The ravenous consumer appetite for mobile gaming apps shows no sign of slowing down: According to a recent report from Data.ai, category spend was on track to hit an eye-opening $21.4 billion in Q2 2022. One of the leading free-to-play game publishers in this hyper-competitive space is Tilting Point, with successful titles such as SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off, Star Trek Timelines, and Warhammer: Chaos & Conquest. How does a company like Tilting Point help mobile games squeeze more out of tight marketing budgets, while creatively engaging and retaining players?
In this episode of the Mobile Presence podcast, our host Peggy Anne Salz interviews Hunter Bulkeley, Senior Product Manager at Tilting Point, on how he strategically designs to drive retention and loyalty, in part by aligning game mechanics with real-world charities and causes—in other words, creating gameplay that matters.
At Tilting Point, Bulkeley has most recently led development and marketing for TerraGenesis—an award-winning title that has been downloaded more than 28 million times—in addition to several confidential projects; previously he was responsible for Live Ops in SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off and led the soft launch of Warhammer: Chaos & Conquest. Prior to joining Tilting Point, Bulkeley worked as a game designer at Outplay while pursuing a degree from the University of Saint Andrews.
Founded in 2012, Tilting Point combines leading-edge technology with expertise in marketing and user acquisition to enhance live games. Thanks to its innovative and data-driven approach, the company was recognized as one of the world’s top mobile game makers by PocketGamer.biz in 2021. It currently has more than 400 employees across offices in New York, Barcelona, Boston, Kyiv, Los Angeles, Seoul, and San Diego.
According to Bulkeley, one key to Tilting Point’s success in retaining gamers is having a steady pipeline of base content, combined with robust feature design and development. “You need the new content coming out to keep base-level interest. The new features will introduce deeper systems, deeper monetization, deeper engagement pools for you to keep the game changing so [users are] not getting bored.”
Another important driver of loyalty and retention is appealing to players’ values and giving them the tools to achieve real-world impact. “We’ve done a lot of work with various charities, in particular tree planting and reforestation with our game TerraGenesis,” says Bulkeley. “We partnered with a service called Ecologi, a tree planting API hooked into our game. We have a feature where every time a player completes a certain series of actions or gathers up enough in-game currency, they can plant a tree in their game,” which in turn triggers funding for real-world tree planting. Not only has the initiative resulted in the real planting of 570,000 trees worldwide, it’s a cost-neutral and self-sustaining program for Tilting Point: The actions a player must take to trigger tree-planting are designed to be monetizing.
The secret to the program’s success, Bulkeley explains, was to “find a match between the game, the players, and the cause. TerraGenesis was very easy because it’s a game about [turning] a planet from barren wasteland to glorious, lush, amazing.” Further, the cost-neutral approach helps ensure that “it will keep going on forever, as long as the game is still around. Players care about it a bit more because it’s going to be long-term.”
Adding an element of time-limited content is another great way to boost engagement, according to Bulkeley. “The biggest uplift I’ve ever personally achieved was when we introduced limited-time events into TerraGenesis,” he notes. “These were new levels that would come around for 48 hours. The player would have to play through them within that timeframe. It introduced new content; it changed the game mechanics.”
Tilting Point saw an approximately 20% Day 30 retention uplift, “which we were very happy with,” he says. “We were able to extend our LTV another 30 days as a result of that as well. Giving users more content in a time-limited way worked very well for us.”
To hear more from Hunter Bulkeley about driving loyalty and retention by delivering robust, relevant content and appealing to a user’s values, tune into the entire interview.
Listen to: “How Tilting Point Earns Gamer Loyalty While Having Real-World Impact”