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  1. In one of the largest supermarket outlets in the whole of the UK, just down the road from where your humble blogger lives, sits a kitchen. Built in plain sight, this bizarre little pantry feels a somewhat curious companion to the seemingly endless run of aisles selling all the goods you'd expect a supermarket to sell. Resembling something of a greenhouse - with windows looking out to the rest of the store so those inside can view all and sundry in the midst of their weekly shopping - said kitchen is actually an especially important facet of this supermarket chain's national operations. The customers may not know it, but in this kitchen, unreleased dishes - radical new ready meals, loaves of bread, cakes, soups, drinks, or indeed any foodstuff you can think of - are put through their paces. Carefully comprised focus groups are brought into the store, sat down in the kitchen, and tasked with trying out these fresh recipes in a controlled environment. The feedback these groups give can make or break these products - most will never make it to market, relegated to the kitchen bin of history, simply because the group of people designed to be representative of the meal's target market weren't bowled over by it. Consumer Testing The concept of consumer testing is by no means one limited to the supermarkets or even food industry, nor is it in any way a new approach. For mobile developers, however, the idea that you could get a mass of players from a select market to give you valuable data in regard to the likely performance of your game worldwide ahead of release is something that's only come around in a practical fashion since the rise of the App Store in 2008. Apple and Google offer no official 'soft launch' programs, but the region by region nature of their stores means there's nothing to stop you launching in select territories ahead of a global debut in order to find out what works and what doesn't. It's also something all the cool kids are doing. Think of any major free-to-play developer or publisher from the last 3-4 years, and almost every one of them will have mastered the soft launch along the way. Want to know what Supercell's most recent project is, for instance? Then you might want to hop over to Canada or down to Australia and download Smash Land. (But do it quick, because the game has already been canned, such is the harsh world of the soft launch). As with any process, however, there's no point in rolling out you game in Australia, Canada, Ireland or New Zealand if you simply do it as a matter of course. The art of a successful soft launch requires careful planning, and the results you generate from it are only as good as the parameters you set for your game before you set out. Parameters such as: 1. Know what questions you want answered Is there a particular question you want to find out the answer to? Is there a distinct game mode, level, or even small facet of the game that you're not sure if it works or not? As well as any base question - which you need to set out pre-soft launch - there are other basic areas you need to measure during the soft launch to get the most out of it: User interaction - How are players moving through your game? How often are they playing, how are they moving through the gameplay, and where are they leaving the game? Monetisation - Are people spending money in play? Does spending cash unlock too much of the game, or is it too easy to play on without spending anything at all? Are the objects for sale of any value to the player, or are you pushing the wrong component of play? Virality - Are players talking about your game of their own volition? Is it gaining a following on Twitter or Facebook? What are people saying? Have you got all the tools in place to make virality easy? Retention - How many people come back to your game over a period of 1,7 or even 30 days? Are there any posts or notifications that perform better than others? 2. Be prepared to change Indeed, in the current Games as a Service era, your game is never finished. It sounds obvious but, even with all the data in the world from the soft launch telling them something is wrong with their game, many developers are stubborn so and sos, dismissing anything negative that comes up and simply viewing the soft launch as the first bastion of a staggered roll out instead of a test designed to help them iron out the dips and troughs. If the data from your soft launch tells you something isn't working, that isn't going to magically change once you roll the game out in other territories. Part of this comes from accepting that your game isn't finished when you soft launch. Indeed, in the current Games as a Service era, your game is never finished. Either way, a soft launch is only any use if, once the questions above have been answered, you take steps to ensure that any highlighted problems are rectified. It may even be that the soft launch highlights such fundamental issues that the game never actually sees the light of day worldwide. This is by no means rare. German giant Wooga has built a name for itself by canning projects that data shows just aren't up to scratch using the aptly termed, "Hit Filter". The worldwide release of Supercell's Smash Land, polished though it was, has actually been pulled during the writing of this article. But why? The damage a bad game does for your brand can be immeasurable, and you can't guarantee that you'll have a Rovio-like revival even if you have your Angry Birds waiting in the wings. Successful games development means learning from your mistakes and the soft launch is an early warning system - it can tell you just what's wrong with your game before you suffer the indignity of finding out in front of the glare of the world's gamers. This is not a beta test - this is consumer ready launch 3. Make sure the game is ready This might sound like a contradiction, but while you should be prepared to make changes to your game, likewise don't send it off to soft launch with known issues. If you launch it in a region with bugs, unfinished elements or half-baked gameplay, all your data will do is prove you correct, causing you to overlook other issues you might not be aware of. You have to launch the game in a state that you would be comfortable launching it in globally, but at the same time prepared to be flexible and make changes should it highlight problems. This is not a beta test - this is consumer ready launch, but one that negates the risk of showcasing your game's problems to a massive audience. It's a little window into how the game would play out if you launched now, but for that to work, the game has to be in a retail ready state to the best of your knowledge, even if the data you amass afterwards proves otherwise. In short, don't soft launch with any known faults. Every pitfall should be a surprise. Aside from aligning yourself with the right partners - study your chosen soft launch region carefully, and if you need to, pick a partner who has a handle on the procedure - that, in broad strokes, is all you need to know. The long and short of it is, if you want a soft launch to be of any use at all, you need to treat it with respect and take it seriously. The digital nature of mobile means we have the ability to gather essential player data that can make or break a game ahead of time. Don't waste that. Originally posted on the GameAnalytics blog.
  2. GameAnalytics

    3 Steps to Mastering Your Game

    In one of the largest supermarket outlets in the whole of the UK, just down the road from where your humble blogger lives, sits a kitchen. Built in plain sight, this bizarre little pantry feels a somewhat curious companion to the seemingly endless run of aisles selling all the goods you'd expect a supermarket to sell. Resembling something of a greenhouse - with windows looking out to the rest of the store so those inside can view all and sundry in the midst of their weekly shopping - said kitchen is actually an especially important facet of this supermarket chain's national operations. The customers may not know it, but in this kitchen, unreleased dishes - radical new ready meals, loaves of bread, cakes, soups, drinks, or indeed any foodstuff you can think of - are put through their paces. Carefully comprised focus groups are brought into the store, sat down in the kitchen, and tasked with trying out these fresh recipes in a controlled environment. The feedback these groups give can make or break these products - most will never make it to market, relegated to the kitchen bin of history, simply because the group of people designed to be representative of the meal's target market weren't bowled over by it. The concept of consumer testing is by no means one limited to the supermarkets or even food industry, nor is it in any way a new approach. For mobile developers, however, the idea that you could get a mass of players from a select market to give you valuable data in regard to the likely performance of your game worldwide ahead of release is something that's only come around in a practical fashion since the rise of the App Store in 2008. Apple and Google offer no official 'soft launch' programs, but the region by region nature of their stores means there's nothing to stop you launching in select territories ahead of a global debut in order to find out what works and what doesn't. It's also something all the cool kids are doing. Think of any major free-to-play developer or publisher from the last 3-4 years, and almost every one of them will have mastered the soft launch along the way. Want to know what Supercell's most recent project is, for instance? Then you might want to hop over to Canada or down to Australia and download Smash Land. (But do it quick, because the game has already been canned, such is the harsh world of the soft launch). As with any process, however, there's no point in rolling out your game in Australia, Canada, Ireland or New Zealand if you simply do it as a matter of course. The art of a successful soft launch requires careful planning, and the results you generate from it are only as good as the parameters you set for your game before you set out. Parameters such as: 1. Know what questions you want answered Is there a particular question you want to find out the answer to? Is there a distinct game mode, level, or even small facet of the game that you're not sure if it works or not? As well as any base question - which you need to set out pre-soft launch - there are other basic areas you need to measure during the soft launch to get the most out of it: User interaction - How are players moving through your game? How often are they playing, how are they moving through the gameplay, and where are they leaving the game? Monetisation - Are people spending money in play? Does spending cash unlock too much of the game, or is it too easy to play on without spending anything at all? Are the objects for sale of any value to the player, or are you pushing the wrong component of play? Virality - Are players talking about your game of their own volition? Is it gaining a following on Twitter or Facebook? What are people saying? Have you got all the tools in place to make virality easy? Retention - How many people come back to your game over a period of 1,7 or even 30 days? Are there any posts or notifications that perform better than others? 2. Be prepared to change Indeed, in the current Games as a Service era, your game is never finished. It sounds obvious but, even with all the data in the world from the soft launch telling them something is wrong with their game, many developers are stubborn so and sos, dismissing anything negative that comes up and simply viewing the soft launch as the first bastion of a staggered roll out instead of a test designed to help them iron out the dips and troughs. If the data from your soft launch tells you something isn't working, that isn't going to magically change once you roll the game out in other territories. Part of this comes from accepting that your game isn't finished when you soft launch. Indeed, in the current Games as a Service era, your game is never finished. Either way, a soft launch is only any use if, once the questions above have been answered, you take steps to ensure that any highlighted problems are rectified. It may even be that the soft launch highlights such fundamental issues that the game never actually sees the light of day worldwide. This is by no means rare. German giant Wooga has built a name for itself by canning projects that data shows just aren't up to scratch using the aptly termed, "Hit Filter". The worldwide release of Supercell's Smash Land, polished though it was, has actually been pulled during the writing of this article. But why? The damage a bad game does for your brand can be immeasurable, and you can't guarantee that you'll have a Rovio-like revival even if you have your Angry Birds waiting in the wings. Successful games development means learning from your mistakes and the soft launch is an early warning system - it can tell you just what's wrong with your game before you suffer the indignity of finding out in front of the glare of the world's gamers. This is not a beta test - this is consumer ready launch 3. Make sure the game is ready This might sound like a contradiction, but while you should be prepared to make changes to your game, likewise don't send it off to soft launch with known issues. If you launch it in a region with bugs, unfinished elements or half-baked gameplay, all your data will do is prove you correct, causing you to overlook other issues you might not be aware of. You have to launch the game in a state that you would be comfortable launching it in globally, while at the same time prepared to be flexible and make changes should it highlight problems. This is not a beta test - this is a consumer ready launch, but one that negates the risk of showcasing your game's problems to a massive audience. It's a little window into how the game would play out if you launched now, but for that to work, the game has to be in a retail ready state to the best of your knowledge, even if the data you amass afterwards proves otherwise. In short, don't soft launch with any known faults. Every pitfall should be a surprise. Aside from aligning yourself with the right partners - study your chosen soft launch region carefully, and if you need to, pick a partner who has a handle on the procedure - that, in broad strokes, is all you need to know. The long and short of it is, if you want a soft launch to be of any use at all, you need to treat it with respect and take it seriously. The digital nature of mobile means we have the ability to gather essential player data that can make or break a game ahead of time. Don't waste that. Originally posted on the GameAnalytics blog.
  3. GameAnalytics

    3 Steps to Mastering Your Game

  4. Mobile game analytics can feel complicated. When it comes to metrics, there are hundreds of numbers to track. On the simpler end of the spectrum, there are metrics like downloads, sessions, and DAUs. These numbers are relatively straightforward and measure concrete actions. More complicated metrics includes things like churn, Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU) and DAU/MAU. These are less intuitive to interpret, and they might raise more questions than answers. "Am I waiting the right amount of time until I consider a user churned?" "What is a good ARPPU?" And we haven't even introduced more advanced analytics concepts like segmentation, funnels and custom events! For now, we'll stick to just the metrics and look at what these numbers actually tell you about your game. While there's no one-size-fits-all policy for game analytics, there are some useful metrics that can help shed light on how you can improve your mobile game. Daily Active Users (DAUs) Starting with the basics, DAU is the number of unique users that start at least one session in your app on any given day. By themselves, DAU and other high level metrics don't provide much insight into an app's performance. However, knowing these simple metrics is a useful starting point for an educated analytics discussion. Let's look at an example. Take a hardcore game that has 10,000 engaged users. These users all play the game several times each day and actively monetize. Compare that to a news or messaging app that has 1,000,000 DAUs but no monetization mechanics. A third app that has poor retention might run a user acquisition campaign. Today they have 500,000 DAUs, but tomorrow they are down to 100,000. A DAU count is merely a snapshot in time, and the surrounding context can be just as important, if not more important, than a large user base. Sessions Every time any user, not just a unique user, opens your app, that counts as a session. Similar to DAUs, the total number of sessions requires some context to be a helpful number. Specifically, focus on the average number of sessions per DAU, as this metric can tell you about how engaged users are with your game. An app's genre does have an effect on Sessions/DAU, as some game styles lend themselves to more frequent sessions. However, if users are coming back five to ten times each day, it's safe to assume they enjoy the game. If users only open an app one to two times per day, it is unlikely to keep their attention for long. DAU/MAU The ratio of Daily Active Users to Monthly Active Users shows how well an app retains users and is often referred to as the stickiness of a game. This metric shows you how frequently users log in to your app. This metric will be easier to discuss with an example. Let's say an app has 100,000 MAU and averages 15,000 DAU. Then, the DAU/MAU ratio would be 15 percent. This means that the average user logged in on roughly 15 percent of the days that month. Since this is a ratio, the metric DAU/MAU can only be a value between zero and one. Values closer to one, mean users are opening the app on a higher percentage of days. Popular social networking apps like Facebook have reported DAU/MAU ratios as high as 50 percent. But most successful gaming apps have ratios closer to 20 percent. Retention Retention is arguably the most important metric in a free-to-play game. Successful free-to-play games create long-term relationships with users. Users that enjoy the experience enough are willing to pay to for a competitive advantage. A game needs to have strong retention to have time to build this relationship. To calculate retention, separate your users into cohorts based on the day they download your app. The day that the download occurs is Day 0. If a user opens your app the next day (Day 1), they are marked as retained. If they do not open the app, they are not retained. This calculation is performed for user cohort on each day after they download the app. Common days used for retention are 1, 3, 7 and 30. Conversion Rate Moving right along to everyone's favorite topic: money! The above metrics focus on measuring your relationship with your users. How often do they come back to your app? But the most important metric for many indie developers is whether their game is making enough money. The conversion rate measures the percentage of unique users that have made a purchase out of the total number of users during that time period. You can also measure the conversion rate of ads served in a free-to-play game. Getting a user to pay real money in a game that they can play for free is a difficult assignment. But, as with many other industries, repeat purchasers generate the majority of revenue in free-to-play games. Encourage users to make that first conversion by offering them a virtual item of incredible value. ARPDAU The Average Revenue Per Daily Active User, or ARPDAU, is one of the most commonly discussed metrics in mobile games. ARPDAU is a useful metric because it allows you to understand how your game performs on a daily basis. This is a great metric to track before and during user acquisition campaigns. Before acquiring users, make sure you know the range of your ARPDAU and how it fluctuates normally. During a campaign, segment your new users by source and see which networks or games perform the best in your app. We'll discuss segmentation in a later post. ARPPU Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU) measures only the subset of users who have completed a purchase in a game. This metric can vary dramatically based on game genre. Hardcore games tend to have higher monetization metrics like ARPPU, but they also lack the mass appeal of more casual games. Churn Churn is roughly the opposite of retention. How many players that downloaded your game are no longer playing? The churn metric makes the most sense in a subscription business model and there are some nuances involved when applying it to free-to-play games. The main consideration is user play style. With a subscription service, churn is black and white. Either a user is paying or they are not. In a free-to-play game some users may play multiple times per day, while more casual players log in once or twice a week. To generalize for these differences between users, we measure churn as a user who has not played in 28 days. In-Game Metrics Beyond understanding user engagement, retention and monetization, it is important to measure and balance the game economy. If it is too easy to earn virtual currency, users have no reason to monetize. But users still need enough currency to enjoy and explore the game. There is a happy medium somewhere in between, and the following metrics can help find it. Source, Sink and Flow Sources are places where users can earn virtual currency. In the GameAnalytics dashboard, the source metric measures the amount of currency a user has earned. It also includes any currency he or she has generously been given by you, the benevolent game designer. A sink is the opposite of a source. These are the locations in your game where users spend their precious currency. Both sources and sinks can refer to premium (hard) and secondary (soft) currencies. Keep these different types of currencies separate during your analysis. Combining sources and sinks gives you the flow. Flow is the total balance of currency that your players have spent and earned. Generally the flow should look stable like in the chart below. If the chart skews upward like an exponential curve, your player base will have too much currency and no need to monetize. If the chart slopes negatively to zero, players won't have enough resources to do anything in your game. Start, Fail and Complete Lastly, we will look at some progression metrics. Whether or not the user has to explicitly start a new level, many game types have a leveling component. Starts measure the number of times a player starts a new level. Second in the creatively named metrics category are fails. A fail occurs when a user starts a level but does not complete it. As you might expect, a complete counts the number of times users complete a certain level. Tying all three of these together helps you analyze the levels in your game. Are your choke points appropriately difficult? Are users getting stuck on certain levels unexpectedly? Which levels are users having the most fun playing and repeating? Starts, fails and completes can answer these types of questions. While there is no magic recipe for game analytics, the above metrics are standards that can help you get started in the world of analytics. The most important part of mobile game analytics is to get started and establish benchmarks for your own games. Once you understand how your users behave, you can measure things like the impact of a game update or changes to your user acquisition strategy. Originally posted on the GameAnalytics blog.
  5. GameAnalytics

    15 Metrics All Game Developers Should Know by Heart

    Thank you Unduli :-) 
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