It’s a big accomplishment for a mobile game to get a lot of players. And it’s still more difficult to keep them around.

Hanging on to users, known as retention, is important to generate loyalty among them. And since loyal users tend to spend more money in free-to-play games, retention is often viewed as key to monetization.

But Boston-based mobile app intelligence firm Apptopia studied retention data from 16 popular mobile games. It found that top-grossing games do not experience the same high retention that top-ranked overall apps do.

Above: Apptopia’s study shows game retention varies by category.

Image Credit: Apptopia

 

Of the games the company analyzed, Apptopia found that Toy Blast experienced the most year-over-year growth (28.7 percent). It also has the highest 14-day retention rate, or percentage of players that are still playing the game after 14 days, for games that have been on the market more than a year.

“If you want to monetize from mobile ads, you will certainly need higher retention than an in-app-purchase (IAP) heavy game,” said Adam Blacker, brand ambassador at Apptopia, in a blog post. “Publishers need to find their core users and monetize them how they like to be monetized. The heavier on IAPs a game is to compete, it seems the less likely it is to retain users, leaving behind the whales.”

Whales are the users who spend a huge amount of money in a game by making in-app purchases. Blacker said that strategy games are typically heavy on IAPs.

“As a personal example, I stopped playing Boom Beach after one or two weeks because I needed to constantly spend money to compete, but games like Toy Blast also monetize off of ads and do not require me to purchase anything in order to have a good time,” Blacker said. “Retention slides the most from day one to day seven. After day seven, it only drops a few percentage points until day 30.”

Above: Apptopia’s study of retention in the top-ranked games.

Image Credit: Apptopia