So those of you that know me, know that I’m not a huge fan of free to play games and the business model. However since I’ve had to work on F2P projects from time to time, I’ve done my share of research on metrics and I figured I’d share my list of metrics worth a damn. Ultimately, there are three categories that these metrics fall into. Player Acquisition Metrics, Usage/Retention Metrics and Monetization Metrics. Some folks focus on one more than the others but overall, if you’re going to make a F2P game, these are the metrics you want to look at

Note: I’m pretty sure I stole this from somewhere on the net. Just writing out my versions from my notes. If anyone can send me the original site where this came from so I can link back and credit the guy I stole this from originally, that would be awesome.

Metric Type 1: Player Acquisition/Growth Metrics

Paid vs Organic

This is a one or the other metric. Ideally, everyone wants to acquire players organically, which basically means people just became players without you spending a dime on getting them to try your game. If a player found your game surfing an app store, they’re organic. If they started playing your game because they heard their friends talk/tweet about it, they’re organic. If they discovered your game through a banner add or through some sort of marketing push like a google ad, they’re a paid player.

Pretty important metric really.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) or Effective Cost Per Acquisition (eCPA)

For every paid player you have, you want to figure out how much each player cost you. The difference between CPA and eCPA is that with CPA you look at the number of new players acquired directly from a specific marketing push while with eCPA you look at the total installs.

Services like Chartboost, AdMob and InMobi are commonly used to promote games. If you spent $10,000 on getting 5000 players through Chartboost, your CPA would be $2 per person($10,000/5000 people). If every one of these paid players got another friend to also install the game, you’d have an eCPA of $1/player. The formula is

$10,000 / (5000 paid players + 5000 friends of the paid players) = $1/player

Just to make things simple

CPA = Total cost for campaign/# of new players acquired directly from the campaign

eCPA = Total cost for campaign/Total # new players acquired including the indirect acquisitions.

Installs by country

Simple metric that tells you how many people in what countries are playing your game. This allows you to target specific countries if you notice some growth. If I’m making a game and then all of a sudden I notice a lot of installs in Japan, it would suggest that I have a growing market there and should devote some part of my marketing budget to doing ads specifically for the Japanese market.

You can use this inversely as well. If I hear that I’m getting a huge number of players in a country like China, but my metrics show otherwise; either someone is exaggerating OR clones or bootleg versions of my game are being sold in that region.

Installs by build

This is a good indicator to find out if more people installed your game after you released a special feature or a special theme. If you just added network multiplayer to your game and you see the number of installs shoot up, you know you’re doing something right. Usually you’d tie this in with whether or not the growth was organic or paid.


This is a marketing metric that indicates how viral your game is and how much growth there is. A k-factor of 2 would mean that every player ‘infected’ will spread the game to two other players, effectively infecting them. Meaning that for each player you have, each one will on average bring you 2 more new players. A k-factor of 0.5 would mean that each infected player would infect 0.5 other players; or on average get you one new player for every two you already have.

Most games have k-factors under 1 so if your k-factor is pretty low, don’t worry, you’re not alone..

The formula for calculating your k-factor is:

k = i * c

Here i is the number of invites sent by each player you have, and c is the conversion from each invite. If every new player invites five friends(i=5) and one out of every five become players (20% of 0.2) then your formula would be: k = 5*0.2 or a k-factor of  1 which would indicate that your game is neither viral nor dying.

Metric Type 2: Usage/Retention Metrics

Day “X” retention rate

This is a % rate for the number of players still playing your game after X number of days. Your Day 7 retention rate is the number of players who are still playing your game 7 days after they installed your game. If out of 10,000 players, 7,000 are still playing after 1 day, 5000 are still playing after 7 days and 1,000 are playing after 30 days; your Day 1 retention rate would be 70%, Day 7 retention rate of 50% and a Day 30 retention rate of 10%. The time frame really depends on you but its typically measured in 1, 7 and 30 days. Day 1 rates of 40%, Day 7 rates of 20% and Day 30 rates of being 10% are considered to be good.

Daily and Monthly Active Users

If you’ve ever looked at any social games like those that are on Facebook, you’ll see acronyms like DAU and MAU tossed around. This number literally indicates the total number of people playing your game on a given day or a given month.

For the most part, DAU numbers are a lot more accurate than MAU numbers. If you want to pitch your game to a publisher you’ll want to give them both DAU and MAU numbers. Sites like list top ranking games/apps for Facebook, iOS and Google Play based on these numbers.

DAU/MAU Engagement Ratio

This is a stickiness ratio of how often your players play your game every day for a given month. This is a useful number for Free 2 Play, Social games as well as MMO’s. If you have a really engaging game, this ratio is pretty high, but if you have a game where players just log in once a week, then the ratio is a lot lower. A DAU/MAU engagement ratio of 0.2 or 20% is considered good.

Session length

How long do players play your game for in a single sitting? I find this rate really varies based on the platform your game is on. While any really well made game can captivate players for an extended period of time, I have found that for the most part mobile gamers will have a session length of 5 minutes or less, tablet gamers have a session length of about 15-30 minutes, handheld console gamers (Nintendo 3DS, Sony PSP/Vita) have a session length of 30mins to 1 hr  and console gamers about 1 hr+. PC gamers are something else, I don’t know why.

Churn rate

This is the opposite of the retention rate. It’s the rate at which people stop playing your game. If you have a day 1 retention rate of 70%, the 30% of people that quit playing your game is your churn rate. As a game developer, you want to both minimize your churn rate and get the people who left to come back.


When do players typically start spending money? IF they ever do that is. Do most players get past the tutorial before they spend cash? Do they spend money after they’ve been exposed to the cash shop or after they start visiting other players? Figuring out the progression will help you fine tune the experience so players will want to spend money. This is part of the UX design of your game.

Metric Type 3: Monetization Metrics


This stands for the Average Revenue Per Daily Active User and is exactly that. How much money on average does each player generate every day. Easy calculation. Total revenue that day / DAU for that day


Average Revenue Per Paying User. Let’s face it. With everything F2P game, there’s only a very small amount of people who actually spend any money. ARPPU is used to identify how much these folks spend on average. My suggestion here is to do one set that’s inclusive of all paying players and then a 2nd set without the whales and killer whales (players that spend $20+/week). That way you have numbers for the bulk majority of paying players as well as big rollers.


No it’s not a typo. This is the Average Revenue Per User. Unlike ARPPU where we look at ONLY the people that actually spend money, ARPU factors in EVERYONE including the ones that have never spent a dime. Super easy to calculate. Total revenue for a specific period of time / Total number of players for a specific period of time. You can honestly average out your total monthly revenue and divide by your MAU for each month and then average it across a few months.

Player LTV

The LTV or Life Time Value of a player is essentially how much the average player spends during the average amount of time they play the game. It’s calculated by taking your ARPU and multiplying it by the average number of months each player plays your game(paying and non-paying).

This is a very important number to figure out, as it will usually determine how much you should spend to gain a player. If the LTV of a player is $1 and your CPA(cost per acquisition) is $2, you’re spending way more than you’re getting back. Ideally you want your CPA to be less than your LTV.

Conversion Rate

This is the rate of first time purchases for each person that discovers your game. This is an important figure to keep track of as it’ll determine how effective a certain marketing campaign is or if your new patch drives people to spend money. This could be converting demo players to unlock full games or getting someone to spend some cash on some IAP(In App Purchase) or DLC. Typically, this number is pretty low around 2-5%, especially for casual games.

# of transactions per paying user

This is similar to the LTV, except here we’re looking at how often paying players make purchases. Do your whales spend $100 in a single shot or do they drop $25 every week? This will help determine how often you want to refresh your content or how often you want to incentivize your cash shop. It’s honestly more trend analysis than anything else.