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The Fairytale Rules of Exceptional Analytics

In this article, Mark sets out some 'fairytale' rules that if followed will allow readers to create a powerful and actionable analytics environment to understand player behaviours.

Mark Robinson, Blogger

January 30, 2012

4 Min Read

Once upon a time, you shipped a game, read the review and shaved off the beard then started all over again.  Not anymore. Now the game never ends and the world is trying to tell you what they think about your game as it spews out endless data. Players are proclaiming what they like, what they don’t like and exactly how they want to experience your games. 

But are you really listening?  Do you truly understand your player behaviours? And is all this data a fairytale dream come true or a recurring nightmare?

Games are configured to write player level event data into analytics databases.  Typically a relatively complex game may have 100 different types of events defined.  Each of these events, such as ‘Select Weapon’, ‘Invite a Friend’ or ‘Start Mission’ will have associated data parameters so that player histories and status can be tracked in detail. A game with 1,000,000 MAUs, each generating multiple event records for each and every minute of gameplay soon means you are awash with data.

So how can we interpret this and really start to understand our players’ motivations and potential?

The answer surely does not lay with dashboard metrics.   The perception has been that if only we could think of the right metric, then we can unleash the golden goose and unlock a universal understanding of players.  But, sadly this metric does not exist. The reality is that metrics look backwards – they tell you what has happened (good or bad) but they don’t tell you what to do next.

So where to start? There are five fundamental rules for producing effective and actionable analytics that will help you start to unlock a deeper understanding of your players.

1)      The Goldilocks Rule: collect the right amount of event data – not too much to become overwhelmed, but not too little to limit the depth of analysis.

There are some critical decisions to make when configuring event collection.  Getting this wrong could be career limiting so have a good reason for each event. Ask yourself:  ‘what value will this data item allow us to deliver?’ And definitely don’t default to collect everything just because it might be useful sometime, somewhere ...For example on a FPS, you probably don’t want to record every shot taken but you may want to collect each ammo reload.  Being smart about event collection is worth the effort. 

2)      The Three Little Pigs Rule: break down the objective

Let’s solve retention! OK fine, but there are different types of retention issues and we need to differentiate them to really blow down this particular house. Are you solving early game play retention, in other words identifying players that leave in the early levels before engaging with the game; or is it mid-game defection – where previously engaged players have, for some reason, become sporadic players; or is your problem late defection when perhaps players are running out of levels and new features? 

Each has separate objectives with a different focus, approach and solution.

3)      The Seven Dwarfs Rule: Be multi-variate 

This textbook term simply means you to need to look at all the data together not metric by metric.  By using statistical and visualisation techniques the combination of each player’s behaviour can be analysed to characterise their game play.  Being holistic about each player’s playing lifecycle is both fascinating and commercially rewarding.  This is how you unlock a clear understanding of player behaviours and drive revenues.

4)      The Tortoise and The Hare Rule: Bide your time to monitize

The temptation is to contact every player about everything - spamming offers and rewards around the game.  However we know that players who are slow to monetize have often spent considerable time engaging with the game so when they do spend they then continue to spend.  Instead of trying to chase revenues in early game play, be patient and develop a dialog with players by only targeting purchase offers when they are truly engaged.

5)      The Sleeping Beauty Rule: be player centric 

Think players not game. Repeat this ten times.


If you abide by these five rules then your game will live happily ever after.

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