Player Retention Data Indicates Cryptic’s Approach Might Be Wrong

Neverwinter as classic free-2-play title has a focus on constantly bringing in new players. The latest module “Heart of Fire” is only one of many examples. It incorporates a popular D&D brand mainly because it hopes to pick up the fans of Acquisitions Incorporated. We’ve already questioned whether this is really the best approach, and it seems actual data backs our claims. Attached is a Reddit post by Uncensored regular Janne that outlines some information about player retention.

Improving The Experience of New Players Has Little to No Effect

Janne was kind enough to already highlight the most relevant aspect of the post. Based on data, improving the experience of new players has little to no effect on player retention. If people like a title, they’ll play it regardless. And in case they don’t, whatever you think you’re doing to keep them won’t likely work.

Granted, the quote mentions intro quest structure and UI changes that make it easier for new players to get into the game. But it’s probably fair to assume that actual content falls into the same category. It suggests that a campaign like “Acquisitions Incorporated” doesn’t do terribly much for a game in terms of longevity. The development time invested on new players might be better spent on entertaining the veterans you already have.

You could however argue that to retain players, you first have to get them into the game, which “Heart of Fire” probably does just fine. But you definitely wonder whether marketing strategies and a larger social presence could do an equally decent job. All you have to do is get players to try your game and then the rest becomes largely irrelevant, at least in terms of retention. The heavy focus on low-level players means you’re constantly working the treadmill because you actually do little to grow the game. Instead, you could use the development time to extend the endgame experience.

Decision Making

A second related issue Janne mentions is decision making and evaluating the data that’s out there. The fact that Cryptic currently focuses on new players either means they are willingly ignoring facts, are not aware, or misinterpret the data. All three options aren’t great. A lot of things obviously factor in and we don’t know what the devs are looking at, but I think there’s a point to make that Cryptic’s approach could be wrong.

The amount of content you create for different tiers of players has always been a point of contention within the community. And data like this will likely keep it a controversial topic going forward. The fact that improving the experience of lower levels does nothing for your retention rates however should further encourage those that believe Cryptic has to focus more on veterans and the endgame.


What’s your take on the topic? Should Cryptic continue to cater to lower levels or do more for the endgame community? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!

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j0Shi

j0Shi

j0Shi plays the Neverwinter MMORPG since the open BETA in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the blog and the whole UN:Project. Originally a Guardian Fighter, he has built up ALTs of all classes and plays on BIS/near-BIS level.

15 thoughts on “Player Retention Data Indicates Cryptic’s Approach Might Be Wrong

  • December 14, 2018 at 10:38 am
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    What retention data? … It was only a few months ago that they executed the Huntgate ban-wave. … Then they rush to release a buggy mod15 — which eliminates salvage, replaces everyone’s professions, and offers almost nothing to veterans.
    Is it any wonder that less people might be playing Neverwinter?

    Reply
    • December 14, 2018 at 11:05 am
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      Another thought: how many other ‘Free-to-play’ games came to console this past year? … War Thunder, Armored Warfare, PUBG, Fortnite, Black Desert. … Granted they’re not all MMO’s, but the F2P section has a lot more options now than a few years ago.

      Reply
  • December 14, 2018 at 10:51 am
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    But hey at least we got them old useless rings back from mod 1-4. Really WTF kinda rewards is that we can not even use them as a transmute and that is the only reason some players wanted the return of some old gear.

    Reply
  • December 14, 2018 at 2:05 pm
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    At the beginning of Mod 2, four friends and I started Neverwinter and formed a guild. By Mod 5 or 6, three of them had decided to quit, spent all their Celestial and Ardent coins, sent me all their unbound stuff, deleted their characters and uninstalled the game. The other has not logged in for nearly two years so, although he did not yet officially quit, he actually has.

    So that is 20% retention for us.

    As they used to do 80% Character Slot Sales, I could buy 2 slots for 100 Zen instead of 500, so that’s 10 character slots for the normal 500 Zen for two. So I have a lot of Alts and multiples of every class. Account-bound Drowcraft and Primal gear meant that I could play them all again from Mod 8, as the mood takes me. I always have a few free slots as I am still waiting for my preferred Druid class. But I rolled two new ones, a CW and GF, for the New Character Recruitment Event as I want the free BtA Runics for my “Mains” and the Rank 14 enchant we get half-way through from the Temple. The best thing about HoF/AI is that I have been to Chult and Omu for the first time ever, except for random Skirmishes. So I am inclined to resurrect some old “Mains” to do those campaigns properly.

    I absolutely hated the very idea of the new professions system before release, but now I like it a lot. I withdraw all my earlier negative remarks except two:

    1) the new professions system really seems to be for near end-game players who get all the new gear and boons within weeks of release, so they have something to do while waiting for a new Mod. At the same time, although Gathering is still the slowest to progress (as Leadership was), everything progresses much faster for new players then it ever did in the past.

    2) it really does seem to be meant as a gold sink, for reasons which escape me (apart form the fact that it is not really quite finished and relative costs were never normalised).

    With the new professions, most of my characters can get Rank 3 workshop in days, due to the amount of old crap they have for trading in, while my two new characters got to Rank 70 Jewelcrafting from scratch in a couple of weeks without really trying.

    ~

    I don’t know how much of my own experience as a “veteran” of the game (who did not even quit in Mod 6) impacts on the retention ideas mentioned in the Blog, but BtA gear since Mod 8 means that I could play multiple Alts of every class again. meanwhile, Mod 6 made all my stashed, unbound gear worthless overnight and meant that I focused on one character for almost a year to get him back up to strength for soloing IWD and Biggrin’s Tomb.

    Now, I have many, many, many Alts that can farm AD in nDemo AND eDemo, and many Alts that can run RIQs and RAQs. I cannot do REQs, but I don’t care. I stopped pursuing BIS in Mod 6, and play purely for fun. Instead of chasing the top gear on one or two, I spent 2 years making more and more high level enchants, so I could equip any class and build. On some, I pursued rare fashion gear etc so I could dress them up in the style I liked. Others, I concentrate on farming events like Jubilee etc. For a few I got the Siegebreaker Griffon just because it matches the Blue Plaguefire colours of their fashion gear.

    And, of course, the friends I have made (if I can ignore the FlatTards like Noor and atefah).

    All great fun. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop playing.

    🙂

    Reply
  • December 14, 2018 at 4:11 pm
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    Mods 10-13 were all about appealing to the BIS hardcore endgame crowd. Only the best of the best could do FBI, Spellplague, Tong, Cradle, etc., when they first came out. This alienated a lot of players (let’s face it, the vast majority are not BIS) and now the devs are trying to recruit and retain new players to replace the disgruntled ones who left.

    Reply
    • NWO_Unblogged
      December 15, 2018 at 1:11 am
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      Mod 10 was a mess, but that wasn’t because of any hardcore focus. M12 was a rather successful mod for the game as well.

      Reply
    • January 16, 2019 at 10:17 am
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      I have to say as a end game BiS player even with BiS gear you don’t always get into groups. And I got sick of calling out and started to create my own groups. I usually took lower geared DPS as you don’t need 17-18K il DPS to beat content; just ones that learn mechanics. I have taken many players through plenty of end game content without any major issues.

      The issue I have with mod 15 is the story is just horrible. The crafting system is buggy and I’m unable to progress on 2 of my primary character with my third not even started as I don’t want to be stuck on all three of the characters I play. Than add to it the reuse of maps and annoying voice over and IMO this is the worst mod.

      Prior mods you had content for all players who wanted to venture into the zone or try the dungeons. There was even crafting available for non-master crafters.

      This update simply alienated many player end game, new player and even some crafter that may get bugged out of the crafting system.

      Add to it the imbalancing of class updates making the mod even worst .

      I want to like NWO but what is planned beyond this mod? We don’t know, they haven’t communicated to its community so we are all in the dark here. Unlike other games NWO is leading us in a very dark tunnel with no lights and no real hope in sight.

      I will stick around until mod 16 and if mod 16 is similar to the flop of 15, other games like ESO will be taking my money.

      Reply
  • December 14, 2018 at 8:00 pm
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    I believe there intent is to not have veteran players grind content. They want players to break from the game and come back next mod to experience the new content (and bring your wallets with you). That’s why there focus isn’t around the grindy part of the adventure. So hopefully new people come in, get to a point they have exhausted the lore then break until the next mod release.

    The real problem is the veterans are playing the game wrong.

    Reply
    • j0Shi
      December 15, 2018 at 1:25 am
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      I took a ~5 weeks “break” over the summer due to transitioning to a new job. I only logged in to claim keys every morning, basically. After coming back, the weirdest and most random things were fun again (like doing Stronghold encounters). Plus the progression can’t really pass you.

      Reply
  • December 15, 2018 at 4:40 am
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    I can be considered a new player or returning player. I played at first because it was free and I enjoyed the forgotten realms a lot growing up. Got tonlevel 65 and stopped for 6 months realizing the easy progression turned into an ugly grind. I didn’t need any tutorials or videos to watch or read this blog for that matter. But at ~65 it got boring running daily and weeklys trying to get through Sharandar.

    So I got bored with my other games and needed a distraction. I saw neverwinter installed still and logged in and realized I had a decently high level toon. And found this site as well as the site with the character builds.

    Once I respecced my dc for both A.C. and DO , the game for “easier”. I started farming my level 70 stuff in just a few weeks.

    I can see why people get frustrated with the game. You go from filthy casual to having to research and do maths in the blink of an eye.

    Cryptic needs to do a lot of cleanup. Remove the old stuff that doesn’t make sense anymore (legacy profession items in drop boxes) add a variety of transmutes (current amount sucks), make each feat tree viable , as an example dc has two true paths. The middle tree is useless. Make it useful.

    There is a lot they can do. I prefer more dungeons and quest lines. Give me more.

    Reply
    • NWO_Unblogged
      December 15, 2018 at 7:44 am
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      That’s sort of what the post was alluding to. It’s much more important to improve the mid and endgame experience to retain players. Quitting soon after 70 is probably pretty common because the story ends and you run into all sorts of repeatable campaigns and grind.

      Reply
  • December 16, 2018 at 10:39 am
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    Heart of fire seems to to be a precursor to the waterdeep module that was expected and also to solve several low item level issues that cropped up. Give the signet for maze reduces that heartache and basic boons that were sorely needed by mid game players. And add a powerful enchantment and it’s a well rounded module aimed at lower to mid game players . Waterdeep should be next and the dev team should have had time to make a real good module from it to satisfy the end game crowd

    Reply
  • December 18, 2018 at 10:48 am
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    NWO is nothing but a repetitive boring grind of the same boring quest over and over and over. Even new campaigns rarely offer anything of good value and when new content is released true end game groups burn through it without much fuss or worry.

    First let’s discuss the issue at hand; content being designed for new players. Ok, why even add more content for new players. Instead of adding more for new players, adjust what you have based on new player feedback. Design new content for mid-tier and end game players with a focus on ways to get players to spend money in the game both in game and real currency.

    Second, improve the campaigns and make them more story driven. What we have now is nothing but fetch or kill quest that even in the latest zones are no different than what was done during the original leveling missions; the only difference now is the story is bland and not enjoyable.

    Third, dungeons should have two difficulties with the higher difficulty awarding the new seal and the older difficulty providing the older seal. The difference would be additional mechanics in the harder difficulty and special titles along with enemies have 50% more health, doing 25% more damage, and etc… This would really help end game player and give them something to really do vs. CoDG, CR or T9 all of which are easy and boring.

    Forth, create an annual 10 person survivor event for end game players . Enemies start off at level 70 and after a few waves the a leader comes out. If the group beats the leader they have 2 minutes to do rest and than another wave comes out but one level higher. This cycle is repeated until the group wipes. The restrictions includes: no life scrolls of any kind, you are allowed one death for the whole run with one pick up. If you die a second time you are out with one exception when a Soul Forge proc it does not count as a death. Enemies level will go up to 85. After each wave there will be a chest with a small award. The awards get better as the enemies get stronger. The last group award includes a Epic Mount bound to character that has a special equipped combat power and equipped power along with a special custom.

    I really wish the devs would create the event above; I have done similar events in other games and loved it due to the special award and the challenge they provided. Only the best of the best would get to the end groups. I really wish the devs would create a NWO Survivor event.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2018 at 8:44 am
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    Another MMO I tried was EVE Online. I enjoyed it but it had a steep learning curve compared to other games that a new tutorial helped a lot with. The problem I had with EVE was.. (1) not enough PVE, I am just not into PVP and (2) the paywall. I don’t mind handing some cash to a game but I prefer giving it in chunks to buy either stuff in the game or campaign maps. EVE’s paywall was a subscription that if you stopped paying per month you higher level gear got locked out. I also stopped playing and then tried to come back and forgot even how to undock my ship.

    The problem with NW is how they try to monetize the game. Outside of VIP and character slots, I really don’t see anything I would spend real money on or the prices are outrageous such as campaign signets. IMHO, the F2P model is too restrictive. Frankly I think charging $10 for new campaigns and releasing those a few times a year would be better. There is enough old content to get new players hooked (it needs a serious clean up) and vets have so much AD that how much are they even spending on the game? Campaigns and fashions, make money there.

    Reply

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