Recently, my friend wanted to look at my Steam library to see which games I had. I categorize my games into 4 categories – untouched, in-progress, completed and boring. He asked me why I have completed only a small percentage of games that I own. That question hit me like a brick. That’s when I realized my Steam library closely resembled the percentage mentioned in a familiar quote.
Ninety percent of players who start your game will never see the end of it unless they watch a clip on YouTube.Keith Fuller (http://www.fullergameproduction.com/)
This article by Blake Snow does an in-depth analysis of the aspects of low player completion rates. It is interesting how he talks about campaigns and play time being shorter would help increase the completion rate. I agree with Blake on this. To take things further, I feel console and PC games can learn a few lessons from their mobile counterparts. While the former do a very good job of maintaining immersion and delivering compelling experiences, they do very little in terms of actually making the player want to come back when they are not playing. A few techniques can be come to mind.
Mobile games have an advantage as the player always has their device with or near him. All it takes is a well timed push notification. Consoles have also implemented notifications, but they only seem to be annoyances that games as a service (Ex: Fortnite) use to inform players of new content available for purchase. This could be a bit tricky to perfect, but there could be hooks in the game to detect if a player has faced difficulty in completing a particularly challenging part of the game. If the player doesn’t return, the game could then post notifications that contain helpful hints on how to face those challenges.
This is easier said than done. In mobile games, especially F2P, entire monetization models are built around letting players skip difficult content to get to the good parts. But this technique can be harnessed even by single player campaign based games. Spiderman does a nice job of letting players skip the parts that they may hate.
This sounds like such a cheap thing to do, but it has proved to work time and again on mobile games. Many online multiplayer games already use this technique to provide incremental login rewards (Ex : Warframe). Each day that a player returns, giving them a small incentive to play the game increases their emotional investment.
Even though these are some hand-wavy suggestions to possibly improve completion rate among players, I feel they are avenues worth exploring. Games have been changing remarkably over the years. It’s time the single player games catch up to the current trends.