “effective cost per mille” and represents your app’s revenue per 1,000 ad impressions.

How to calculate eCPM:

 

(Total revenue game generates with ads / Total ad impressions) x 1,000

If your eCPM rates appear low, consider reworking ad placement within your app and the kinds of ads your app displays. You may also need to adjust your rewarded ad strategy to make them more enticing.

 

Optimizing monetization KPIs requires understanding how players interact with your in-game IAP models. To bolster your IAP strategy and maximize revenue, sign up and receive A Guide to Behavioral Economics for In-App Purchase Pricing.

Engagement

 

Daily active users (DAU) and monthly active users (MAU)

What they measure:

 

While downloads and installs are great for raw player counts, DAU and MAU will tell you how many people are engaging with your game. DAU provides a compelling snapshot of day-to-day operations, while MAU will give you a better sense of the long-term health of your game.

Stickiness

What it measures:

 

When you combine DAU and MAU, you can determine the overall stickiness of your game — that is, how many monthly players are playing each day.

How to calculate stickiness:

 

(DAU / MAU) x 100

The stickier your game is, the better it engages and retains players. A stickiness rate of 18-20% is considered a success for the average mobile game, with casino titles generally reaching higher stickiness ratings than other genres.

 

 

Average session length

What it measures:

 

Marketers derive the average session length from when a user opens the app until they leave it (whether closed or sent to idle in the background).

 

Again, this KPI will often differ based on the genre of the game, with the top 25% of games sporting average sessions of around 7 minutes. Card games, multiplayer games, and strategy games see sessions hit anywhere up to 50 minutes, though this number will be much lower for casual games.

 

 

Session count

What it measures:

 

Similar to average session length, session count describes how many times a user opens the app daily, weekly, or monthly. Higher numbers mean players are engaged enough to make an app a habit.

Retention

 

Retention rate

What it measures:

 

To find out how many players continue to stick around, you’ll need to calculate a game’s retention rate. This rate is one of the more complex KPIs to calculate, as multiple time frames are worth examining to provide a fuller picture of how many people return to your game.

How to calculate retention rate:

 

To start, find the number of users who play a game on a specific date. This value is called Day 0.

 

Then, choose the time frame you’d like to examine — this is called Day N, where N equals the number of days you plan on investigating. Day 1, Day 7, and Day 28 retention rates are very common calculations that give you a window into how many people return after those times.

 

With those values in mind, perform the following calculation to find your Day N retention rate:

 

(Number of users playing on Day N / Number of users on Day 0) x 100

Retention rates will vary based on genre, with hardcore genres like RPGs and strategy featuring higher rates than more casual games. On average, 40% is an optimal Day 1 retention rate. Anything lower than 20% may require significant reevaluation.

Understand user behavior to maximize IAP revenue

The point behind calculating and analyzing all of these KPIs is to understand how players interact with your game, where they drop off, and how to improve their experience to optimize revenue streams. Additionally, you can take advantage of tactics in behavioral psychology to set pricing, boost conversions, and guide players through your intended player journey to maximize your KPIs. Sign up today to receive A Guide to Behavioral Economics for In-App Purchase Pricing to discover how to improve IAP revenue, increase engagement, and get the most out of your monetization strategy.