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Biologists created a taxonomy of animals to help us understand the natural world better. Mobile insights and analytics firm App Annie is doing the same for games with the launch of Game IQ, a new taxonomy service that uses data science to categorize thousands of apps in a way that helps publishers better understand audiences.

From next month, this classification model will become important for publishers, as Apple is going to make it harder for mobile marketers to target ads toward individual users, in the name of preserving privacy. We’ll get back to that point soon, but first let’s look at what Game IQ will do.

With Game IQ, App Annie will put each game into a category that includes a genre (such as role-playing games), a subgenre (like action RPGs), and modifier tags (such as casual, hardcore, or art style). Intellectual properties can be another. You can also focus on settings, landscape or portrait play, and monetization mechanics.

Marketers haven’t been able to go as deep into data because the app stores run by Apple and Google don’t have a lot of nuance when it comes to categories. If a mobile marketer wanted to find out exactly which game competes with theirs, that analysis has been tricky.

Enter Apple’s decision about protecting privacy. The company is offering a prominent prompt in iOS 14 (the new version of the operating system coming in September) that will ask users with every single mobile app if they want to opt out of being identified and tracked. App Annie doesn’t expect a large percentage of users to opt into being tracked. The result is that on iOS it will become a lot harder to determine if a new user for a game decided to play because of a particular ad.

App Annie’s Ascend product helps developers address these kinds of questions, and Game IQ helps them think about the bigger picture. Advertisers have to think on an aggregate level about whether they’re launching the right campaigns and targeting the right channels, App Annie analytics GM Ron Thomas said in an interview with GamesBeat.

“We have to adapt to a privacy-first world,” Thomas said.

Slicing and dicing categories

App Annie is using Game IQ to categorize games.

Above: App Annie is using Game IQ to categorize games.

Image Credit: App Annie

More than 27,000 games have already been categorized, App Annie market insights director Amir Ghodrati said in an interview with GamesBeat.

“Game IQ is creating a way to do a much deeper analysis of what’s going on in the gaming market,” Ghodrati said. “We’re creating something that adjusts for the fact that the gaming market has come so far during the past 12 years, [from] when the original keywords were created. Not only has the ecosystem changed, but the gamers have changed and the types of publishers have changed. So there’s a way to create much more granular segments to find out what is going on in the market.”

Game IQ delivers a visual framework to dissect tens of thousands of apps by providing answers to such questions as:

  • What are the market opportunities under the different granular categories?
  • Is the game tuned for hardcore, casual, or casino players?
  • Which genre fits the gameplay?
  • What is the core loop of the game (which helps identify the subgenre)?
  • What are the independent modifiers, such as intellectual property, art style, or monetization model?

Why it matters

Above: Game IQ has more than 80 modifier tags for mobile games.

Image Credit: App Annie

Game developers will benefit from prebuilt classifications guiding product development, user acquisition, monetization, marketing, and more. So what insights does Game IQ yield? One example is that the battle royale subcategory of games accounted for nearly 20% of the global time spent among the top 1,000 games by monthly active users. And battle royale games come in different flavors, including casual titles that are aimed at players who aren’t the usual fans of hardcore games, Ghodrati said.

“We can track to a subgenre, like the battle royale games,” Ghodrati said. “Or if a game is an action RPG or an idle RPG. These subgenres are much more granular than what you’re used to.”

App Annie said it has identified 3 levels of tuning, 19 genres, 99 subgenres, 5 categories of modifiers, and over 80 modifier tags. That means it can slice and dice its data in a lot of ways. As an example, you can learn what types of racing games are popular and which ones with what monetization mechanics are doing best. Or marketers may find that a type of game doesn’t exist in a hardcore category, which might mean there’s an opportunity to make a game for such users.

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