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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Markovits

How to improve player LTV and increase player retention

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

How to improve player lifetime value and therefore, increase player retention?

Hello and welcome to Affogata’s podcast: Let’s talk customer feedback. We had the pleasure of hosting Sergey Komar, Senior publishing manager at Lion Studios.

Sergey has been working in the game industry for the last 13 years.

He started as a programmer and then switched to game designer, producer, and CEO.

During this time, he managed to found four game companies and worked in different corporations as a lead producer at G5 Entertainment, publishing manager, and studio lead at Homa Games. And right now, he works as a Senior Publishing Manager at Lion Studios, at Applovin Corporation.

With games earning millions, if not billions of dollars per year, it has become increasingly important to measure every aspect of game performance in order to ensure the right investment. Game analytics is a critical instrument to measure a game’s success and make decisions on how to develop the future of a game.

What will you listen to in this podcast?

1. What exactly is a game LTV and how does this metric help game developers and publishers make business decisions.

2. A discussion on how improving player LTV and increasing retention, you can increase the number of active players each month.

3. Sergey shares his latest tips and tactics to make sure you have the lowest CPI (cost per install).

4. It is known that retaining players is more cost-efficient than acquiring new ones. We asked Sergey what are the ways in which gaming companies can create better engagement to increase retention.

5. Lastly, Sergey shares other crucial metrics he looks at when analyzing the performance of their games and what he suggests others look at to increase the game engagement.

Can’t wait to hear what Sergey has to say about all this, so let’s start!




So for our first question, Sergey, it's kind of a basic question, but can you tell us what is LTV and why is it so important for gaming companies?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

Yeah, well, I believe that’s one of the most, maybe, the most important part of game development, because it's actually the average revenue generated by a player during his or her lifetime. I mean, lifetime in a game.


And what are the different techniques that Lion Studios or the other companies that you've worked at utilize to improve LTV for the game?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

Well, the most important part is to have a very good engagement because if a player spends a lot of time in the game, that means we can show him or her a lot of ads during his/her lifetime. But my downside is that actually we try to push and show too much and too many ads that will lead to a higher churn rate and lower retention.

So, there are a lot of different approaches to monetization. So we call it soft monetization and hard monetization. Soft monetization, we don't push with monetization and we allow players to enjoy the game and to stay as much as they want. But on the other hand, we have hard monetization, and a lot of companies use this technique. They try to, let's say, squeeze and show as many ads as possible even in the first session. So they have very low retention, but they manage to even with not very good retention, they manage to show a lot of ads and make money. So it's usually two ways. Sometimes we can mix them. So probably sometimes we don't show a lot of ads at the beginning. So we like engage player and then we start making money, maybe on the next day or maybe on the next week.


Right. It makes sense. It's about finding the right balance to make sure that players do obviously see ads because you need to monetize the game, but you also want to engage them and retain them. So I agree with you. So for the next question, we know that at the end of the day, companies are looking for the lowest CPI, which is cost per install for their games. What do you think are the best tactics to make sure you have the lowest CPI?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

Well, it's a very good question because we're constantly chasing low CPI ideas and the main goal of our company is to find something that will show low CPI. So from my point of view, the game should be relatable and should be new and the mechanics in the game should be proven.

So relatable, that means, that if we show a video or even a screenshot to some random person, this person will immediately understand what this game is about. But on the other hand, it should be new because if we have some theme or some game mechanics that are already on the market, CPI would be higher because there are already a lot of players that will try to play this game. So as soon as we start doing the same thing, for example, as other game developers, we start fighting for CPI with this game developer or publisher. So, yeah, that will increase the total CPI.

And the third one, it should be proven because if we try to do something, even if it's relatable, even if it's new, but it's hard to play. So for example, you need to, I don't know, to scream at your phone to move a character, for example. There are a couple of examples of such games, but yeah, they were like a joke, not the real business. So, yeah, there are three componenet to have a low CPI.


Yeah, I understand. I think that indie game developers can play a bit more with these features. But once you want to have a lot of players, it needs to be proven, as you mentioned, and I completely understand. So acquiring new players is always more expensive than retaining the players you already have. So how does Lion Studios retain players, in your opinion? What are the ways in which gaming companies can create better engagement to increase retention?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

Well, first of all, it’s simple. Just you have to create a good game. Because you can, let's say, describe what is a good game usually. Sometimes it's because games definitely are a form of art. So sometimes it's hard to find. So, yeah, we're trying to do it from another side. So actually we're focusing on removing any distraction for players and we try to reduce churn rate. So we don't chase high retention. We try to chase a low churn rate.

So for example, it's very important to have a very good onboarding, like tutorials. Players should immediately understand how to play a game in the first, let's say 30 seconds. If it's very hard to understand if onboarding is bad, the player leaves and will lose money.


Right. The onboarding is actually very interesting because I can relate to that. I downloaded games that look very interesting, but then I have no idea what to do. So I can really relate to it. I didn't think about it, but I can completely understand what you mean. And apart from the metrics, we have discussed until now, like churn rate and CPI and LTV, what other metrics do you look at when analyzing the performance of your games? What do you suggest others look at to increase the game engagement?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

Well, there are a lot of game metrics and we even have a documentation where with description of other metrics and we usually compare because sometimes even high CPI, but with very good numbers for IPM, for example, on one network. So for example, we can have very high, let's say probably not high. Okay. That's higher than usual on Facebook, but we can have very good IPM on Instagram, for example. That means we can switch like buying users on Instagram or TikTok.

We are quite flexible. And the same thing about engagement metrics. It's not only about retention, sometimes retention could be low, but playtime is very high. Even we have like 15% of retention day, one that usually is very low, but playtime would be like 30 minutes. That means we hit some specific not target, but just audience and we can work with this as well. Also sessions per day. It's also important if a player wants to play our game a lot, let's say two, three times, four times per day. That's usually a very indicator.


Great. And for our final question, can you share with us what is the process of publishing a new game? What are the tools you use from beginning to end when designing game, understanding what your audience wants and doesn't want, then how do you test if it will have a good reception or not?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

So we actually have a very good tool called Lion Portal. So it's like a web portal and we can upload our Epic Ace and creatives and then test it on different social networks. We usually test it on Facebook, but sometimes we test it on Apple and sometimes we test it on Instagram, TikTok. Yeah. So as the publishing manager, I usually work with external developers and their role is to produce, we call it prototypes, but also we call it vertical slides. So let's say it's only 15-20 minutes of gameplay so it's very short and we can produce it in two weeks and then we upload it on our portal and we can launch the campaign. And in three or four days we usually see results like CPI, retention, other engagement metrics and then we can make a decision to move forward with this game.

That means we scale it, we add more content ow we just kill it. Usually 98% of games are killed on the stage.


For me that's insane. I've heard about this a lot and for me, it's insane that it's only around 2-3% of games that actually succeed. Where does all the work go to?

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

Yeah, it's a cruel world.


I hope your games don't get killed though.

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

I wish. Yeah, thank you but I killed a game right before this meeting.


Oh no, that's not the right way to end this podcast.

Sergey Komar, Sr. Publishing Manager at Lion Studios:

But I have a lot of games in production so let's hope one of them will succeed.


I hope so too. So, yeah, I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to participate in today's podcast. It was super interesting to learn about the critical metrics you need to understand to create a successful game.

And thanks all for listening and don't forget to visit us at a

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