Many still assume that heavy use of analytics and metrics is reserved for mobile games, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Modern game engines — take Unity, for example — have had natural analytics support implemented for years, allowing developers of all shapes and sizes to track user behavior across platforms and devices.
With behavior-tracking capabilities, developers can understand how many players they have, how they behave, what they achieve and what they spend. By understanding and optimizing game design and user flow, you can not only create a more enjoyable experience, but build a more financially successful product, as well.
KPIs (key performance indicators)fall into multiple metric categories and should be appropriately monitored for the genre, platform and features of your game. Let’s review two of the most important: behavioral and monetization.
Daily Active Users (DAU)
Tracking daily active users gives you a clear picture of your community’s strength. While some platforms allow you to see the number of active users in real-time, your DAU is calculated at the end of the day and immediately appended to a time-based chart.
Monitoring your DAU against sales figures and community events gives you quantitative performance reports and helps you design and develop new content.
DAUs aren’t the only thing worth watching on a daily basis. Tracking sessions (the point at which a user starts to play your game) is also very useful. Keep an eye out for high ratios: this implies that users are playing your game multiple times a day. This is a positive indicator that your game has developed good traction among existing players (allowing you to focus on user acquisition rather than retention).
If your game has online gameplay, you may want to record sessions right at application launch and again at the beginning of actual gameplay. If the numbers don’t match up (or come close), there may be an issue with the main menu interface or perhaps online connectivity problems.
DAU (Daily Active Users) / MAU (Monthly Active Users)
The ratio of daily active users over monthly active users indicates how strongly your game retains users over an extended period of time (i.e., your “stickiness”). It measures how frequently users play your game.
If your MAU is 100 and your average DAU for the month is 20, then you can calculate that your users, on average, played your game 20% of the days that month. By analyzing these metrics, you can determine how many people are playing and how frequently. This sets the stage for understanding monetization and behavioral statistics.
Two other metrics that can be calculated from the above are Retention and Churn.
1. Retention represents the percentage of users who keep your game installed and actively use it. Retention is typically calculated on intervals like daily, weekly and monthly retention rates. If a user purchases or installs your game, they’re not yet technically retained. A retained user is an active user. For free-to-play content, retention rate is the most important metric to track as you aren’t bringing in any revenue from installations alone.
2. Churn is essentially the opposite of retention: it is the percentage of users who don’t play the game for a predetermined period of time (typically two to four weeks). Retention and Churn are both calculated based on genre, free / premium / subscription-based content and platform.
The following monetization metrics are more relevant to freemium content, but still play a role in paid content that features premium DLC or other paid content (such as Overwatch loot boxes, etc.).
There are few metrics more important than conversion rate. By understanding what percentage of users are purchasing in-game digital content, you can determine the general strength of your market and your players’ financial commitment.
While you’ll want to use the following two metrics to accurately calculate the value of converted players, going by conversion rate as a general performance forecast is sufficient for most freemium content.
Average Revenue Per DAU (ARPDAU)
One of the most measured metrics in mobile games is ARPDAU. This metric tells you how much your average player is worth.
It’s important to note that ARPDAU isn’t necessarily an accurate estimator of user worth; rather, it serves as a forecasting tool. This metric becomes more useful when you run marketing campaigns for new user acquisition or new marketplace items.
Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU)
A more accurate way to measure converted user performance, ARPPU breaks down how much is spent by users who have already made in-game purchases.
For instance, you can calculate standard deviations in spending for paid users. This allows you to identify spending patterns at either end of the spectrum. Why do whales spend so much, and on what? Are frugal users spending less because the cheaper items are underwhelming or because they find them irrelevant for long-term gameplay?
Ultimately, your preferred KPIs will emphasize behavior – and when applicable – spending. For more complex games, tracking level completion and player progression is important, especially with branching story progression (i.e., Fallout). However it’s important to recognize when specific measurable actions become KPIs, and when other significant events are simply measurable but not performance indicators.To summarize: platform, genre and audience will ultimately define your specific KPIs, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the above performance indicators. It doesn’t hurt to have too much performance data!