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The First 48 Hours: How to know NOW if you’ve got a hit or are DOA

By on August 11, 2014

A guest post from Jon Walsh of Fuse Powered based on a talk given at Casual Connect

Although the common consensus is that you should collect metrics for at least 30 days before drawing any major conclusions about the long term potential of your game, we’ve determined that there are some reliable early indicators that you should be paying close attention to after just 48 hours.

We’ve gathered data from hundred of games and hundreds of millions installs to determine what a publisher can learn after their game is live only 48 hours. After some detailed analysis we’ve concluded that there are a handful of key metrics that have proven to be very good at providing a predictive range of what to expect in terms of the future player value for your game.  These metrics also point publishers to specific actions and adjustments to make, which if not made quickly, would result in publishers leaving significant money on the table. All of these adjustments need to be made well before the 30-day mark.  Analyzing the right first 48 hour metrics can not only help you predict your fate and provide you with clear actions to take, but will do so early enough to allow you to actually do something about it.

After 48 hours you’ve typically acquired enough players to observe what they’re doing, whether they’re engaged enough to come back and, more importantly, whether they’re engaged enough to spend. Specific metrics across player acquisition, session duration, sessions played, return rate, conversion, and progression will reveal places you could be off target and deliver a clear direction to hit your goals.

For our analysis, we looked at a variety games over the first sixty days of their full worldwide launch period. We looked at the data at 48 hours, 7 days, 30 and 60 days. At sixty days, the data can be an indicator of your player lifetime value.

To standardize metrics across different genres and game lifespans, some of the data was projected for expected values as at sixty days. Games were grouped by genre.

Fundamental Economics and Relevant Metrics

The most basic math, of course, is that your player value must be greater than your player cost. In this article we are focusing on the player value side of the equation. The metrics we can look at after 48 hours and that can be used to predict where you’ll be in 60 days are:

•             IAP conversions is the % of players that have made an IAP

•             Revenue per paying user is the amount of $ spent by each paying user

•             IAP revenue per player is In App Purchase revenue divided by total players

•             Ad ARPDAU is total ad revenue divided by total number of players each day



What we can see from the actual data is that:

•             IAP conversions typically increase 1.5 – 2.0x by 60 days

•             Revenue per paying user increases between 1.0 – 1.8x the 48 hour value

•             IAP revenue per player is typically 1.5 – 3.5x that seen in the first 48 hours

•             Ad ARPDAU over 48 hours is fairly static compared with the sixty day value

Although often an afterthought for publishers, advertising monetization is too important to leave out of the analysis. It can represent more than 70% of revenue and add up to millions of dollars in revenue, especially in more casual or action oriented games. Our data shows you can serve ads multiple times per session to your non-paying players with no impact on retention, and that proper placement is key. Most games serve too many ads at the wrong times, resulting in a poor player experience and low revenue performance. Publishers should always ensure that their mediation and ad network partners are helping with appropriate placement and working hard to both fill and optimize their ad performance globally.

To predict the expected advertising revenue LTV of your players, you’ll need to estimate your player lifespan. Because we already have Ad ARPDAU after 48 hours, player lifespans should be estimated in days. This estimation can be tested to provide a range, and you can find some lifespan benchmarks in the analysis below. Calculating AD LTV then looks like this:

Estimated Player Lifespan (days) X Ad ARPDAU = Estimated AD $ LTV per player

Is Your Game Good, Bad, or Mediocre?

This is where you tie your two sets of data together and see where you stand. These are value ranges after 48 hours multiplied by the predictive growth metrics, which gives you your 60-Day Player Value.


What is Your Action Plan?

Your metrics are likely to show you some combination of four problem areas:

1.           Poor retention

2.           Poor IAP conversion

3.           Low IAP spending

4.           Ineffective ad placement

1. Poor retention

Players aren’t staying. If players aren’t staying, they aren’t playing, and you can’t monetize them. This is the number one metric you need to look at. Things to consider: is the core game loop is fun enough? Are players are getting through the tutorial? Do they understand the game and are they having fun?


•             Move more players to the heart of the game – make sure they know how to play and are quickly engaged in the core game loop (the fun part)

•             Remind players to come back and play with notifications

•             Show players the game is alive by always introducing them to something new – you can do this with both push and in game notifications.

2. Poor IAP conversion

If players aren’t spending you need to look for reasons why. Are your IAPs in the right place, and the right time, and at the right price? Does the value add up for players? Do players feel like they bought something great and are they engaged with and using their items?


•             Make them an offer too good to refuse, at the right time – offering bundles at key points in the game can work very well

•             Make the value of the purchase clear – players have to understand what they’re buying, and what it will do to make the game better for them

•             Make them feel good about the purchase – adding drama to the purchase or rewarding sound or visual effects to acknowledge their purchase always helps

3. Low IAP spending

If your players are spending, but not spending enough, or only spending once, you have to take action.  Are you actually making the offers and encouraging spending players to spend again? Are you selling the right things? Is there enough to buy and do in the game? Are players staying long enough to spend more? Is the pricing right?


•             Balance the economy and deliver more content worth buying – use analytics and player segmentation to measure things like what players are buying, what currency balances they have, etc.

•             Continue to make the right offers to the right players – segment your player base to make sure you’re not doing things like offering 99 cent deals to someone who’s already spent over $100.

•             Give players lots of opportunity to spend game currency – if a player can’t spend $1000 in your game, you probably don’t have a true freemium game

4. Ineffective ad placement

Typically, there are clear reasons ads aren’t performing. Is your ad placement working for or against you? Are you showing the right amount of ads? We often see developers showing too many ads. Are you showing the right ads to the right players? Finally, around half of your players are outside the US. Are you working with networks who can fill ads in every country?


•             Place ads where players want or need a break

•             Partner with ad providers that are working hard to optimize and fill ads globally

The final rule is: work on your weakest metric first. Your weakest metric is not only your most serious liability, it’s where your biggest gains can be made. And no matter how good you are, you can be better. Even if your game falls into the ‘good’ category, or blows past it, it can be better. We see successful developers all the time who are making millions but giving up millions more by not being proactive enough. When you are already dealing with big numbers, continual incremental improvements in IAP merchandizing and ad placements will yield very large revenue gains.

About Jon Walsh