Perhaps you’ve just launched a title or are preparing for your next game launch. What are the most important game metrics you should be tracking? How can you generate more players? What should you optimise first?
These are just a few of the most frequently asked questions among many social and mobile game developers. The truth is that different metrics matter at various stages of a game’s lifecycle, and if you are truly serious about creating a successful gaming business, you’re going to have to know what to focus on at different points in time.
Whether or not your game is still in its early stages or the title has been live for several months will play a very important role in terms of what you as a game developer need to be optimising. To make it as simple as possible, the three main stages of a game’s lifecycle are broken down here to help you identify the metrics that can drastically improve results and give your game title the fighting chance it deserves.
It goes without saying that the marketing initiatives are essential to the success of a title The metrics below highlight key actions that should specifically be tracked within the game, from a development and overall business perspective.
Registrations / Players
Consider this the starting point for all of your future tracking and analysis. On a chosen day, (preferably launch day), meticulously track how many registered users you generated. To truly gauge if this number adds up, take into consideration any launch investment you may have spent in order to get your title off the ground.
Does this mean that you absolutely need a significant marketing budget to get your game off the ground? Well, the answer is yes and no. Time and again we’ve seen breakout independent game titles become hits by the use of clever social media campaigns alone. Word of mouth remains one of the strongest marketing channels there is. That being said, the cost per install both on Google Play and Apple’s App Store are increasingly on the rise
DAU – Daily Active Users
DAU is the Daily Active Users count, and is usually expressed as a monthly average. For example, if a game has 1,000,000 registered users, 500k of which visited in June, then the MMAU (monthly active users) is 500k. If, on average, 100k users played on each day in June, then the DAU is 100k.
The indication of DAUs and MAUs is essential in knowing if players are not only downloading your app, but also sticking around long enough for you to potentially monetise along the way.
Retention Day: The 1 / 7 / 30 Rule
There are various ways to measure retention rates. As a general rule, the day a user downloads the game is Day 0. If the user starts a session on Day 1, they are considered retained. If they do not start a session, they are not retained. This calculation is made each day in correlation to the day that the user downloaded the game. In other words, a retention rate can be calculated as: the number of players who return to the game 7 days after they started to play, divided by the number of all new players on the first day.
Measuring retention rates is best done when gauging regular intervals such as day 1, day 7 and day 30 because players naturally repeat the same app usage cycles on a regular basis. Therefore, by tracking this key performance indicator (KPI), you’ll be able to better predict how you app will fare in the future, both in terms of profitability and growth.
Conversion Day: The 2 / 7 / 30 Rule
Conversion rates are the percentage of players who take a specific action you want. In this case, it could be the amount of players who made an in-game purchase. Conversion rates are most commonly used to describe the act of converting site visitors into paying customers. For the gaming world, that would be “players to payers.”
Sessions / DAUs
This metric refers to the amount of times the average DAU initiates a session in your game. A strong number of sessions/DAU is considered to be about 3 per day, but this may depend greatly on your game title and on the genre. Games with longer session lengths such as RPGs will tend to have fewer sessions/DAUs while endless runners and games with shorter sessions can easily exceed 4 or 5 sessions/DAUs.
MAU Return to Play
MAU Return to Play refers to the number of people who played during the last month and returned to play today. From all of the players who played during the last month, how many returned to play today?
Depositors Return to Play
From all of the players who deposited or in other words, made an in-game purchase during the last month, how many returned to play today?
Depositors Return to Deposit
From all of the players who deposited during the last month, how many made a deposit today?
Depositors / DAU
This metric is fairly straightforward. From the players who played today, how many of them proceeded to make a deposit. This KPI helps understand the overall monetisation potential of your game title. Knowing what triggers your players to make a deposit / in-game purchase gives you the data you will need to increase the overall revenue stream generated by your game title.
As the name suggests, Conversion Rate is the percentage of users that execute an in-app purchase (IAP). This may be in the form of virtual currency or hard currency. Now you might be asking yourself, what’s considered a “good” conversion rate? The general consensus across forums, independent research and brand-provided analysis is that apps that have a 1-2 per cent average conversion can be considered healthy in terms of conversion rates, so hitting anything above 2 per cent should be considered a strong conversion rate. Niche games and apps in general can see average rates as high up as 10 per cent, although this is quite out of the norm.
One of the best ways to measure if your game is successful or not is by identifying the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). This measures how much a game earns per user from those who have ever downloaded the game. While Daily Average Revenue per User (DARPU) captures one specific day’s worth of data, ARPU measures the total monetisation of an average user.
Life Time Value
Similar to the previously mentioned ARPU, Lifetime Value (LTV) takes into account how much users have invested since they downloaded the game. This is also a good indication of how users will continue to spend going forward. That being said, there are certainly changes in behavior over time which need to be taken into consideration as well.
The main difference between ARPU and LTV is that ARPU does not project how newly acquired users will monetise in the future. Note that an ARPU of a certain value does not guarantee a financially successful game title; it’s all relative to the cost of acquiring users.
Depositors / New Depositors
Of the players who played today, how many made a deposit? From these depositors, how many were first time depositors?
It is critical to understand the metrics involved within your game, their relationship to each other and the impact they have on your game from its initial launch, down through to monetisation. Analytics should be built into your marketing strategy in order to correctly analyse and know the essentials of your product and its relationship with your customers.
Finding the right Key Price Indexes (KPIs) for your specific app is paramount to its success. Hence, you should start to think about how and what you wish to track and how to set up your analytics dashboard from the get-go. Consider yourself a sailor: you may not know where the wind will carry you, but knowing the coordinates helps you to define your direction.
Last but not least, remember that focusing on the most important areas such as retention and revenue should never be overlooked and can help steer your app pipeline in the right direction. Always have a strategic plan prior to launch, but allow for enough flexibility to iterate and improve your game as the metrics show you what works and what doesn’t.