Thought Leadership

The gaming industry competes at a new level with data insights

Nick Amabile


July 14, 2020
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Accessible on multiple platforms and connected around the world, the gaming industry is an ever-expanding business. But as heated as the competition is on-screen, that spirit is rivaled by game publishers.

In that booming market, companies need every advantage to transform new titles into viral hits and sudden blockbusters into franchises.

Amid such a boom-and-bust climate, gaming companies can’t afford to ignore the wealth of insights available in their data. Like its home entertainment sibling, streaming media, gaming allows for all sorts of possibilities to gain real-time insights from user habits and adjust accordingly.

Not surprisingly, you can’t compete at this level unless you really know how to play.

Details behind your data can be game changers

While the hits-driven nature of the gaming business means it shares traits with Hollywood studios, gaming also faces the competitive reality of the technology industry. Like any digital business, the gaming industry runs on data. This means that before any intelligence can be gained from customer behavior or their gameplay, a data source must be centralized, organized, and governed.

However, the expansive nature of the gaming industry poses a number of technical challenges that are difficult to navigate. Every detail from a user’s gameplay is ripe for examination, but it’s also evolving in real time. As every new level or achievement is reached, a new piece of data is sent to the company’s servers. This means hundreds of events are generated from a single user in even five minutes of play.

On top of generating at such a high volume, gaming data is also complicated because the details are so particular to a single game. Typically, data generated from gaming exists in a JSON (Java Script Object Notation) format, and the number of fields can vary. Consequently, JSON is difficult to process, store, and view analytically in a meaningful way.

This kind of unstructured or semi-structured data requires a different skillset from most business intelligence efforts. Fortunately, data partners like Snowflake and Looker better enable DAS42’s specialization in navigating these challenging environments. Snowflake and Looker aggregate and analyze unstructured and semi-structured datasets in a way that makes sense to business users. Then, game designers can observe user behavior across every step of the experience and make adjustments based on their findings.

Engagement insights deliver a more dynamic gaming experience

In another sharp contrast with other forms of entertainment, today’s gaming titles don’t need to be considered complete upon release. Movies and television series rise or fall depending on how they’re first received, and their creators must simply live with those results. With accessible user data, game publishers have many chances to refine their products depending on how they’re initially (and continually) received.

This is especially true in the rapid-paced world of mobile gaming. Based on data gathered in real time, a gaming company can change the gaming experience for a title already in circulation. If the insights from user experiences reveal players are completing a level too quickly or not making enough progress to persevere and keep playing, then the publisher can make adjustments accordingly and deploy updates.

With multiple titles in their portfolio, companies use popular games to offset the losses incurred through their less successful titles. Through data analytics, the smartest players in the industry improve their games many times over to increase their chances of finding a hit.

Publishers can also compare a game’s user engagement and retention data against comparable titles on their roster. If design changes still fail to move the needle, they can cut off their investment and move on to the next title.

Gameplay’s monetization grows more targeted through data

As mobile gaming has grown, economic opportunities within gameplay have also expanded. While the game itself may be free or at a low cost to install, users can purchase virtual currency within the game that further enhances or extends its play. As the game goes on and those benefits grow more attractive to users, a publisher’s bottom line sees the same benefit.

Through data analytics, game companies can track how well these monetized components are performing. If purchases decline, they can then schedule new promotions or, in the case of a blockbuster like Fortnight, plan exclusive live events. These additions encourage players to spend more within the game’s virtual economy.

These reports also offer a reflection on a game’s success with engagement. If the data shows in-game currency is being depleted too quickly, users could get discouraged and abandon the game. Or if players are acquiring too much virtual cash, then the design may need adjustment to ensure the game is not too easy. More attractive purchase options can also be incorporated into the gameplay to attract more purchases.

With accessible data insights to track these habits, the end result is a better game for the player and the maker alike.

Data analytics reflect the value in promotions targeting user acquisition

The gaming industry is a crowded marketplace that’s more difficult than ever to capture. To remain competitive, companies must maximize their promotional ROI in their efforts to attract and retain new users.

Data analytics can also track the performance of advertising efforts through establishing cohorts of a given subscriber group.

By observing the habits of these cohort groups, game publishers can track a game’s success from every vantage point. If promotional campaigns aren’t attracting or retaining users, then companies can readjust their marketing approaches to generate better returns. Additionally, if the game is underperforming, its makers can redesign key points where engagement has faltered to improve the experience.

The gaming industry has moved well beyond the one-time purchase of a physical product that thereby completes the transaction. Now, through data analytics, games are living, ever-evolving environments whose publishers can monitor and respond to player habits as well as their own business needs. The goal isn’t just better games but more robust sales as well.

The game, on every level, has changed. Contact us when your organization is ready to compete at a new level.