In Free to play, Games Analytics

The video games industry is fast learning that analytics are an essential part of the development process. However, many developers and publishers rarely move on from looking at the basic data flowing through their dashboards into true Player Relationship Management. This can result in a lack of understanding of:

  • Player flow through levels
  • The parts of your game that are contributing to retention
  • How changes made are affecting the game
  • How pinchpoints or blockers affect monetization
  • What different player segments need
  • The long-term cost-effectiveness of acquisition channels
  • The lessons that can be learned from one game and applied to your other titles

As a player, particularly in F2P games but also in any low cost game, you have the power. If your monetary investment in the game is low, then there’s no reason for you to demonstrate commitment or loyalty to a game that’s not giving you what you need!

Dashboard metrics suited a time when player commitment was high due to a significant up-front investment by the player, and when the success of a game was based on marketing effectiveness rather than customer satisfaction.

As gaming has changed beyond all recognition, so have the factors that lead to success. The power has moved from the game designer to the player and that means that analytics has changed focus in the same way.


 Actionable insight

Producing actionable insight from your big data analytics can be a really challenging, even for the most seasoned analysts, so we have a few tips that will help developers use their data in an effective and productive way.

 1.  Identify where and why players are leaving your game 

Your dashboards will tell you that there is a problem with retention and your funnels will show you where. However, these issues are rarely caused by just a single problem and there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution.   What causes one player to quit your game may not be an issue for one who’s more skilled or with a different playing style.

Solving these issues requires a multi-layered approach and the right tools and expertise to segment your player base into clear playing styles.  If you don’t understand player behaviours at an individual level then you’ll only be able to implement a generic solution and thus your game will never reach its monetization potential.

For example, you find out that mission four is a blocker.  But the key question is “What is happening within mission four that is making my players leave?”

Are they running out of resources?  Are they failing multiple times and abandoning the game?

Instead of making mission four easier for everyone, you should think about specific solutions for specific players to improve the playing experience for everyone.

 2.  Create personalized response to each problem

The solution to the problem will differ for each player, so if you want to maximise engagement then you need to ensure you have a personalized solution tailored to types of player behaviour, using segmentation.

For the example above, you could gift items to certain players at the start of mission 4 if you’ve found out that they don’t have enough resources, or reduce the difficulty for players that have failed the mission 10 times.

 3.  Leave the rest of the players alone

However, once you’ve identified the issues that are causing a lot of players to fall out of the game, you then have to use data mining in order to identify which player segments they’re affecting. This enables you to create a personalized response.

Simply lowering the mission difficulty across the board will only make retention issues worse because your more skilled players will get bored by the lack of challenge and this will create a new set of problems for you!

 4. A/B testing

As you understand what different need from your game, you can start to balance it so that everyone gets the best possible experience.

This is where A/B testing plays an invaluable role in helping you establish which solutions work best and what changes can deliver the best impact on retention and monetization.

Is 50 gems the right gift at the start of mission 4 so that players make it through the mission but don’t affect future revenue? Or 100? Or 25? Try different scenarios in A/B testing to ensure that your game’s economy is well balanced. Understanding the effect of the changes you make is arguably more important than having the facility to make them.

 5. Measure the uplift and optimize going forward

As all publishers and developers in F2P know only too well, it’s very difficult to balance engagement and lifetime value.  Over-gifting can reduce revenues later on as players don’t need to pay, while harsh blockers and insistent monetization will only alienate them.

To ensure the ongoing success of your game it’s vital that you keep measuring the effect that your design changes have on the game. A constant ‘test & learn’ cycle is essential to delivering fantastic playing experiences and maximising the potential revenue of your game, it also provides you with valuable insight that can be taken into the design of future games to shorten the learning curve.

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