Almost all mobile games have some sort of social network integration, allowing you to compare your progress with your friends and send requests for assistance or additional lives. Originally inspired by social network games, these features allow for simple virtual interactions with other players and friends. Be it sending requests for lives, competing with friends or collaborating to overcome hurdles. Most mobile games today involve at least one of these activities. However, do these features actually lead to a meaningful social interaction? Is the involvement in these features essential for engagement with the game? Do they foster retention? Or are they mere add-ons that facilitate viral sharing?
You can grab almost anyone involved in developing or publishing mobile games and they will tell you that players who connect their game to Facebook are of higher value in terms of engagement, retention, monetization and virality. Now, this often leads to a serious misperception: That Facebook connect does this to players. However, the only thing FB connect does most of the time is give players access to simple social features and sometimes synchronizes their game state. That this broadly leads to substantial increases in player engagement, monetization and virality seems questionable – at best. There is a big problem of endogeneity here to put it in more complex language. Does the use of social features in mobile games lift player value to the next level, or are higher value players simply more likely to make use of social features?
We find ourselves in a chicken-or-egg causality dilemma. In a first effort to approach this problem, we decided to use Granger causality tests and panel vector autoregressive (pVAR) models. These do not make any ex-ante assumption on the direction of causality, in fact, they allow all variables to be endogenous. From our initial findings, the effect of social features on engagement and monetization seems small. The use of social features does not appear to substantially lift player value. The value is rather built into the players in the first place which is why they use the social features. Now this is interesting, but we still don’t know how social mobile gaming actually is. Certainly, different types of social features have different effects on the player base. With casual requests for lives being on one end of the spectrum, and truly competitive and collaborative multiplayer features on the other. How common are deep and engaging social features that create value for the player beyond being a substitute for spending hard currency? Does the lack and decrease of social interaction precede and potentially drive churn in mobile gaming? We want to answer these questions next. Churn models and A/B test findings are promising methods in this regard that we want to tap into in this endeavor.
If you want to know more about our methods and findings, Adam will be presenting them in greater detail at the Gaming Analytics Innovation Summit 2016 in London. You can also contact us before, we would be very interested in hearing about your approaches, findings and thoughts on the topic.