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Gauging Customer and Player Input

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I originally posted this on my personal blog. I thought this information might be useful to others though, or at the minimum engage people in conversation and offer interesting ideas to gauge app response for devs. I haven't seen that many conversations about applying metrics to apps after the fact. Let me know what you think of this idea and how/if it would effect anyone at all. 


I take no claims for the idea of NPS. It's a metric that is growing in popularity, especially with customer service at major companies (Rack Space, GoDaddy, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc...). I'm very familiar with NPS though and twisted the thought process a bit to work better for apps by using existing information.


NPS is a powerful tool that can be converted to very powerful metrics to measure a game’s performance. That’s a bit of a broad statement. It’s true though. The best part is we already have the tools to do this. We already have star reviews on mobile markets to gather information for us. That seems like a very ‘duh’ thing to say, that star ratings mean something, but I would argue they aren’t really being utilized properly.


First, let me start by explaining NPS.


Net Promoter Score” is a customer loyalty metric developed by (and a registered trademark of) Fred ReichheldBain & Company, and Satmetrix. It was introduced by Reichheld in his 2003 Harvard Business Review article “One Number You Need to Grow”.[2] NPS can be as low as ?100 (everybody is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everybody is a promoter). An NPS that is positive (i.e., higher than zero) is felt to be good, and an NPS of +50 is excellent (Wikipedia, 2013).



NPS is such an important metric because it’s one of the first that quantifies the customer experience and, more importantly, the cost of word-of-mouth exposure. Business has always known that word-of-mouth advertising is the best anyone can get. We’ve never been able to easily place a dollar value on it though. We’ve also had very little insight on how negative word-of-mouth advertising can impact a product or business image. In short, NPS allows us to quantify the customer experience and how it affects our bottom line. That seems like a really powerful metric when it’s put into perspective. We really should be paying attention to it.


Did you know that it takes 5 good responses to negate a single negative response?



NPS is typically measured on a 1-10 rating scale, and in some cases (depending on the business) a 1-5 rating scale. On a typical 1-10 rating scale a 9 and 10 are considered promoters, 7 and 8 are considered passives, and anything below is considered a detractor. Promoters will (obviously) promote the product and the business. They tend to not go anywhere. Detractors will bad mouth the product or business and jump ship as quickly as possible. Both promoters and detractors tend to be vocal and can offer great feedback. Passives are harder to gauge. They tend not to be vocal. There is a little bit of an art to raising their allegiance with a product or business. They are also opportunists. They will stick with a product or business because they are comfortable, but if they are offered something better then they will jump ship.


As the quote states above, NPS can vary from -100 (all detractors) to +100 (all promoters). The metric isn’t really measured in a percentage although some companies change the metric to display it as such and make it easier to conceptualize. The metric takes the total amount of detractors and subtracts them from the total amount promoters. That will give the total score. So, if a product receives 5 promoters and 3 detractors, the overall score would be 2. Some companies will say 2 out of 8 (or %25 promoters, or happiness rating, of a total of 8 responses) to make the metric easier to grasp. I typically measure the metric in this way as well.

NPS is typically measured with 2 or 3 questions.

  1.  How likely are you to recommend this product to friends/family/colleagues?
  2.  (Optional) How likely are you to recommend this company?
  3.  Why?

The first and third questions are the important ones. The second is typically thrown in for good measure to rate the company as a whole. The first question simplifies and boils down the equation to something easy and intuitive. It measures the whole package of customer happiness. It’s unique because it offers very specific insight and makes the question easy enough to answer to garnish more responses. The more responses, the more accurate the results (which is what NPS is designed to offer). The third question completes the feedback loop and allows the customer a chance to offer insight as to why they are happy or upset. Anything above a 0 score isn’t to shabby. Anything above a 50 is typically considered great. Anything below a 0 needs to be examined closely and fixed.


How does that relate to star reviews though?


Game developers obviously aren’t going to send customers a questionnaire. Very few games have the system already in place to do this (mostly MMO or social games only). Still, the process has to be friction free for the customer to participate. That’s where we have it easy. App stores already engage the customer and asks that magical question for us. The very act of having a star rating system is basically saying, “Would you recommend this app?” The stars ask the question while the comments close the feedback loop. As application developers, we have the luck of having some of the most vocal and responsive customers. Compare app reviews to just about any other product. The response rate is typically much higher.


So how do we boil down those star ratings to the NPS? That’s easy enough. Businesses already use an established system with 1-5 scale ratings. That translates directly to 5 star reviews. 5 is considered a promoter. 4 is considered a passive. 3 and lower are all considered detractors. The comments close the feedback loop and explain why the customer rated the app the way they did.


Let’s use JetPack Joyride as an example (mostly because it’s one of my favorite games. Specifically, I’m using the Android version though an accurate analysis would use all versions of the app on all ecosystems (though sometimes segmented markets like the Apple App Store, Google Play, and the Microsoft Store require some independent gauging). Currently Jetpack Joyride, at the time of writing, has an average of a four and a half star review (out of five) broken down to (Studios, 13):

  • 321,905 five star reviews: Promoters
  • 40,234 four star reviews: Passives
  • 18,862 three star reviews : Detractors
  • 7,119 two star reviews: Detractors
  • 23,915 one star reviews: Detractors


That means JetPack Joyride has 321,905 promoters and 49,896 detractors (you can’t please everyone). That leaves with roughly a 66% NPS rating which is considered to be really great! Keep in mind, anything above %0 is trending in the right direction.


Let’s compare that to an app called Flight Track 5. I specifically picked this app because it’s ratings are a bit deceiving. At the time of writing it has a 3 star review with a total of 64 responses. Those responses break down to (Mobiata, 2013):

  • 26 five star reviews: Promoters
  • 3 four star reviews: Passives
  • 3 three star reviews: Detractors
  • 5 two star reviews: Detractors
  • 27 one star reviews: Detractors


That means that Flight Track has 26 total promoters and 35 detractors. Yikes! That would give Flight Track a promoter score of% -14. That is a negative fourteen. Remember, NPS scores swing from -100 to +100. The percent sign is kind of added just to make things easier to conceptualize but doesn’t mean much.  Looking at this data, Flight Track has a major reputation problem. I’m sure the developers could read the comments to find out why. Those comments complete the feedback look and offer great insight on what the developers of Flight Track need to improve. While every customer response may not offer specific insight, if a lot of people complain about the same thing I would think that improving on that one thing would drastically change customer perception. The comments are a good place to start.


Added Note: I have not used Flight Track 5. I offer no personal opinion about this app. Any data pulled was straight from the Google Play Store and are not opinions of my own. Please know that I am no intending or implying perception of 'bashing' this app. It's ratings merely made it a good example to demonstrate the metrics and how deceiving star reviews by themselves can be.


An Added Bonus


The cool thing about using NPS is that customer can go back into the app stores and change their responses. Data is dynamic. Developers can look at segmented time scales (perhaps before and after changes were implemented) and the entire life of the app. Think about how powerful that is for a moment. That makes the iterative life of an app, and the potential revenue, offer much greater potential.

During my travels around the interwebs, I haven’t read much of anything relating to gauging and quantifying customer reaction and experience. Perhaps this is an easy and cost efficient (as in the data already exists) way of doing that for developers.


Works Cited

Wikipedia. (2013, 8 13). Retrieved from Net Promoter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Promoter

Mobiata. (2013, 11 21). Flight Track 5. Retrieved from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mobiata.flighttrack.five&hl=en

Studios, H. (13, 11 21). JetPack Joyride. Retrieved from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.halfbrick.jetpackjoyride

Edited by mepis

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I'm 100% sold on the importance of market research! 


Very useful perspective you expressed here, showing knowledge of the subject. biggrin.png

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Thanks for the feedback! I've been around the idea of NPS and developing customer feedback for a long time now. I developed metric tools to analyze it at work. This is more my forte than game development. 


I'll add in the caveat the NPS isn't the be all, end all tool. It is very simplistic though and offers a lot of information. Best of all, as I said, the system is already in place for many devs to utilize it. If it's something that you're interested in, I would highly consider spending a bit of time looking at the spec. It's open source and well documented on the NPS website. (I'm not affiliated with them at all. I just have a lot of experience with it).


At the end of the day it may not be what works best for an individual dev. But I'd still like to raise awareness of the topic so people can think about it.

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I'm curious as to why the scale is set as such. Unless I'm in the absolute top-tier triple A space, I'd consider a ten point score of 8 to be positive, 7 to be neutral-positive and 6 to be neutral-negative. On a five point scale, I'd consider 4 to be positive and 3 to be neutral. This doesn't correlate to values above.

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It's how the promoter | passive | detractor determination works. Basically, a promoter will be brand loyal. They will promote (obviously) the brand to to everyone. They will also stick with the brand and increase revenue. They will also help minimize maintenance costs because they typically don;t require a lot of support. Passives are happy and comfortable with the product. They will sometimes promote the product but won;t bring it up unless brought up to them. They are also opportunists though. As comfortable as they are, they are just that: comfortable. If a competing product comes along that offers more/better features, a lower price, etc... they will jump ship and move on. They won;t cost that much in support but customer retention is only bound by the fact that the customer is comfortable. Detractors will bad mouth the brand and will turn off other potential customers. They also cost a lot in support. The revenue generation will be much, much lower. They will also harm the brand name long after they have left it.


The NPS spec has researched what the numbers mean and the correlation between how they score and their actions. Logically, I would agree with you and did before being introduced to NPS and researching it and implementing it a lot. But the research shows otherwise. The system does work better on a 10 point scale. Devs could implement a 10 point scale but creating the framework to deliver the question is difficult and expensive. Some companies use a 5 point scale. I only suggest a 5 point scale because devs that have an app submitted to a marketplace already have the information collected for them in the star reviews. It's free and easy metric data.


By all means, if you have questions then please ask. I'm not suggesting that this is the be all, end all solution for metrics. It has it's limits like anything else. It also has the power to be a free and easy retrospective analysis tool though.  

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Thanks mepis!


I guess for me, I'm not seeing where the direct correlation between review score and 'Promoters, Passives and Detractors' comes from. Most games have consumer reviews that trend in favour of either a high or low score, or both ends of the scale. I believe this comes from the 'Passives' not partaking in the review process (and why would you, if you're ambivalent with regards to the product?).

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I feel that if goals are to make progress in understanding the market segments in order increase market share, then identifying and tracking such progress in each segment, including passives, is very important.

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