MAU is the count of Monthly Active Users, or the number of players who have interacted with a game in a given month. Similarly, DAU is the Daily Active Users, and is usually expressed as a monthly average. So for example, if a game has 1,000,000 registered users, 500k of which visited in June, then the MAU is 500k. If, on average, 100k users played on each day in June, then the DAU is 100k.
ARPU is the Average Revenue Per User, and is normally quotes as a monthly number, so (Monthly Revenue / MAU) = ARPU. There is also ARPPU, which is the same but Per Paying User. For example, if from our 500k monthly users there were 5,000 payments with an average value of $10.00, our ARPU is ($50,000 / 500k) = $0.10. Our ARPPU would be ($50,000 / 5,000) = $10. We assumed here that each payment was from a different player.
Meaning And Movement
MAU is the most-quoted measure of a game’s size, but it is effective only to discuss size or reach, not engagement or monetization. For example, there are some Facebook quiz games that a typical new user will only use once, never returning. In this case, MAU = new users, not monthly engaged users. MAU is really only useful to discuss growth in players, and internally it has very little usefulness for metric-driven game developers. DAU can be a very valuable number, as it relates how much activity your game is seeing on a daily basis, but it falls into the same trap as MAU in that it does not discriminate between retention and acquisition.
The single-most important metric for engagement is stickiness: (DAU / MAU). There is a lot less danger of mis-interpretation with stickiness, as we’re measuring how many of our active users visited every day. Most valuable is actually changes in stickiness: if we have 500,000 MAU as in the top example, and our DAU goes from 25,000 to 50,000 over some period, it’s very likely that you’ve made a positive change to the game that is resulting in more repeat visits, and higher ARPU.
“The concept is straightforward: The more a user comes back and plays, the more engaged they are. And the more engaged they are, from my experience[...], the easier it is to monetize them.” - Eric von Coelln on InsideSocialGames.com
Stickiness is the main measurement that you have of game design quality. A good range to shoot for is 20-30%, and you can see from successful developers like Zynga how they apply a spectrum of techniques to drive repeat visits.
Wrap It Up
Obviously a game studio can’t be focused on one metric, but it’s important both at the leadership level and throughout the organization not to become focused on driving MAU. The combination of MAU, stickiness, and ARPU or ARPPU is the magic combination that will deliver not just revenue, but the holy grail of high retention and revenue per-user, which really demonstrates that you’re using your resources more effectively.
Playerize will help you drive the MAU at a low enough cost to satisfy your ARPU, and our analytics and staff will work with you to ensure you’re getting the most out of those new users, by sharing tools and techniques to pump up your stickiness and ARPU.
The Sticky Factor on Inside Social Games (@InsideNetwork) for a great discussion of stickiness, including data from key developers.
Facebook DAU and MAU: What they tell you (and what they don’t) by @HAStark for an in-depth technical discussion on the various ways that DAU and MAU can be moved and interpreted.