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Hannah Smalltree is the director of Treasure Data.
It’s a great time to be rolling out free-to-play mobile games with in-app purchases. Interest continues to build, and innovative free-to-play games that offer a compelling experience are rewarded by a torrent of loyal players who are willing to pay repeatedly for valuable content and experiences. Mobile gaming is expected to grow 35 percent in 2014 . This is terrific news—as long as you’re prepared for success.
You’re already tracking a sea of various data points in each free-to-play mobile game, but if one swells into popularity, you’ll face a tidal wave of additional data. You’ll also need new and very specific analytics for your game in order to drive monetization as it “rides the demand curve,” and you’ll need the agility to quickly perform the analytics and adapt the game accordingly. Can your existing analytics solution adapt from day one? Or will your game teams be begging for precise information that the analytics solution is incapable of providing, leading to poor decision-making and lost opportunities?
Consider just one of the challenges you’ll face if you have custom-built analytics or interface-driven software with limited capabilities. Your solution is probably designed to answer a simple set of questions that you know you need to ask today: how many players, how much revenue, etc. But as your game changes and the player base grows, your developers, designers, and product managers will need useful information that directly relates to the game’s mechanics. They will need to quickly start tracking new key performance indicators (KPIs), and they should be able to ask any questions they want of the data. For example, how much revenue did a player who signed up in April generate after completing the game’s third quest? Or what is the average duration from a download to a first-time purchase, segmented by time of day?
Without the flexibility to quickly find answers to such questions, your team will be slow to react and will never gain the insight it needs to take full advantage of the opportunity. Clearly, the time to find a long-term free-to-play mobile gaming analytics solution is now, and here’s what you need to demand from it.
Cross-title, cross-genre, cross-division analytics
It’s not enough to be able to analyze individual games in isolation. Senior executives want to know about all their mobile titles. What’s the average revenue per user from mobile? How does mobile compare to social — are the revenue metrics better or worse? You’ll also need cross-genre analytics. For example, which genres have the most player engagement and which drive the most revenue? And what does this mean for strategic investment over the next three to five years?
Adapting metrics in minutes
Agility is critical. You can’t know what analytics will be important next year, so you need a solution that enables you to quickly answer key questions whenever they are asked. You need to build things that perform well by looking at whatever data you have now and whatever new data will help you tomorrow. This is especially relevant when a game’s mechanics change frequently as new patches, updates, and sequels come out. You must be able to adapt the data quickly, generate relevant metrics, analyze data when it reaches statistical significance, and then make strategic decisions on gameplay and monetization — all measured in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.
With free-to-play mobile games with in-app transactions, the scale of data is amplified not only by adoption, but also by the massive variety of events you want to track for each individual user in order to fully analyze and optimize all the possible levers for improving performance. If your analytics solution can’t scale, you’ll then have to find a new one right in the middle of a usage surge, destroying your momentum. Make sure your solution has no theoretical growth limit — and that scaling can occur incrementally, cost-effectively, and without impacting performance.
You shouldn’t have to burden IT — or wait on IT — in order to support your product teams with the information they need. All you should have to do is tell the game developers what data to track so they can tag it, which is then automatically fed into the system where users can query the data immediately. Yes, it’s possible! You must also be able to make ad hoc queries, either through tools like dynamically generated pivot tables, or through real-time analysis capabilities.
Not all analytics solutions are created equal. And if you wait until after an explosion of popularity to find the right one, it will be too late.
A former journalist and industry personality, Hannah Smalltree has written about analytics, BI and data management for years. As director at Treasure Data, Hannah leads market research and develops/presents technical content.