Top grossing F2P games are using social to increase retention and to save on marketing

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Kevin Ford

July 31st, 2012

Most of the top grossing F2P games are using social features part of their core marketing strategy. Why? In his keynote at GamesBeat Zynga’s Chief Executive Mark Pincus stated that users’ retention rates doubled compared to the average game’s retention rates when acquired through social. Not only do compelling social features dramatically increase user retention, they also help drive down user acquisition costs.


You’ve heard a lot about the growing social networks and related mobile game platforms, like Facebook’ Single Sign-On, Google+, Apple’s Game Center, DeNA’s Mobage, Gree’s Open Feint, Papaya and PlayPhone.  We were interested in finding out what top-grossing apps were using for social.

We set out to survey the Top 50 Grossing Apps on the App Store and Google Play, paying close attention to how the app connected game players through social.  We ended up analyzing 38 freemium games on iPhone and 42 freemium games on Android eliminating the 12 iPhone and 8 Android paid games in the top 50.

10 of 38 iOS games and 8 of 32 Android games required users to register with their social network credentials prior to first playing the game.  In conversations with top app developers, we were told that requiring social sign-in can cause as much as a 70% reduction in initial conversion rates when a user is required to register before experiencing gameplay.

Gareth Davis, a Product Manager at Facebook,spoke at GDC 2012 this spring.  In his session he noted that Facebook social channels include:  Friends, News Feed, Search, Notifications, Requests, Bookmarks and Open Graph & Timeline.  These can all be used to add Facebook social features to games.  He also mentioned the following mobile platform best practices:

    1. Add SSO to get FB Bookmark & Search Result
    2. Use a single FB App ID on all platforms
    3. Publish via Open Graph to get distribution
    4. Design frictionless Requests & Invites
    5. Use all Social Channels
    6. Native Deep Linking for native distribution
    7. Social Design

Some of the key points in his session for successful social design were:  1. Build social into app from the ground up, make the app people centric; 2.  Make friend finding easy; 3. Design the app for sharing; 4. Make content “braggable” and 5. Leverage unique mobile capabilities like location and social tagging.  In our survey we found more than half of the games used points 1, 2, 3 and 4 above, with no one using 5 location and social tagging.

Social is a great source of engaged users. In addition, nativeX can help identify additional sources for app distribution and monetization – as well as give you advice on how to optimize your freemium game. Just let us know your needs by emailing us

[Originally posted on VentureBeat July 31th 2012]

Kevin Ford

Marketing Manager


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