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'Be suspicious of data,' says video game data guy

Joost van Dreunen is CEO of growing video game market and sales data company SuperData. But even as someone who supplies clients with data, he says data alone shouldn't dictate a developer's decisions.
Joost van Dreunen is CEO of growing video game market and sales data company SuperData. But even as someone who supplies clients with data, he says data alone simply doesn’t paint a complete picture. "I say this as a data guy, but you should really be suspicious of data at all times," van Dreunen told Gamasutra at GDC 2013. "You should really take it with a grain of salt." All data needs to be examined in the appropriate context, he said. The industry recognizes opportunity now that "games are everywhere," but impressive install base numbers don't paint the whole picture. "Some people say, 'Everyone’s a gamer, everyone has an iPhone.' Well, not really. There are a lot of nuances when you’re trying to figure out where your company stands," he said. van Dreunen added, "If online gaming or social gaming taught us anything is that traffic [data] alone is not enough. You might have a million people signed up, but nobody’s spending any money, you’ve sold no ads, so it’s useless, in terms of a business. It might be fun, but it’s no business." The reality is that most small game developers don’t need extensive sales and market data, because their audiences are typically small. But some games become breakout successes quickly, and extensive data becomes increasingly relevant. So what should developers be paying attention to? "Focus on your internal data," says van Dreunen. "Think about what you’re selling -- what’s not working? What’s too expensive? There’s a moment where you have to look further than your cubicle, further than your office. But for a lot of the small guys, and the guys going after a dream, it’s not necessary to do that. But there is a moment when data becomes relevant, and that’s usually when they say, ‘We’re not in the habit of looking at data, but we should." In the end, even a data guy will say that what matters most is making a good game. “I wouldn’t focus too early on on everybody else's data, or what everyone else is doing. That’s exactly why everybody’s doing the same thing."

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