Data is the great equalizer

The “Beat Goliath” Playbook for Indie Game Developers

  1. Identify a source: where are you getting data? Well, keep in mind that the only real data you have access to, and the data which is most important to you, is coming directly from your own games. So the question is, do you have access to that data? An army of data scientists won’t do you much good if there isn’t a source which you can use.
  2. Understand the data: the second most important thing that any organization needs, if they want to benefit from data, is to have a way to interpret and make sense of all the information available to them. Much of what analytics teams do is create interfaces from disparate sources so there can be a coherent format for looking at data.
  3. Make decisions based on the data: armed with data, these teams now have to make recommendations for what to do to improve performance, whether that’s in the form of less churn, more playtime, or an increase in monetization opportunities. Then they begin the work of building these recommendations into improving exiting games and creating new ones based on this data.
  1. Source: indie developers need a solution that does not require setting up, configuring, and managing a server. The concept of a back-end should not even enter their brains, and instead, they should rely on a service that tracks and analyzes their games based on standard player and game performance metrics. What’s more, they should be able to easily connect their games to a service through a simple API and/or plugins for main game engines. Additionally, they need to be able to define custom data points they need and incorporate those into their analytics service.
  2. Understand the data: some data points will register with you immediately — if DAU or MAU is dropping, you’ll want to investigate further, and you should use additional data to go to the next level. Other data points immediately shine a light on important aspects of your game. For example, if features X, Y, and Z see the most playtime, or if those are the places in the game where players invoke social functionality to invite others to play, it’s clearly a sign of popularity. If 75% of players drop off after using feature A, well maybe it’s a lousy feature, or perhaps there’s some aspect of how it renders in the game that players don’t like. These do not require Tableau charts or algorithms to interpret. If you know your game and understand the gamer mindset, your ability to see data in an easy-to-digest dashboard or heatmap will arm you with insights, and those insights give you power to make improvements.
  3. Make decisions based on the data: if you’ve learned that 90% of your players choose to perform their secret ops and capture the royal family in urban settings vs. rural settings, how many meetings and spreadsheets does it take to decide to offer more opportunities to function in urban settings? Again, when you know your game and the mindset of players, data like this enables you to adapt existing games rapidly and plan for future games with a greater accuracy of meeting player desires.

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