5 Things Mobile Game Devs Can Learn From Dating Apps

Insights & Best Practices

November 11, 2015


min read

Apps that gamify dating are hot. Tinder is leading the way as both hero and villain, and many more have launched in recent months: happn, Hinge and Bumble among them. These apps are winning large audiences (Tinder alone has an estimated 50 million users) and forcing their devs to answer a question typically reserved for more traditional games: How do we make this fun?Jason Loia is a 15-year veteran of mobile gaming and is now COO of dating app Unravel. Though Loia used his gaming experience as a foundational tool for Unravel's development, he says mobile game devs have a lot to learn from dating apps. We spoke with Loia via email and he provided us with five big takeaways mobile game devs should consider:

1. Consider new metrics

Because Unravel was designed by gamers, we found we needed new metrics to describe the performance of the app. For example, if Unravel is truly successful at matching people, the actual "win state" could mean the user should churn out of the app. This is counterintuitive from a game designer's point of view ? a primary success driver for a game is often to maximize the user's retention in the game.[caption id="attachment_12004" align="aligncenter" width="900"]

Image via Unravel

Image via Unravel[/caption]For that, we came up with "liquidity metrics" that describes interaction frequency and depth with other players. Still, "liquidity metrics" are applicable to games, as well. The relationship between interaction of players and retention is applicable, for example, in any social game where cooperative or competitive game mechanics are at play.

2. Expand your data points during playtesting

In many ways, playtesting for Unravel is similar to that of any mobile game we might put through playtesting: We look for obvious unintended UI/UX hotspots, behaviors that aren't told by the numbers, or insights that are extremely difficult to come by just by data analytics alone.That said, playtesting for a dating app also reveals some human factors that game playtesting sometimes doesn't address or target. In game playtesting, you're observing how a player interacts with the content. In our case, the users are literally connecting through the content itself ? that is the ultimate objective. So studying when those shots of social adrenaline occur, which can be triggered differently for different users, is invaluable.

3. Make onboarding as fun as possible

It was imperative for us to create an onboarding experience that didn't feel like a lot of setup or investment time to the user. In fact, we wanted to make the conventionally arduous part of a dating app ? that is, filling out your profile ? to be a much more entertaining activity in the overall experience. Instead we developed it like a game where users can, for instance, create their own questions for others to answer. We think that if we can make the onboarding experience fun, then we will have completely solved for any friction in the process.[caption id="attachment_12005" align="alignright" width="287"]

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Image via App Store[/caption]

4. Optimize...and optimize again

Like all social apps or games, we've had to optimize our funnel experience over time. We now enjoy an extremely high funnel throughput, in large part due to optimizations. One example of a critical turning point in the funnel was the Push Notifications Acceptance Rate, which dramatically affects our ability to connect users when they're not in the app. When we first launched, it was well below 50 percent, today it's close to 90 percent. We accomplished this jump through several iterations on the the messaging of why we needed to send notifications, the actual wording of that message and the flow of when we prompted the user. Some changes move the needle quite a bit and you go deeper down that path, some changes don?t make a difference at all. It?s just a matter of trying different things.

5. The crowd is key to creativity

Our data shows unequivocally that personalization drives key metrics including engagement, retention and liquidity. We can see this correlation in how the number of levels [players] create directly predicts their subsequent activities in the app. The concept of crowdsourcing the creativity of the entire app's player base is intriguing to us since we know our community is far better equipped to generate compelling, entertaining content than we can ever hope to be on our own.