Buycraft University: How to improve player retention

Welcome to the first part of the Buycraft University series on running a successful server. One of our aims for this series is to share idea’s and encourage experimentation. So with that, the first topic we’re going to cover is player retention with the help of Jed Palmer from Isles.

We’ve been speaking to Jed about some of the things he has used and still uses to measure and improve player retention. Including, content; release schedules; and how to use monetisation to increase the number of players that come back for more.

One of the biggest draws for players to revisit a server is new content. Creating new content will keep your regular players happy and attract new players. In terms of a release schedule, bi-weekly or monthly releases allow you the space to test your newest content before releasing it publicly, while also keeping your players interested and ready for more.

Once you've decided on a schedule the timing of the release can also be really important. The times that have the most impact are at the beginning of your peak hours. You have to weigh the benefits of higher player counts, against the bugs which will only appear as a result of the volume of players.

It’s important to think about how long each new piece of content takes the player to complete and to look at how many times each piece can be replayed. Some game types are only playable once or twice and might be 30 minutes, but others can be 5 minutes and be really addictive. Players are unlikely to return to the server if you only have 10 minutes of content, this is the foundation of all popular servers.

However, the content doesn’t have to be in the form of fully fledged new game modes. If you already have a few games which you are regularly updating, then it may be a good idea to add something which engages your players further in your games. For example, leaderboards and competitions give another dimension to your existing games.

Public leaderboards encourage players to play for the top spaces and with monthly resets and rewards. They add incentive for competitive players to return again and again. You can also use competitions to incentivise players to engage in your content further, especially if the prize is a rare item.

The rare or exclusive item model is actually what makes cosmetic items work so well as paid content. Especially if the paid items are limited edition and are only available to a smaller part of your player base. In your webstore, you can limit packages by the number of times it is available on a global level but also per user. This makes rare items something which is pretty easy to pull off.

Looking at your server's retention can actually help increase sales on your webstore. Island Clash’s average play time per player is roughly 17 hours which is linked in part to the amount of content they have on their server. However, looking at the segment of those players who have purchased a rank or package, their average play time shoots up to over 50 hours. The more time their players invest in the server the more likely it is that they will then follow on to purchase and help support it.

The server's community is another good way of increasing player investment and retention. What makes a server great is its community and if you can encourage it in any way it will increase the chance of players sticking around. With our recent release of Community Goals, you can now give your players something to work towards together. We're excited to see how servers will start to use them and how they affect player retention.

Mobile games have led the way with so many new ideas for player retention and no doubt that at some point, you will have seen the return and reward mechanic. This is a simple mechanic where on every login to the game you receive a reward like soft currency or items. Then on each day you return, it will give you increasing rewards. This has been proven to be a great way to reward players who invest their time into your server daily. It also doesn’t feel like a punishment to players who can only find the time to play every weekend.

All servers are constantly evolving and of course, that means that not all of these suggestions will work for everyone. Hopefully though, this article has outlined some of the key aspects of what makes a player want to keep coming back for more.

If you have tried out any of these methods or you have found something which we’ve not mentioned then let us know via

Happy experimenting!

Jed Palmer -

"We make things. Driven to create interesting games, and grow fantastic communities, Isles started out with the Minecraft server Island Clash, but we've expanded beyond that. Offering premium servers to large online influencers, with the addition of PrisonMC - and a bunch more upcoming - we've grown dramatically. Having gathered a strong, multi-skilled team, we take pride in taking a new community-driven server from it's basic concept, designing it as you would a fully fledged game, and taking it all the way through to release, with massive expansions released after launch."