Angry Birds developer and Finnish game giant Rovio has offered new insights into its data analytics approach.
Director of analytics Timo Similä offered a crash course in the function of game analytics in development and provided valuable insights for other developers. Similä listed three key components: “Testing game experiences”, “correcting technical problems and streamlining design” and “making games fun for a variety of players with personalisation.”
Of course, the basic approach is what many developers do already. Testing to see how players react to new game ideas, drawing inspiration from other titles and pre-existing research. However, Rovio notes that random flukes and other variations can easily mean that something which won’t hold water in the long run – whether that be design or otherwise – can appear to be a sure bet from this research.
“To ensure that new features will have a long term impact, it is essential to have an estimation of player experience already when the game team works on a new game feature,” Similä said.
“This can take the form of simple spreadsheets with a handful of static numbers derived from an average player, to more elaborate stochastic models describing a sequence of possible events in the player journey (a map of how the player interacts with the game over a period of time).
“One way to assess player experience is to backtest how the new feature would have played out for example one month ago, if it existed then.”
While the easiest way to understand technical problems is reports of an issue, this, like testing, isn’t always the same for all players. They suggest monitoring data around purchases with the example of an in-game event not triggering correctly and thus not directing players to make expected purchases in-game.
Similä also writes about how player behaviour can produce technical issues not actually related to improper elements at a fundamental game level (such as in code, event triggers, design etc). Players are always able to unintentionally break games due to the sheer number of them and their time spent on a title often outpacing Q&A testing. In a similar way, their behaviour and understanding of game elements can often be vastly different to what developers assume would happen.
“Consider a powerful in-game resource which a large share of players fails to understand well. For the game analyst this situation shows up as a bimodal distribution of level retries where one group wins easily with the powerful resource but the other group struggles to beat the level,” said Similä.
“Seeing this kind of distribution is a key indicator that the team should reexamine the design of that feature, making its usefulness more clear.”
Given the importance of IAPs to developers in free-to-play games, balancing the game experience for players and personalising it for them is a challenge, particularly due to new data privacy laws which mean the understanding of these demographics is vastly different. However, Similä notes that despite these differences it is important to let players of all kinds, whether that be those that don’t make purchases or those that do, experience the game in a way that gives them a positive experience regardless.
He states that payers want to see an immediate return on their investment, for example, that sees them rewarded with fun and success.
Similä notes the key ways to understand each demographic “The personalisation [of player profiles] typically means segmenting players based on their previous behaviour while playing the game. The same in-game event can require a little more from the most active players, but should also reward them more generously for completion. Players appreciate when the game bundles resources that are in high demand and serves them this best matching offer instead of the same thing for everyone.”
Launching with Rovio
Overall, Similä’s post offers not just an insight into how Rovio approaches its data analytics, but also a great starter guide to how developers can understand modern data analytics. With changes to data privacy laws and policies such as IDFA, it has become clear that changes in analytics are not just happening now, but may be inevitable in the future, so staying ahead of the game is key to bringing development and publishing success.