An Introduction to Push Notifications For Game Developers

March 31, 2016

Diana Aquino

Push notifications have allowed mobile games to foster new levels of engagement with players by staying in touch even when they’re not playing. Their ability to encourage (or even demand) scheduled gameplay helps develop strong relationships between players and their favorite mobile games that few PC or console titles have been able to replicate. We’ve put together a few points to get you more familiar with push notifications and how they help make mobile games unique.

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Building Push Notifications

First and foremost, games need to request permission from the player before delivering notifications. If the player agrees, a ‘device token’ is returned. Device tokens are like phone numbers and should be handed off to your push provider for use later on. When a push notification arrives on a device, it will include the icon and name of the game that delivered it. Each push provider might handle things a little differently behind the scenes, but here’s what you can typically customize in a standard push notification:

  • The message, which is the content that you want to communicate to the player.
  • The date and time that you’d like the push notification to be sent.
  • The sound file that you’d like to be played when the notification is received.
  • The segment of players that you’re looking to reach.

Using Push Notifications

Since their introduction on Android 2.2 and iOS 3.0, game publishers have used push notifications to communicate with their players for a lot of different reasons, including:

1. Gameplay Alerts

Push notifications can be set up so that players are reminded of game-relevant events, like when construction of a building has been completed or an energy meter has recharged. They’re also great for letting players know about changes in asynchronous multiplayer games, like when a player has been attacked or an opponent has submitted a move. Gameplay alerts keep players moving through content and encountering offers that can translate to revenue from IAPs and ads.

2. Promoting Sales and Events

Publishers have had huge success running promotional IAP and virtual good sales on special occasions and during holidays when people have an excess of leisure time, causing session counts to spike. Push notifications help get the word out by adding an extra-wide layer to the top of your virtual sales funnel, capturing more attention and hopefully more IAP sales.

It’s worth noting that Apple does not permit the use of push notifications in the promotion of any real-world merchandise. Using push notifications to direct your users to retail locations or websites could get your game pulled from the store, so make sure you’re only promoting what’s available for purchase in your game.

3. Re-Engagement

Players will inevitably churn out of your game at all stages of progression, especially in free-to-play. Delivering push notifications to lapsed segments can reclaim players who you would have otherwise never heard from again. With Upsight, you can measure the impact of your push campaigns to discover which segments have re-engagement value. The more players you can keep engaged, the more revenue you’ll generate overall.

Compared to paid user acquisition, re-engagement notification campaigns can be a much more cost effective method of injecting activity into a dwindling player base. Incentivizing gameplay can be especially effective, like reminding players that they’ll receive a reward if they complete the tutorial or letting them know that they have currency to spend.


Want to take your push notification strategy even further?

Check out our article: 6 Tips for Effective Push Notifications.

In: Product, Marketing

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