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What Motivates Players to Keep Playing? A Measurable VIP Program

The only difference between mobile games and gambling in a casino is that in one scenario you can win money. So what motivates mobile players to keep on playing? It’s a question that Zynga, npnf, and Chillingo (as well as Electronic Arts in general), among others, have been studying, querying, and answering for years.

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The question is, how do you reward players who are spending money in a way that is unique to your game? And the answer is VIP Programs.

In fact, even though casinos have the incentive of a possible win driving their patrons, they have long been utilizing VIP programs to further motivate customers to spend money and build loyalty. And like physical casinos, online gambling and games see much of their revenue from an elite top of “high-rollers”. Mobile gaming is no different: Akio Bandle of npnf says that games like Ærena and Galaxy Battle, “see most of their revenue from the top 50-100 spenders, and that some will spend six figures on a game in as little as three months”.

For mobile, there’s a huge opportunity for potential profits from these high-rollers. Betfair, a betting exchange group, saw 94% year-over-year growth in the number of bets made on mobile devices. One third of customers on PaddyPower, a Dublin-based bookmaker, are now making transactions on mobile devices, generating more than a fifth of its digital bets. The customer lifetime value (CLV) of an online casino player is $1860, and the average customer lifetime of this player is over 41 months.

The Casino Royale Treatment: What Mobile Can Learn from Zynga & Real-Money Gambling Casinos

The medium of mobile lends itself to longer term playing and therefore bigger spending. People are always with their phones, and in times of boredom turn to it for entertainment– this breeds the propensity for lasting loyalty. And to facilitate this lengthy customer lifetime, mobile games and gambling services alike have found that VIP programs are incredibly effective.

ZYNGA poker on www.helpshift.com/blog/vip-program-increase-revenue

Yvolver, a platform that automates VIP programs, found that during its test period, average in-app purchase revenue per user rose by more than 18% where users had access to the VIP Events & Achievements program, with similar lifts for average revenue per daily active user and average revenue per paying user. Simply put, VIP programs are the gold at the end of the rainbow; they are the jackpot that gamblers chase. And even better than just a possibility, VIP programs are a promise.

Zynga, the game conglomerate that brought us Farmville and Zynga Poker, has recently invested an impressive amount of time and research into how to build out a successful VIP program. Through a series of customer questionnaires and an all-star VIP team headed by Gemma Doyle, the company has crafted incredibly engaging motivators including a dedicated team of VIP account managers who develop relationships with individual VIPs to bring a 1:1 relationship to the game.

Chillingo, a leading games publisher, has also prioritized VIP programs, and describes the importance of dedicating resources to VIP program as follows:

“In simple terms, you have three main components: VIP points, benefits, and timers. The benefits – things like extra fuel capacity or shortened cooldown periods – are in tiered packages and are bought using VIP points. The timers for these benefits also come in tiered packages. VIP points can be earned, bought, or given as a reward for things such as a daily sign-in. As players accumulate points, they move up in a tiered system and qualify for increasingly larger benefits.”

VIP systems actually just mirror the way our entire society functions. You put time and money into a career, a relationship, a sport, or a hobby, and you get increasing benefits as you work your way up the ranks. In a job it’s a bigger office or access to the company credit card; in mobile gaming it’s personalized content or digital goods.

Mobile devices take up perhaps more of our time than even a career does (and many careers are done through mobile). Because of this, mobile games have the propensity to develop incredibly invested and loyal customers. And these customers will have a uniquely long lifecycle and create high profit for you if they are adequately engaged and rewarded.

Want to learn more about building a revenue-generating VIP program?

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Published March 22, 2016
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