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Don’t be a data hoarder: 6 metrics that aren’t critical for game developers

I love numbers. I’ll play puzzle, logic, or strategy games until the cows come home.

Numbers can also be reassuring. For this reason, developers tend to analyze all the metrics they can get their hands on. Some of these metrics have little bearing on the performance of their game or app — they’re the equivalent of judging the length of winter by whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow.

When setting up analytics and event tracking, it is imperative to think critically about what it is you look to gain. For small studios without a dedicated data analyst, tracking too much or inefficiently can drown you in data overload. For larger publishers and advertisers, it might make sense to keep track of all the data you can, but this can easily overwhelm a smaller operation.

At a high level, almost all developers want to use analytics to increase engagement, retention, and monetization. With these end goals in mind, here are six event metrics that aren’t critical in measuring the performance of your game. (Non-game developers can also apply some of these tips to their apps as well.)

Menu clicks

Knowing that a player tapped on menu buttons (or pause or mute) won’t yield significant insights toward fine-tuning the important stuff: retention, engagement, and monetization. One potential counterpoint is tracking when a user visits the store, but even seeing this is unnecessary. Your storefront should be easy to reach –- a single click away from any screen -– without being in the user’s face.

More relevant monetization metrics like Conversion Rate and Average Revenue Per Daily Active User (ARPDAU) from in-app purchases will let you know if users can find the store easily — and if they value the currency.

Use of consumables

Developers often measure the success of their game by tracking how their gamers use in-game consumables such as power-ups. This shows the developers if users buy a bunch and keep them for later or if they use them right away.

As far as consumable in-app purchases go, the most important element is that users buy the power-up. It’s not as relevant whether someone buys consumables and hoards them for later use or buys a few and uses them right away. However, if you’re using predictive analytics to push a promotion when someone runs out, it’s a smart tactic.

Viewed, cancelled, and failed purchases

A failed purchase is a quality assurance issue that should be fixed before your game goes live in its proper marketplace. Viewed and cancelled purchases will be reflected by weak monetization metrics. More importantly, these numbers don’t provide you with the user’s intent. Is it the unconvinced user checking out what items exist in the game, or is it a potential buyer who needs more currency? Unfinished purchase data often raises more questions than answers.

 Overly specific game mechanics

It’s a safe assumption that if you make a racing game, your users will be changing gears a lot. Everyone, from the payers and the non-payers, tends to shift up in racing games. You will not be able to segment those who have executed the event “shift up” and compare them to the few players that immediately bounced after download.

How often users quit or retry certain levels

If there is a problem with balancing a certain level or quest, a basic funnel will quickly identify this. All you need to track the steps of users through each level to completion. Numbers regarding quits and retries will only muddle your event tracking.

Game ratings

Developers with the bandwidth to keep track of user ratings will probably want to do so through whatever marketplace it’s available in. Although ratings can reflect a lot for developers, they’re often hard to take away an actionable response from. This is another example of a data point that can create clutter.

The mobile space as a whole is making great strides toward creating fun experiences with great content. Analytics, game data, and understanding user behavior are incredible complements to game design and creativity. Don’t be afraid to start using an analytics product, and don’t overwhelm yourself or your team tracking unnecessary data points. If you can’t prove something with the metrics you are tracking, you should not be tracking those metrics.


Trevor McCalmontTrevor McCalmont joined NativeX in June 2012 as part of the Games Task Force. Trevor brings a wealth of statistical and analytical knowledge, graduating from Macalester College with a degree in Applied Math and Statistics. Other than numbers and gaming, Trevor has a passion for playing baseball and classical piano.


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