Hi everyone, I’m Jaime, Altitude’s Data Analyst. I’m here to talk about game analytics packages and how to choose the right one for your game.
What Are Players Doing In Your Game?
The free-to-play game your team has been slaving over for the past few months is done, and you feel it’s as ready for public consumption as it’ll ever be. After you flip the live switch, it sure would be nice to know how players are interacting with all your hard work. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most popular is making sure your game supports analytics and/or metrics.
Analytics Package: Build or Rent?
Should you build your own custom analytics package or sign up with a third party provider? It really depends on your development and support team. In a perfect world, you would have the manpower to make a custom package for any/all of your games. But unless you’re lucky, it’s likely that your developers would rather work on actual gameplay instead of backend support work. Building your own package also requires you to handle server and bandwidth costs, backend setup, and other grunt work that might not be as exciting as actual game development.
For smaller developers, the simpler but less flexible solution is to find a provider whose analytics package can provide the details you need, with a limited amount of integration and coding. But you may run into subscription pricing and/or usage limit concerns if you go this route.
Only 22 more levels to go!
Your analytics package must track common game industry metrics, such as: daily average users (DAU), new users, user retention (Day 1, Day 7, and Day 30 retention), lifetime value (LTV), and average revenue per user or paying user (ARPU or ARPPU). These are a quick and easy way to get a snapshot of your game’s performance and identify problem areas.
It should also allow segmenting/filtering/selection of users based on specific criteria. For example, you should be able to find out how players who die a lot on a certain level behave as compared to your entire player base. Some packages only allow this to be done for new activity, but ideally you can do this in real time with both past and present data.
The package must also allow you to define custom events and track player progression through event funnels. Custom events allow you to track all aspects of player behavior that you are interested in, from the amount of currency they pick up to the number of times they die to a particular enemy. Event funnel tracking lets you define a series of steps that always happen in a set order (such as a tutorial), so you can see where your players get frustrated and stop playing. You can then make changes to these friction points to avoid losing them.
Finally, your package must allow you to define quality assurance devices for testing your tracking implementation, so that you don’t go crazy sifting through thousands of events or (even worse) affect production data when adding new event conditions or triggers.
There are some other features that your analytics package can have which can come in handy. One example is item tracking, for handling item purchases using all available currencies (and preferably easily implementable). The ability to download your raw game data for offline processing and analysis is another extra that can be very useful, especially when you hit thousands of players. The ability to define game attributes as resources, whose values can be changed without rebuilding your game client, can make tweaking in response to player behavior a lot easier and quicker.
Look for an analytics package that includes built-in segmenting with these four tools:
- A/B testing: Test different game settings on different portions of your player base automatically
- Push notifications: Send push notifications to keep players engaged with your game
- In-app messaging: Display specific screens while the game is running to specific player profiles
- User acquisition processing: Handle players from different acquisition channels more effectively
These tools can help you accelerate your gameplay and monetization tweaking, leading to a more popular and profitable game.
Also, the following bonus features can help improve your team’s quality of life as they work with your game data:
- Unlimited user accounts with different security levels: Anyone who needs access to do their job or learn more about your games and users can view and/or edit your analytics setup immediately
- Technical support: A good support team can make working with a third-party package smooth sailing
- Large data set processing support: In the long run, native support can help your designers and developers nimbly react to player behavior changes even if your company is an explosive success
Finally, it would be ideal to have all of these features covered by one analytics package. This allows you to relay data from feature to feature easily, which in turn can make your targeting, reminders, offers, and monetization much more effective.
There are many things to evaluate when deciding on how to track your player behavior. Sadly, at present there is no one choice that covers all of the above features at a reasonable cost in time and money, so it’s best to figure out what your games need most and find the choice that’s right for you. Also, when iterating on your games, please keep in mind that this kind of tracking can only tell you what your players are doing, but not why they are doing it. Analytics are important, but they are not the only reason to make changes to improve your games.
About the Author
Jaime Favis is Altitude’s Data Analyst. Jaime has been working in the games industry for nearly 5 years, and in IT for nearly 15.
He is very interested in the impact large scale data analysis can have on keeping players coming back to specific games.