A study published by GetSocial, and game developer SEGA® HARDlight has found that using non-paid social channels for user acquisition (a concept that GetSocial calls viral user acquisition) attracted gamers that played more and stayed longer – with a significantly lower acquisition cost.

The study looked at player behaviour around Sonic Forces: Speed Battleand specifically the more than 40,000 players who had been invited to the game by friends using social channels connected to the GetSocial platform. The study also examined the behaviour of ‘Viral Whales’ – players whose social influence generated five or more installs by friends. 

Players that installed Sonic Forces: Speed Battle on iOS and Android as a result of receiving a social invite via the GetSocial platform had an average lifetime retention 43% longer than regular players. They also played 87% more game sessions over the lifetime of the install. The study also found that if a player installed the game as a result of viral user acquisition, they were almost three times as likely to invites their friends – creating a powerful network effect. 

Key findings include:

● WhatsApp was the most effective viral acquisition channel, accounting for 47% of players acquired through non-paid channels

● A significant subgroup of ‘Viral Whales’ generated five or more installs from their own connections, sending an average of 109x more than a normal user

● ‘Viral Whales’ continued to actively play the game four times longer than regular gamers

● The USA accounted for 31% of ‘Viral Whales’, and 25% of all players acquired through the GetSocial campaign. 11% of players came from Brazil, 8% from France, and 7% from Germany

One of the surprising results of the campaign was discovering a subgroup of players that were both highly engaged with the game, and who had quite extensive social connections. These players played the game 15x more than the majority of players, and for more than 4x longer. They were prolific when it came to sending their friends invites to play the game, with an average of 109 invites each – making them ten times more valuable than the normal player base when it comes to viral user acquisition. It’s no wonder that GetSocial has labelled these players ‘Viral Whales’.

Adding GetSocial’s social layer to Sonic Forces: Speed Battle delivered incredibly encouraging results,” said Chris Southall of SEGA HARDlight. “By relying on the power of peer-to-peer recommendation, and rewarding users who invite their friends with in-game items, we not only saw significantly lower acquisition costs versus traditional channels but also much greater levels of player retention. As an experiment in using non-paid channels, it’s been a definite success.”

The data collected from our collaboration with SEGA for Sonic Forces: Speed Battle proves the value of adding a social layer to apps and games to increase their virality and retention,” said Jeroen Bouwman, CEO of GetSocial. “ With games and app developers constantly on the lookout  for new ways to drive user acquisition and retention, viral acquisition has the clear potential to be an incredibly cost-effective method within the marketing mix of other traditional paid channels.”

 Sonic Forces


Tobias Matthews

Tobias Matthews


Writer at Fourth Source.