In the business of analytics, it’s too easy to let numbers and acronyms do all the talking. With this feature series, we’re going to surface the people behind all the clever stuff that cranks out the ARPDAU, the benchmark reports and the Sankey charts.
CEO Mark Robinson (was) volunteered to be first in the interrogation chair.
Prized possession: Worst haircut: Starter or dessert:
Mark Robinson, CEO, deltaDNA
My beautiful Orbea Avant
High school, of course. Far. Too. Long.
Starter or dessert:
So, as CEO of the company, what’s the aim here?
In any industry, the aim should be to treat each and every customer as if you know them personally – like the small-town store owner. It’s not good enough to trust that they’ll have the will and patience to find the right content for them – you need to know what they want and to give them exactly that. If you can’t honestly say that you treat your customers like you know them then your marketing is letting you down. The good news is that we have the data and technology to curate a more personal experience in apps – across large numbers of users in real time.
What do people need from mobile engagement?
Generic marketing is dead. People don’t look at their inboxes any more because they’re full of junk – badly-timed and inappropriate messages from any website you’ve ever been to. If you’re still sending out blanket broad promotions in any channel, you’re not doing it right.
At deltaDNA, our purpose for existing is to create appropriate, timely, and intelligent interactions with customers (players). To do that effectively, when the number of customers is in the millions or even billions, you need to rely on data and the actionable insights that it yields.
How are players different now compared to 10 years ago?
Before online and mobile as we know it, the industry used to survive and even thrive by building console games. That, however, consisted mainly of 20-year old men building games for themselves – other 20-year old men. Luckily for them, the market housed 200 million like-minded console players paying up front to consume their output.
We’re now looking at a landscape of 2 billion players, containing many different demographics, that want a much wider variety of playing experiences. The game developer’s personal experience is almost irrelevant for two reasons:
- The majority of players don’t want what developers want or like what developers like.
- Rigid ‘one-size-fits-all’ gaming experiences aren’t enough anymore.
This is where data and analytics come in. Leveraged and actioned properly, data tells you what you couldn’t otherwise know from your narrow personal perspective. Data doesn’t lie, but it only yields the truth with the right amplifier.
What was the state of mobile engagement in the games industry when you founded deltaDNA?
When we emerged in 2010, it was obvious to us that the industry was still learning how to build and manage good Free-to-Play experiences. We began to understand that you needed a combination of good game design with new mechanics, analytics, AB testing and precise messaging strategies to make games work. We developed best practices from our observation of what worked and what didn’t – for example, be focused on engaging the player with patience, attention, and generosity. Only once they are engaged will they consider taking part in any value exchange.
It’s fair to say that, in the early days, analytics meant a few key dashboards and metrics. Everyone wanted that ‘silver bullet’ dashboard that diagnosed all your problems and told you how to solve them. In reality, there is no silver bullet. Understanding your players takes time and investment but the ROI is well worth the effort.
How did analytics transform the games industry?
The route to solving problems lies deep in the data, beyond the scope of simple dashboards, and this is where tools like deltaDNA become invaluable. We’re diagnosing individual player experiences and, crucially, being able to respond to that.
That response can take the form of in-session messaging, or design feedback, or real-time game balancing, or A/B testing. It all comes down to iterating, learning, and optimizing. The faster the developers can do that, the better the game will be.
You can use our tools to optimize the game experience for everybody generically in development, but they really come into their own post-launch. Once you start to differentiate people based on competency, preferences, playing styles, sociability and other factors, that’s when you can start to really engage them in the right way. Analytics isn’t just about information anymore – it’s about action!
Better engagement has given games the chance to achieve long-term success and, in 2019, the most successful games last for years. No more ‘burst and fade’ and hoping that the game metrics will improve, analytics is crucial to understanding the player experience is here to stay as it delivers appropriate player management including player protection.
What’s next for analytics?
The most successful games in today’s charts are there because they strive to treat millions of players as individuals and to deliver them bespoke experiences. All of the successful publishers and developers now have analytics and data at heart of what they do. Those persevering with generic marketing and light-touch analytics are nowhere near the charts.
We’ve come far but we’re only halfway through our journey, if that. The next immediate step for the industry is to widen the scope of player management beyond individual games to whole portfolios. Get visibility of what players are doing across multiple games and you can begin to understand how to give them everything they want. Our tools enable you to act like the small-town store owner for millions of players simultaneously, with each individual left feeling as if you know them and are responsive to their needs.