Intro to User Analytics
May 30, 2013 Page 3 of 6
Bias is introduced in the dataset both by the selection of the features to be monitored and also by the measuring strategies adopted, and that happens to a large degree when analysts work in a vacuum. If those responsible for analytics cannot communicate with all relevant stakeholders, critical information will invariably end up missing and the full value of analytics will not be realized.
Analytics groups are placed differently across companies due to analytics arriving to the industry from different directions, notably user research, marketing, and monetization, and this can lead to a situation where the analytics team only services or prioritizes their parent department. Having a strong lateral integration -- making sure that the analytics team communicates with all the teams, for example -- helps to avoid this issue. This also helps alleviate the common problem that the analytics teams, without having sufficient access to design teams, are forced to self-select features to track and analyze, without having the proper grounding in the design of the game and its monetization model.
Even for a small developer with a part-time analyst this can be a problem. Another typical problem is that the decision about which behaviors to track is made without involving the analytics team. This can lead to a lot of extra time spent later on trying to work with data that are not exactly what is needed, or needing to record additional datasets. Good communication between teams also helps alleviate friction between analytics and design.
Importantly, analytics should be integrated from the onset of a production -- all the way back in the early design phases. Early on it should be planned what kinds of behavior that should be tracked and with what types of frequencies. This allows for optimal planning of how to ensure value from analytics to design, monetization, marketing, etc. Analytics should never be slapped on sometime after the beta. In this way analytics is similar to other tools like user research, in that it ideally is embedded throughout the development processes, and after launch.
Knowing that there is an array of things we can measure about user behavior, how do we then select among them? And do we really have to make choices here? Sadly, yes. In real life, we rarely have the resources to track and analyze all possible user behaviors, which means we have to develop an approach to analytics that considers cost-benefit relationships between the resources required for tracking, storing, and analyzing user telemetry/metrics on one hand, and the value of the insights obtained on the other. It is also important to be aware that the analyses needed during different stages of production and post-launch varies. For example, during the latter phases of development, tuning design is vital, but many metrics related to monetization cannot be calculated because purchases have not been made by the target audience yet.
We will discuss this in more detail below, but in short, by following this line of reasoning, the minimum set of user attributes that should be tracked, stored, and analyzed should include considerations as to the following:
1) General attributes: The attributes that are shared for users (as customers and players) across all games. These form the core metrics that can always be collected, for any computer game -- for example, the time at which a user starts or stops playing, a user ID, user IP, entry point, and so on. These form the core of any game analytics dataset.
2) Core mechanics/design attributes: The essential attributes related to the core of the gameplay and mechanics of the game. (For example, attributes related to time spent playing, virtual currency spent, number of opponents killed, and so on.) Defining the core design attributes should be based directly on the key gameplay mechanics of the game, and should provide information that lets designers make inferences about the user experience (whether players are progressing as planned, if flow is sustained, death ratios, level completions, point scores).
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