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How Analytics Are Shaping Social Games

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the stay-away-from-my-dopamine-receptors dept.

Advertising 47

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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ANAL LICK THIS !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36781040)

haha!!

Re:ANAL LICK THIS !! (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781472)

I understand that this AC "first post" troll is annoying, but after some serious thought about the topic presented in this article, I believe that "ANAL LICK THIS haha!!" is probably the most insightful response to the nauseating view of human "play" that this miserable article depicts.

I'm not kidding here or trying to make fun.

This is from the article:

"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.

Get that? "Every player action is a potential metric in a revenue model." Does that have anything at all to do with the notion that any of us has of playing a game? Don't we have enough of the "revenue model" in our regular lives that we want to spend our leisure time engaged in this ugly procuring? Honestly, how many of you are interested in spending the precious little time you have where you are not actively engaged in activities meant to ensure survival playing a game where you are constantly being hustled? Have we become so debased that instead of a challenge or puzzle or exciting exercise of hand-eye coordination or strategy we find pleasure in the empty promises of the online equivalent of prostitution, except without even the titillation?

No, at the risk of wasting a comment beneath a clearly down-modded troll, I have to agree: ANAL LICK THIS!! haha!!.

"Freemium"? Really??

wow (3, Insightful)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781100)

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

Re:wow (2)

Abrisene (1477289) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781368)

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.

Re:wow (1)

That Guy From Mrktng (2274712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781400)

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!

Re:wow (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781438)

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?

Re:wow (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781498)

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.

Re:wow (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36784018)

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.

Re:wow (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36783934)

"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?

A good reason to stay with indie games (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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:A good reason to stay with indie games (3, Interesting)

Abrisene (1477289) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781422)

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.

Expect to see some really scary and some really amazing things in the next couple of years.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36785116)

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.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36796616)

In other words, do whatever you want and the game will still let you win. No more strategy required. Thanks, but no thanks. Always winning isn't fun for me.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36797662)

No, not quite. It still makes things challenging, but it adjusts the level of challenge appropriately. And obviously as you play higher levels the director is less forgiving and moreso sadistic.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36802732)

Thanks for replying to my AC comment. I've never played L4D, so I guess I'll just have to try it.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36805684)

It'll be fun, but it wasn't worth the $40 I paid IMO. I got way more mileage out of the $20 I spent on Killing Floor. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought loads of copies for friends to enjoy (especially when it was on sale for a fiver).

I'd reckon Left4Dead being a good value at around $5-10. Right now it's $20. Catch it if it's on sale.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (1)

camazotz (1242344) | more than 3 years ago | (#36835328)

YMMV. I've gotten a great deal of mileage and enjoyment out of L4D and L4D2 but have found Killing Floor--while also fun and very much the same style of game--to be a bit less accessible and engaging over time. In any case, I have to agree that the "director" feature in L4D makes for a more compelling and unpredictable experience while it still manages to insure that the game is both challenging and surprising at the same time. Definitely not a case of "modify the game to let the players win." Quite the opposite, often!

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 3 years ago | (#36788416)

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.

Re:A good reason to stay with indie games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36791570)

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.

Bullshit. Try Lugaru and tell me it isn't fun (yes it runs on Linux, yes it's open source). I don't see the point of it, but there's also Minecraft which is extremely popular and made its creator a load of money. So, fuck you. Sure most indies fail, but those who don't make it all worth it.

Bingo! (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781106)

I just needed freemium, and infographics.

Re:Bingo! (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781136)

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

Second verse, same as the first (2)

aggles (775392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781454)

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. Others have to work at success and modern analytic techniques make that possible. As the article points out, insight can be misused. Those that become overbearing will suffer, and others will take their place.

As someone who loves games... (3, Insightful)

_0rm_ (1638559) | more than 3 years ago | (#36781978)

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.

Re:As someone who loves games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36784074)

I work in one of those companies that does funnels and analysis of player actions. What it's all about is maximizing revenue in the long run, not squeezing everything out of players. What we're looking at is what makes players tick and what they like about the game, then improving those aspects and adding a layer of extra sugar on top for those who are willing to pay for it.

Shorter -- analysis for what players like & adding sugar on top of that for those that are willing to pay, not analyzing what players like and moving that stuff behind a paywall. That shit simply doesn't fly.

Also worth mentioning -- while we do try to gauge the monetary value of new features the most important metric is "what would users like to have" and "whoa, that would be so cool".

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

_0rm_ (1638559) | more than 3 years ago | (#36794546)

What we're looking at is what makes players tick and what they like about the game, then improving those aspects and adding a layer of extra sugar on top for those who are willing to pay for it.

But the information you provide basically tells the money people "Make them pay for this anyway.". It adds no value to the game whatsoever, and makes people like me (programmers) hate their job because we know we are doing nothing but gouge our userbase. We know alot more than you, and you are nothing without us. Remember that.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

_0rm_ (1638559) | more than 3 years ago | (#36794558)

Also, two words, Skinner Box.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36784594)

"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 improve regular AAA games.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36787056)

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 on some jumping segment (or some X hit combo on the boss) because you have managed to memorize the pattern.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

_0rm_ (1638559) | more than 3 years ago | (#36794472)

+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.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

Ltap (1572175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36784750)

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.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

science-heretics (2378514) | more than 3 years ago | (#36785088)

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.

Re:As someone who loves games... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36787620)

Disclaimer: I am a full-time game developer for a variety of games, including free to play.

TF2 is a fantastic game; I'm glad that over the years it continues to have updates, supports both Win & Mac, and now has become free.

There are many other games (e.g., CivWorld, RuneScape, Leagues of Legends, etc...) which have a F2P model that appears to focus more on fun than metrics & funneling. The developers still need to be paid in order to keep fresh content coming in and/or support their livelihood in order to build the next great game.

In my younger days I use to hate marketing / salespeople, because they just thought about money. Truth is most are more inline with the developers (just wanting to see a product succeed). Both salespeople and developers want a good return, as it affects a studio's ability to stay afloat, Christmas bonuses, etc...

Only a select few (1% of 1%, if even that) are rolling in cash. The bulk of developers & marketers are making a good middle-class salary. If money is a higher priority than games themselves, it becomes evident quite quickly (and posted up on Gamasutra or Escapist). Most people who leave for money (devs or marketing) go into the banking field.

I'm glad there are players like you who do not enjoy many of the more spotlighted (social) F2P games. It means there are other groups of players who crave a deeper experience than clicking virtual fields to harvest "crops". And it's because of players like you, I have the opportunity at my job to try to find new, fun, free games on the web that challenge the existing paradigms. I believe if the game is fun; players will pay. And I suppose some people must find crop clicking fun; personally I find those a bore and would rather fire up TF2. ;)

My 2 cents & gamedev f2p apologetic.

Re:As someone who loves games... (1)

_0rm_ (1638559) | more than 3 years ago | (#36794506)

I am glad to see an industry vet get in on this conversation. I myself am in school for game development on the programming side, and I can say that it is for this reason especially that I am frustrated by the current F2P model. Another game you might enjoy is Monday Night Combat. That is currently my favorite time-waster.

Well (1)

StupiderThanYou (896020) | more than 3 years ago | (#36782032)

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...

*pauses for a disturbing thought* (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#36782452)

Is slashdot a social game?

Re:*pauses for a disturbing thought* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36783404)

Blocked Destinations
    google-analytics.com
    doubleclick.net
    scorecardresearch.net
    addthis.com
     

Paying while playing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36782578)

Something about money coming out of my pocket takes the fun right out of gaming for me. I had trouble with the decision to buy the mobile banking feature on my WoW account. I don't know how much fun I can have when I have to worry about if the last piece of my armor set is going to cost me gold or dollars.

trrolkore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36782670)

Where is the "game" in Farmville? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36782772)

Maybe I'm dense and some unsophisticated rube, but is there any gameplay in this time waster? I've looked, but it seems to be an exercise in setting alarms clocks, rather than any game.

Cheap Christian Louboutin Shoes (-1)

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Correct me if I'm wrong but... (1)

UtsuMaster (874626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36783738)

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.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36784658)

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.

Yes, because aside from trying to just come up with good stuff that stands on it's own, you also need to roll it out at the right time and in the right way, generate buzz, hence buzzwords.

Disgusted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36783886)

I see this is becoming a trend right now, along with the rise of 'social media games'.

Just a few weeks ago I was in a game design lesson. The current theme this semester was about social media, because that's hot right now. This lesson was all about metrics and how to extract the most pennies out of gamers, including the whole 'funnel' idea. It made me sick.

Achievements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36789354)

Sounds like Xbox Achievements to me.

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Re:Moster beats by Dr.Dre solo hd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36812660)

What the hell Slashdot? How does blatant spam get a mod point? No wonder registered members keep bitching about the environment here anymore...

I can see where this is coming from (1)

Rexdude (747457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36798360)

I recently installed an Android game called Inotia 3:Children of Carnia [android.com] , and on first glance, appears to be an honest old-school RPG without your fancy schmancy MMO tacked on. For once I thought I could play a single character game, moreover this was listed as free.
After entering the game, I found it has elements of free to play MMOs - that is, you can purchase additional items for real world cash. Still fine so far - I've played a few F2P MMOs in my time and the way they're designed you don't really HAVE to buy anything to progress.

Cut to the first boss fight in this game. I had 3 characters in a party, but the boss was ridiculously hard to beat. No matter what I tried, all 3 characters would die before 50% of the boss' health wore down. And when all 3 die - you get this lovely offer to purchase a resurrection scroll! I thought I'll still go ahead and see what this pay to play stuff is all about - for about $0.99 I was able to purchase scrolls, and get rid of the boss. Only to be catapulted into another boss fight 5 minutes later..which used up more of my purchased scrolls. So I defeated this boss too, after resurrecting, (and by this time my party had only 2 characters) only to have the game hang.
The next time I start up, I'm back at the boss fight, my progress is lost, and I AGAIN have to buy more resurrection scrolls?
Why not just charge for the damn game up front?

This is what gaming is turning into. Thanks, I'll stick with the oldies from the mid 90s and earlier.

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