This post was originally featured on Gamasutra.com in May, 2015.
There’s a fine line between a helpful reminder and an annoyance, and your game’s push notifications have the potential to register as either. That said, there are plenty of players who look forward to hearing from their favorite games because their publishers have taken to the time to learn what their players want and when they want it. Here are a few tips to help make sure your players look forward to hearing from you.
1. Know How and When to Ask Permission
All games need permission from the player before they’re allowed to send push notifications. When the user agrees to the request, a token is supplied which allows the game to contact the player in future. Few games time their push token request properly. Most drop it in at the start of the very first session, when the player’s knowledge of the game is limited to its name, icon, and whatever they may have read in the store description. Active players get bombarded with these requests and the majority of the time, it’s not a great experience. Many publishers take a shotgun-approach to notification delivery that not only hurts performance in their game, but in all games that rely on push notifications to communicate with their players.
To stand out, wait until your players have had a chance to play the game before you ask, and contextualize the request so that players know what they’re signing up for.
Crossy Road does this perfectly. Instead of requesting permission on start up, they wait until the player has had a chance to associate the fun of unboxing new characters with receiving free gifts. As soon as they’ve opened their second character, the game asks if they’d like to be reminded when the next gift is available. Agreeing prompts the token request and players can make the decision with the understanding that they’ll be contacted when the next bit of fun is available.
2. Get Specific
From the outset, think about why you’re contacting your players and decide exactly what you want them to do when they receive the notification. Do you want them to complete a purchase? Is there a specific mechanic you want them to engage with? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you measure the effectiveness of your promotions and write effective copy.
3. Know Your Audience
Having a thoroughly segmented player base is half the battle when it comes to running effective push campaigns. The more certain you can be that you’re talking to the right players about the right offers, the more successful your campaigns will be.
Don’t message non-converted players with offers for $50 IAPs. It’s extremely unlikely that any player’s first IAP would be so high-priced, and you’re demonstrating a lack of understanding for their play style. Likewise, don’t reach out to your whales with discounts on small IAPs that wouldn’t be of any use to them. Over time, these kinds of nuisances can cause what would have otherwise been an engaged, attentive player to deactivate your game’s notifications.
4. Get the Timing Right
In order to capture as much attention as possible, time your push notifications to coincide with hourly spikes in session counts. Sessions are typically highest in the mid-afternoon on weekdays and in the evenings on weekends, but always check your analytics to see what time is most popular for your players. Games geared towards younger audiences are often most active around 3PM to 5PM, during the after-school commute. This ensures that a good chunk of your players will receive the notification around the time that they would typically engage with your game anyway.
5. Omit Needless Words
Notifications get truncated around 110 characters, or roughly 4 lines of text, so make sure you get the important details included up front. The shorter you can make your notifications, the easier it is for players to scan during moments when their attention is elsewhere. Longer notifications risk not getting the message across and can result in fewer engagements.
6. Provide Details
As mentioned in one of our recent posts on Gamasutra, the players who complete an IAP will only ever be a subset of those who are made aware of the option. In between awareness and completion, players need to evaluate whether the offer is of value to them. Your notification copy can help.
“Come on back! We’ve got a great offer for you!”
Notifications like these don’t provide the player with the information necessary to immediately evaluate the offer. It baits them into returning to the game before they can get the details, which can end up feeling like a waste of their time if it turns out it’s not for them.
Instead of giving your player more work to do, include all the details of the offer directly within the notification. Shoot for notifications like:
“Big Bags of Coins are 50% off this weekend only! Buy Now!”
They give your players everything they need to decide whether or not they want what you’re offering the moment they read it. They might feel pushy, but if you’re segmenting effectively and only delivering relevant offers to the appropriate players, you’ll be doing them a favor.