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How Analytics Are Shaping Social Games 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-away-from-my-dopamine-receptors dept.
Data mining and customer tracking are familiar concepts from online advertising, but an article at the Guardian examines how metrics and analytics are becoming a big part of the social games people play as well. This merging of games and advertising sounds just as distasteful as you might expect: "Whereas traditional games are about creating big macro-environments for player exploration, freemium is about micro-managing every step the player takes toward actually buying something. 'A developer can build 'funnels' that depict the player actions leading to a financial conversion like purchasing extra content or virtual merchandize,' says Justin Johnson, CTO of Playmetrix, another British company specialising in game analytics. 'It's then down to the developer to use this analysis to improve conversion by removing obstructions and bottlenecks that may be inherent in the design.' ... It's a strange business. In the free-to-play universe, every player action is a potential metric in a revenue model. In-game behaviour is an algorithm that needs to be unraveled and de-coded. Developers have to operate like a sort of secret police agency, effectively bugging players – the Playmetrix software allows them to embed 'call backs' into their game code that trigger when players do something of interest. This is all visualised via graphics and charts so activities become infographics.'"
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How Analytics Are Shaping Social Games

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  • wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rbrausse (1319883) on Friday July 15, 2011 @06:49PM (#36781100)

    a spokesperson of a game analytics shop says that game analytics are the next big thing? ...completely unexpected...

    • by Abrisene (1477289)
      They're not the next big thing, they're already huge.
      If you have a product in the social games space and you aren't using analytics, you've already failed because they're the only way you can measure the success or failure of individual features and content.
      It requires a great deal of agility to succeed in social games. Metrics enable that agility.
    • Haha recently We got advertising for Golf Clothing in Quakelive. Surpirsingly, when I asked in the game that night, at least 2 of an average of 10 players per server actually played golf. Damn analytics you scary!

    • by alphatel (1450715) *

      a spokesperson of a game analytics shop says that game analytics are the next big thing? ...completely unexpected...

      Strange! I know a guy who says that social analysts should get paid more than traditional game companies. Whooda thunk it?

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        I know a guy who says that social analysts should get paid more than traditional game companies. Whooda thunk it?

        This kind of "social analyst" should be paid with a linoleum cutter to a major artery.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          worry not, he's out of job in 5 years. that kind of guy doesn't have lot of actual agility. you know whats funny about game companies that have zero imagination and run that zero imagination on juice from database time stamp analysis? all you need is one "clan" in the game and they can turn the game into a game of playing the db.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      "the Playmetrix software allows them to embed 'call backs' into their game code that trigger when players do something of interest."

      fuck, if they can code a mmorpg, wouldn't you think they'd manage to do that without leaking their info to consultants?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 15, 2011 @06:49PM (#36781104)

    They can't afford to do this sort of research. In fact, all that indie developers can usually afford to do is focus on playtime and story. I can't imagine why they're so successful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Abrisene (1477289)
      Once you understand the methodology, it's not too expensive. The expense comes from paying for a product manager who understands the metrics, and for the analytics package itself.

      Really the wonderful thing about metrics is that it allows you to tailor the game to the player.
      Right now this is used entirely to help increase bottom line factors like monetization, retention and virality, but there are a couple of us who are interested in using metrics to increase the overall quality of games as well.

      Expe
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        An example of using gameplay metrics towards something good would be the Director in Left4Dead and Left4Dead2. If you have loads of ammo, it throws more enemies at you. Low on bullets? More ammo spawns. etc. Every playthrough is different.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      The games are bad and they don't make much money...not sure on your metric of success. Philosophically, indie games are great. Realistically, at best they're trifles you play on an iPhone for 5 minutes and then forget.

  • I just needed freemium, and infographics.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Damn, I tried to play "financial conversion" and could not fill out that row.

  • The article shows nothing new from an analytics angle, except how to apply common techniques to the online gaming industry. For quite some time, grocery stores to airlines to web sites have been modeling user patterns, and exploiting them by adapting the product to what works the best. Anti-churn algorithms and targeted educative emails are cool techniques that work. Not every company needs or can use this style of analytics. Some companies stumble upon "gut-feel" brilliance and just do everything right
  • by _0rm_ (1638559) on Friday July 15, 2011 @08:43PM (#36781978) Journal
    I am disgusted by these; and as someone who actually likes to create games, I am even more disgusted. The only F2P model I really approve of is Team Fortress 2. Sales people need to stay out of the development cycle and focus on selling the game, not game content. And if you are a salesperson who analyzes these sorts of things, fuck you.
    • "And if you are a salesperson who analyzes these sorts of things, fuck you."

      I'm not sure I totally agree, analytics may bring some key insights that are hidden about game development. I'm reminded of arcades of the 80's. Everyone accepted Pay to play at the arcades and many of gamings best games had their beginning as arcade games (pay to play). I agree that analytics of social games can and will be used to exploit end users but it may also reveal hidden universal concepts about game design that can impr

      • by hitmark (640295)

        Well for the most part those games where designed to be hard (and when converted to consoles, resulted in the term Nintendo hard). End result was that if you could finish the game on a single coin, you got a sense of accomplishment. Now however they aim more at being tedious unless you fork over some cash for that in-game apple cart or similar. You do not feel any accomplishment clicking the X+1 apple tree for that 0.000001% chance of collecting the last apple you need, unlike finally getting a perfect run

        • by _0rm_ (1638559)
          +1 agree. Thank you. Games are about the challenge, not about the tedious click to (not) win model that Farmville loves so much. These are simply not games.
    • by Ltap (1572175)
      I think that this is basically a tool. You can use it for good (find out places where players get frustrated or confused and fix them) or use it for evil (try to force them to buy crap and pay the publisher more money). Unfortunately, most seem to make a beeline for the latter.
    • I definitely don't say that F2P games are in some sense inherently flawed. Somehow people think that when you can play the game for free it should involve money in no way. This is strange as traditionally games used to cost money to even start with. And a lot of money usually. Then again, I agree with you on most games. Basically all social games at least.
  • Seems to me (from a position of very little knowledge - I certainly didn't RTFA) that people who play these games may be getting exactly what they deserve...
  • Is slashdot a social game?
  • the Playmetrix software allows them to embed 'call backs' into their game code that trigger when players do something of interest. This is all visualised via graphics and charts so activities become infographics.

    Is this novel, or complex, in any way? Aren't aspects and business intelligence covered in the first half of CS courses?

    Why is 'call backs' in quotes? They probably are just callbacks, nothing arcane behind it.

    I guess venture capital and headlines really are all about the buzzwords.

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