Perhaps the single greatest advantage mobile games have when compared to console and PC games is easy access to players.
There’s no better way to engage players than with well-timed push notifications letting them know that it’s time to pull out their mobile devices and progress further in their favorite games. But the question is, how do you get players back into games without being intrusive or bothersome?
AListDaily united Emily Greer, CEO of and co-founder of Kongregate (AdVenture Capitalist; Animation Throwdown), Jon Radoff, CEO of Disruptor Beam (Star Trek Timelines; Game of Thrones: Ascent) and Joseph Kim, chief product officer at Sega Networks (Sega Forever; WWE Tap Mania), to get their thoughts about when to properly use notifications and the best ways to re-engage with mobile players.
Emily Greer, CEO And Co-Founder Of Kongregate
“I think that [it’s about] making sure that it’s something of real interest and use to the player, and not over-spamming. We tend to use a mix of push notifications and local notifications, where local notifications trigger much more often and provide useful information about what’s happening in a game that you’re actively playing. So, for Animation Throwdown, [it tells me] when a rumble or guild siege is starting and I need to jump in and help my guild—something that’s really useful for me. I always leave them on because I want to know when those particular time triggers happen.
“Lapsed players get less frequent notifications, and it’s about having a distinctive voice to the game. We try to bring a lot of the humor and charm from AdVenture Capitalist or Animation Throwdown to the push notifications so it doesn’t feel like it’s someone nagging you, but they’re saying something interesting. Then we make sure that it’s selective and brings something new and relevant, like a new part of the game, expansion or update that’s worth a push notification. It’s important to be selective and thoughtful about it, and you have to think about what the player needs and wants, or else they’re going to block you out and turn you off altogether.”
Jon Radoff, CEO Of Disruptor Beam
“We don’t actually think of ourselves as a mobile game company. First and foremost, we think of ourselves as a storytelling company. So, the engagement we drive is through having a story people want to participate in and come back to. Things like notifications can only exist to serve that, otherwise they’re an annoyance that pops up on your screen. So, if it tells you something important that you want to know, then that’s fine.
“We’re on Steam, mobile and Facebook, so our games are cross platform. We span multiple devices with the thinking that we want to be on the devices that people are using. The cross-platform stuff is an important part of our strategy. It’s about being able to have these stories structured in a way that you can consume them in little bits at a time. You don’t have to sit down in front of a game for hours. Some of our customers do engage for hours, but you can also do it for a few minutes at a time—at the time and place of your choosing. If you want to do it through Windows, you can do it that way. Or you can do it on mobile devices or Facebook. We give you multiple options for engaging. I think that one of our strengths is that we give these multiple touchpoints on the same game, but it all ultimately comes back to story. I think good media—not just games, but television, movies and theater, going back to when people were sitting around a campfire—is all based on stories.
“If you can’t engage people through stories, then it’s going to be difficult to engage them overall over a long-term basis. We’re going for a deep, human connection that we all share with stories.”
Joseph Kim, Chief Product Officer At Sega Networks
“For me, the answer basically boils down to engagement. If users are engaging with the notifications, then the game isn’t going too far. However, the tricky bit stems from the situational nature of the use and frequency of push notifications.
“From a personal perspective, I want to see every notification to collect a chest in Clash Royale or when I get a new follower in Instagram. However, [there are] some notifications I don’t want to see at all, and some games can spam like crazy for every short-term retention mechanic implemented in game.
“From a game developers’ perspective, we’ve got to be careful to avoid annoying users, thereby potentially leading to a negative impact on game KPIs and negative brand impact. Assessing user preference for these notifications essentially boils down to just measuring a player’s level of engagement with them.
“More specifically, developers should seek to understand the types of notifications being sent, the impact of varying frequency in which they are sent, the types of players who like specific notifications (even down to individual player preference if possible), as well as the overall impact on game KPIs.”