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Ninja Metrics finds ‘social whales’ with enterprise version of its Katana analytics (exclusive)

Above: The relations among players in Eve Online

Image Credit: Joshua Clark

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Ninja Metrics CEO Dmitri Williams has figured out that the players who add social community to games are among the most valuable. He calls them “social whales,” and they can boost the revenue in a free-to-play online game by large percentages. Ninja Metrics uses its Katana analytics to figure out who the social whales are and what a company can do to help them spread engagement with a game.

Today, the company is also announcing an enterprise version of its Katana Social Value Engine, or its analytics for deciphering data about users and predicting which ones will be the most lucrative and which ones are about to quit playing. Williams told us in an exclusive interview that the enterprise edition can be installed on premises at a company so that the data resides inside a company’s firewalls.

Dmitri Williams

Above: Dmitri Williams

Image Credit: Ninja Metrics

The previous edition of Katana was a software-as-a-service model, allowing people to log in to access the analytics data. But bigger companies require that the data be held inside the company’s own premises. Katana is now available as an appliance installation for the big companies. Companies can use Katana to understand which players are likely to churn, or quit the game. They can also understand the percentage of the gamers that drive community and revenues.

“The big companies want data under their control,” Williams said.


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Williams created the foundation for Katana after almost a decade of research. He’s an associate professor at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California. He measured the influence that people have on other people in their networks. If you’re surrounded by overweight people in your network, the odds are strong you will be overweight too.

“The relationships among players are crucial,” Williams said. “We are social monkeys. We need each other. When one person does something, it creates the likelihood that others will do the same thing.”

Williams founded Los Angeles-based Ninja Metrics in 2009 to help developers identify, retain, and monetize their most valuable users. He talked about the findings both in an interview and at the recent Casual Connect Europe conference in Amsterdam. To make a point in that talk, he showed a picture of a smiling baby and noted how everyone who looked at it smiled too.

The social graph from Eve Online, the massively multiplayer online sci-fi game, is pictured at the top. The densest part of the graph is the leadership of the Southern Cross Empire, a corporation of players within the game. Over time, an analysis of the graph shows changes that occur as players break off. This is the kind of data that Ninja Metrics mines for insights.

In his research, Williams found that some users don’t spend money, but they can be very influential. They socialize with friends and get people to come back to a game and stick with it. Those other players may very well spend money. Williams said these non-spending “social whales” are critical to the monetization of a game. These people are influencers, and they are about 10 percent of the population. These people drive 60 percent of the value.

“You find social whales with three, four, or ten times the value” of a whale that spends money on a game, he said. “If you know who these social whales are, you want to acquire more of them. On the retention side, you want to keep the players who are the most valuable.”

This means that you can now measure the value of a community in a game. And by investing in community, game companies can receive tangible benefits in revenues.

“Your game can be fantastic, but if it has lousy community, you won’t make as much money, ” Williams said. “This is now measurable. You can understand the results of your community efforts.”

One user may have a lifetime value of $43. Before they quit the game, they will spend that much money. But they may have an additional social value of $53, as they influence what others buy. If that person leaves, the company will make $96 less.

Williams said that a number of companies are in the processing of adopting Ninja Metrics Katana platform. Ninja Metrics has raised $2.8 million from Harvard Business School Angels and Tech Coast Angels.

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