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Make Your Game a Hit with Analytics
by Mark Rosner on 06/29/15 01:49:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

It seems like a no brainer: Paying attention to your game analytics is fundamental to the success of your game, especially on mobile, and especially when it comes to monetization.

 

But you’d be surprised how many developers I encounter who don’t give analytics their due, or worse -- they don’t use analytics at all.

 

A common thread among developers who don’t take full advantage of analytics is that they don’t have the time or manpower to pay more attention to them. Many of these outfits are small indie shops or even solo operations, and the fact is that often their games are middling in terms of success.

 

But I’m here to tell you that embracing analytics can make developers’ jobs easier, and grow their income so they can invest more in making games. I’ve seen it plenty of times: a developer starts paying close attention to his game’s analytics and realizes that he’s been sitting on a goldmine all along.

 

If you are one of these game developers who either shuns analytics or uses them in a nominal way, you can’t afford to de-prioritize them any longer. Here are some tips on how to get started.

 

The basics

 

Obviously it’s easy enough to see how many people are downloading your game and actively playing it. Even the most analytically averse developers look at these metrics. But this is where far too many stop. If you’re truly interested in seeing  DAUs, eCPMs, and retention rates all trend up and to the right, you need to do a deep analysis of events and player behavior.

 

Here are a few basics that you should track:

 

User Retention

 

User retention is almost as important as downloads -- all too often people download an app and use it once (or not at all!). Games have the shortest lifespan of all apps, so user retention is especially key for game devs. Carefully monitoring your retention rate is crucial. It’s fiercely competitive to get downloads, so make sure your players stick around.

 

Retention can be defined based on days or in-game events. First, just look at new users and total users. Typically, developers track Day 1, Day 3, Day 7, Day 30, and rolling retention. For example, you can track what percentage of users are playing your game Day 1 after downloading, and so on, and you can see if there is a large drop-off in retention after users complete a certain level or hit a distinct point in your game. Armed with that information, you can go in and adjust accordingly to keep players from losing interest.

 

Activity

 

Just understanding downloads or daily active users won’t give you the bigger picture. You need to track not only DAU (Daily Active Users) but also WAU (Weekly Active Users, MAU (Monthly Active Users), and the Lifetime Activity of your players in order to understand if they are playing regularly.

 

Beyond that, take a look at the average length of session times. Understanding these key metrics will help you see if you see how often and how long your players are playing.

 

In-App Purchases

 

Most game developers today make a great deal of their money off of In-App Purchases (IAP). You should track not only the number of IAPs per player and the dollar amount of revenue per player, but also time until purchase. When does the first, second, etc. purchase usually occur? After a user makes one purchase, do they continue purchasing? Is there a certain purchase number after which most spending users drop off? These figures are extremely relevant to your revenue, so watch them closely.

 

Once you’ve got the fundamentals, you can start to get more creative with what you use analytics for.

 

A winning strategy, tuned by analytics

 

Understanding game metrics will help you improve player experience, increase time in game and boost your monetization. Knowing what your players are doing helps you make a better game. You can see when they are getting stuck on a level (or when they breeze through one), and even get a read on what types of actions with which they like to engage. This will allow you to better tailor your game to your players and give you input for your next updates.

It can also help you better monetize your game through improved insight into what types of IAP your players want. By tracking IAP you can tell the types of purchases and price points that are attractive to your players. For those of you already tracking, consider some of the cutting edge solutions, like Scientific Revenue, that actually allow for dynamic pricing in your games.

If you are running ads in your games, bear in mind that at AppLovin, we’ve seen publishers of all sizes double or triple ad revenue simply looking at their analytics and then tinkering with ad placement, format type, or frequency. For example, analytics can tell you where to place the ads so that you make more revenue and your players aren’t hit with ads at annoying time. Do ads make your players bail? Try to place them at breaks in the game.  

A good monetization strategy that’s driven by strong analytics will actually consider all aspects of your monetization (IAP, ads, pay to play, etc.). One great monetization strategy that is rooted in analytics and is really successful is that of showing rewarded video ads, which not only generate ad revenue, but can stoke IAP. By rewarding viewers with game currency, rewarded video allows players to get into the habit of making IAPs, and seeing how much it improves their experience with your game. Sometimes the first IAP can be a major psychological hurdle, and removing that barrier can make all the difference. But you shouldn’t do this too freely. Too much free currency will flood the market and devalue it.

This is a prime example of where analytics can help boost revenue. By analyzing player behavior, you can find the sweet spot where you are giving away enough to stoke interest in IAP, without degrading your currency’s value. The main things to track here are: number of IAPs/player, dollar amount of IAPs, and ad impressions/eCPM/revenue.  

This is really the tip of the iceberg. I hope I’ve convinced those who think analytics are a “nice to have” that they are in fact a “need to have”. You don’t need to devote your whole working life to tracking analytics, but the more energy you spend in this area, the better experience you can create for your players, and the more successful you can be as a publisher.


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