Boosting Player Retention in Online Service Games through Effective UX Design

Corey Hobson
3 min readNov 17, 2023

Online service games, often referred to as “live service” games, are designed to be continually updated, offering fresh content and experiences. A significant challenge when developing such games is ensuring players remain engaged over time (ie. retention). A well-considered User Experience (UX) design can be a pivotal factor in achieving high player retention rates in online service games.

Destiny 2

This article highlights 8 tips to keep in mind when designing the UX for online service games.

1. Intuitive Onboarding Experience

  • Tutorial Integration: Seamlessly incorporate tutorials, making them part of the gameplay. “Destiny 2”, for instance, integrates its tutorials into the game’s story missions.
  • Assistive Prompts: Offer contextual hints during early gameplay without overwhelming players.
  • Progressive Disclosure: Gradually introduce game mechanics to avoid cognitive overload.

2. Rewarding Progression Systems

  • Visible Milestones: Create clear progression markers. In “Warframe”, the Mastery Rank system shows players their progression and unlocks new weapons and missions.
  • Frequent Rewards: Offer regular in-game rewards, ensuring players feel a constant sense of achievement.
  • Tiered Challenges: Design challenges suitable for both casual players and hardcore gamers, ensuring all player types feel catered to.

3. Engaging Social Features

  • Easy Communication: Implement user-friendly chat systems and voice communication. “Fortnite” offers streamlined voice chat, fostering team collaboration.
  • Collaborative Play: Encourage team quests or missions, promoting social engagement.
  • Shared Achievements: Celebrate group achievements or milestones, making players feel part of a community.

4. Regular Content Updates

  • Thematic Seasons: Introduce seasonal themes or events, like “Overwatch’s” holiday events, which bring players back during specific times of the year.
  • Dynamic World Events: Incorporate spontaneous in-game events. “Guild Wars 2” has world events that spontaneously start, encouraging player participation.
  • Balanced Additions: Ensure new content doesn’t disrupt the game balance, maintaining fairness.
Overwatch: Halloween skins

5. Personalization and Customization

  • Character Customization: Allow players to personalize avatars. Games like “Final Fantasy XIV” offer extensive character design options.
  • UI Customization: Permit players to tailor their UI layout, making their interface comfortable.
  • In-Game Homes or Spaces: Offer personal spaces like homes or bases for players to customize, as seen in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”.
Animal Crossing allows you to decorate your own home (while paying of debts for a lifetime)

6. Responsive Feedback Systems

  • In-Game Surveys: Collect feedback without making players leave the game environment.
  • Rapid Bug Fixes: Addressing game bugs promptly shows players that developers are attentive and care about the gaming experience.
  • Transparent Communication: Keep players informed about updates, issues, or changes. Many games maintain regular developer diaries or update logs to engage with their community.

7. Accessible Monetization Models

  • Value Proposition: Ensure in-game purchases offer genuine value. Cosmetic items, like those in “League of Legends”, can be appealing without affecting gameplay.
  • Avoid Pay-to-Win: Monetization shouldn’t compromise game balance. Players are likely to leave if they feel they can’t compete without spending money.
  • Frequent Sales or Discounts: Occasional discounts on in-game items or currency can incentivize spending without making players feel pressured.

8. Optimized Performance and Load Times

  • Efficient Loading: Games like “Call of Duty: Warzone” focus on optimized loading, ensuring players get into action quickly.
  • Stable Servers: Invest in reliable server infrastructure to minimize downtimes or lag.
  • Clear System Requirements: Clearly communicate game requirements, ensuring players have a smooth experience from the outset.


To have a great online service game you need a high player retention. A user-centric UX design, focused on delivering consistent value and engagement, ensures that players remain invested in the game for the long haul. Developers need to stay attuned to player needs, iterating, and updating based on feedback and innovations in the world of games.



Corey Hobson

UX design Lead @ Motorsport Games | I write about UX design, Game UX, UX strategy, and leadership with ADHD.