February 4, 2009

Fix retention before it becomes a problem

There have been a lot of broken hearts in this industry recently.

MMO companies spend so much time thinking about how to get more people playing their great new game, that most of them tend to forget how important it is to stop people from quitting.

Whether you've worked on a game for months or years, launch day is an an amazing feeling. That first month, it's so exciting and such a relief to see those sales numbers climbing and read happy posts and reviews about how much people love your game.

Having a successful launch is something to be proud of, but it's only the beginning of the really hard work. It's easy in all the excitement to overlook the fact that within one day of launch, maybe even an hour, you've started losing customers. While droves of people are eagerly waiting in line for your game, someone somewhere is already quitting in frustration.

A bird in the hand

Every game has problems when it launches. That's ok. World of Warcraft did not get off to a smooth start, even though nobody remembers that now.

Post-launch, whether your game will succeed or fail depends on how quickly you identify the reasons players are leaving, how seriously you take them, and how quickly you fix them.

Who's to say that problem you're seeing a few reports of won't turn out to be the reason thousands of players end up leaving your game? Never dismiss a potential problem.

It's easy to take lost customers seriously once new players have stopped coming in, your company is hemorrhaging money, and everyone is losing their jobs.

It's a lot harder to notice or care in those first few weeks, when only 1% of your playerbase has decided not to stick around. However, that's exactly when it's still early enough to do something about it.

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