How Indie Game Devs Use Data to Make More Money
Game developers rely on inputs. Maybe you read a series of books and you wanted to create a game based on the main character’s experiences. Perhaps you were sitting around with friends who said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if……”. Either way, you’re using external factors to help you build something you think will be interesting to players.
Approaches like these result in great games because you’re creative and innovative. But to make a game truly successful, it must meet players’ needs. And meeting their needs is a tricky thing because games have so many features, levels, and various elements.
Our customers at GamerGraph repeatedly tell us how surprised they are that small fixes result in players spending way more money in the game. For indies, that ability to monetize their games means they can keep paying the bills, big a bigger player base, and grow their brand.
The benefit from this is more engagement, happier users, and viral growth. But let’s first look at what data is all about.
The tool for doing this effectively is data.
How important is data?
How do Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo know exactly how to push new games? What about how these developers know how to push DLC? How do they really know how to remove or change a main game feature? The answer to all three of these incredibly crucial questions is one and the same; they have impeccable metrics.
It stands to reason that they’re going to have great data; they’re all billion dollar companies. But the reality is that you don’t need massive data analytics teams, nor millions of dollars of budget to understand your users and make data your most important ally and competitive advantage.
So, how do we take that data and turn it into profit? Take a look at these three guiding principles to understand how you can start using data to make your game more successful:
#1) DOUBLE-DOWN: Learn exactly what players like, and you can give them more of it
Players want an experience that charges their synapses and entertains them, and if you fail to provide that, they’ve got an infinite number of other ways to spend their time. So, it behooves you to learn what players like about your game and make improvements to either enhance those features, or use your creative mind to build new features in a similar vein.
To do that, you need to know:
- User Playtime: how much game time was played for each user, cohorts of users, and in aggregate? What is the average time per player in each percentile (e.g., what’s the average play time for the top 20% of users vs. the bottom 20%)? Is user playtime increasing, decreasing, or static? As you get deeper into the data, you’ll be able to pair playtime data with game features to know where playtime increases and drop-off typically happens.
- In-Game Activity / Heatmaps: where are players when they take specific actions? Is one element of the game overpowered? Is there an area in the game where players are losing too quickly? Heatmaps pinpoint specifically where activity happens in your game and eliminate the need for forensic work to apply data insights.
- Daily Activity: it’s critical to understand trends for daily active users (DAU) and how they engage with the game. While data is interesting in aggregate, successful game developers use a dashboard to track this continuously.
- Feature Usage: which features get the most attention? Which get the least attention?
Armed with this data, you can develop a major competitive advantage by accentuating the positives: if you know your players like certain features, give them more of it or build similar elements into your game. Remember, you’re not having to evaluate comments and opinions — these are cold-hard facts that tell you what to deliver to keep players happy and coming back.
#2) STOKE THE FIRE: Keep players engaged with better performance and by embedding rewards and social mechanics
If you know what features are performing well, or the time that players typically play before dropping out, then you can add things like rewards, new challenges, leaderboards, and options to engage with others through social mechanics. But to do this, you first need to understand where and how to fuel the enthusiasm of your players, and reach them before they drop-off through knowing:
- Onboarding: are you players registering easily, or are they dropping off? Is that a sign of a registration process that’s too complicated, or not clear enough? Can you provide better instruction, or perhaps offer rewards to keep the players engaged through the onboarding process.
- Churn: How many users play once and never come back? Are there trends that highlight common drop-off points?
- In-app purchases (IAP): track who’s buying, what are they buying, where in the game are they buying it. Know what’s popular and what’s not when it comes to purchases.
- Social Mechanics: identify the popular features of your game so you can add social elements that will encourage players to increase activity.
There’s nothing like playing a game that appears to be custom-built for you. You can give your users that feeling as long as you know what gets they fired up.
#3) KILL AND MOVE ON: You can kill off elements of the game that aren’t getting usage
Let’s make this one simple — there may be parts of your game that you spent months developing and are really proud of. That’s great and you should be proud. But if players aren’t using them, they’re just clogging up attention spans and reducing a players’ desire to use your game.
When you know that, you can kill off those unused, unpopular features and get back to developing and delivering just what users want.
Get the data that will help you make your game successful
There are a host of other data points that will reduce the time you spend on development while increasing your economic rate of return. Consider the value you get when you know things like:
- Ad Performance: are the location of third-party ads timing correctly with the players’ experience? Are players seeing ads and quitting? Armed with this information, you can balance player experience with monetization channels.
- Platforms: mobile vs. desktop, Android vs. iOS…what are your players using?
- Events: track events for IAP, ads, levels, virtual currencies, or use your own custom events.
Developers and creators’ should have the freedom to create games that attract players and keep players. GamerGraph can help you build a frictionless metric system to allow you to collect the right data to improve your gaming experience while preventing the extra step of a deterrent of a to be filled-out form for gamers. You want gamers to play your game and not get bogged down by digital paperwork in the process, but you still want to collect the needed data and metrics to allow your game to grow and evolve. We also offer highly customizable and detailed methods via an unbelievably user-friendly API that larger studios and publishers will find cost effective and easier to use than in house stacks.
GamerGraph is leveling the playing field across the board. We make it very easy for independent game developers, publishers and small to mid-sized developers and publishers to collect data. We at GamerGraph are able to present that data in a manner that makes sense to you and your needs.
The world needs you to build better games.
Try GamerGraph for free and learn how to improve your game, increase usage, and operate with control.