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Two-thirds of free mobile gamers stop playing after one day

In a new survey of mobile gaming habits, it was discovered that most players will stop playing a free game after 24 hours and never return.

In a new survey of mobile gaming habits, it was discovered that most players will stop playing a free game after just 24 hours and never return.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Freemium games are coming to dominate the mobile gaming market, but that doesn't necessarily mean players are sticking around. Audience retention can be particularly difficult when new games are coming out every day, as a new report by mobile monetisation consultancy company Swrve reveals. On average, 66 per cent of users will stop playing a freemium game after just 24 hours, and 19 per cent will play the game only once.

The survey tracked the habits of over 10 million players for a period of 90 days as they downloaded and played over 30 games in Swrve's network. To track how many players remained in any given game, Swrve simply looked at how many players remained active after the first day, the first seven days and the first 30 days.

Even if a game does manage to capture a player's attention beyond that first day, that doesn't mean they'll stick around for much longer: by the seventh day, only 16.4 per cent of the people who downloaded the game remained; by the 30th, the average retention rate was just 5.5 per cent.

When it comes to making in-app purchases, the numbers might seem low, but they're actually pretty good. Of all players, 2.2 per cent will made at least one purchase during the first 90 days, with a total average spend per player of US$20.62 across three payments. This averages at US$0.45 per download — which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Australian developer Halfbrick, for example, found that when it made Jetpack Joyride a free download, the number of downloads increased greatly — but the percentage of players making in-app purchases stayed the same.

The maths is pretty simple: 2.2 per cent of 10,000 (for example) is a higher number than 2.2 per cent of 1000.

According to Swrve CEO Hugh Reynolds, this highlights the importance of capturing a user's attention and keeping it. "It's a bit like a first date," he said in an interview with Re/code. "If it's going to be effective, it needs to be effective quick."

These figures seem relatively consistent with what we've already heard about freemium audience retention, as well as Swrve's monetisation report, released in February, that revealed that just 0.15 per cent of mobile gamers account for 50 per cent of IAP revenue.

However, freemium veteran Ben Cousins offered a word of caution when considering the figures, tweeting that Swrve seems to be "trying to paint a depressing picture to sell services." He added, "Those numbers are totally normal, can drive success." In another tweet, he elaborated, "40 per cent of players returning on the second day is great numbers, a sign of a real hit."