GDC 2015: In it for the Long Haul

by Adam Telfer

Recently I spoke at GDC 2015 in San Francisco with my colleague Sebastian Nußbaum. We conducted a talk called “In it for the long haul: How Wooga boosts long term retention”. We were both amazed by the response. The GDC feedback was extremely positive: we ranked #1 of all F2P talks in the GDC Summits.


To view the video of the presentation, you will need GDC Vault Access. You can view it here. The slides of the presentation can be visible here.

We discussed the importance and difficulty of delivering strong long term retention. My half of the presentation focused on creating long term retention during prototyping/pre-production, while Sebastian discussed how they delivered long term retention through Narrative design in Pearl’s Peril.

Just as a summary of my main points:

  • Long Term Retention is the biggest differentiator of the Top games to the rest of the F2P market
  • Long Term Retention is more important than monetization or broad audience appeal

To create long term retention:

  • Create a long term goal or aspiration
  • Create mechanics that encourage players to invest in the long term of the game
  • Create session design that both pulls players in 6+ times per day, as well as paces players naturally in the progression
  • Create social mechanics that require players to rely on others to play at their best
  • Understand the cost of content production by your team vs content consumption by your consumers. This must be a healthy ratio.

To test long term retention of new concepts, during prototyping focus on creating a game that lasts for 1 month of fun.

Stop any game that doesn’t show it can scale to one month of fun. Games that struggle at this point have a dangerously low chance of figuring out long term retention during production.