Interview

We enable developers to personalise gameplay, not take advantage of their players, argues GamesAnalytics' Robinson

We enable developers to personalise gameplay, not take advantage of their players, argues GamesAnalytics' Robinson
Scottish outfit GamesAnalytics was only formed in 2011, but already its approach of behavioural analytics is picking up supporters.

One notable deal is with BBC Worldwide, which is using its smarts for mobile game Top Gear: Stunt School Revolution, while online experts such as Bigpoint and Infinite Game Publishing (MechWarrior Online) are also signed up.

A good opportunity to catch up with COO Mark Robinson to find out why its way of thinking about players, and the opportunities arising in terms of retention and monetisation, is on the rise.

Pocket Gamer: Why do you think you've gained so much support so quickly?

Mark Robinson: I think we have a different perspective than what is commonly understood as 'analytics' in the games industry.

Both publishers and developers are realising that dashboards tell you your problems but don't tell you how to address them. Building great experiences for players comes from really understanding how different players engage with the game.

You're very focused on the behaviour of players. Why is this such a good way to structure the understanding of players?

Games development is usually based on the average player or what is commonly presumed to be the average player. In fact as the profile of gamers expands it is very difficult for developers to say what the average player is.

Oftentimes developers will build games from their own perspective and they usually are much more competent than the average player.

By letting player analysis drive design decisions you can really understand the competency levels of players, adjust the difficulty curve to be orientated around the players in your game, and thus increase the levels of engagement.

Behavioural analytics takes the guesswork out of key design decision.

Clearly many of the large F2P publishers spend a lot of time maximising their data but can GamesAnalytics also help the smaller developers, who perhaps don't have dedicated analytics staff?

Yes. We run several commercial models and support smaller developers to optimise the game through our 'Analytics Roadmap'.

Analytics is a fairly rare skillset and so we work with all sizes of developers from closed beta to optimise their games.

On more mature games we focus on implementing our Predict in-game messaging system, which is focused on delivering timely and appropriate offers to players based on their gameplay.

In some circles, heavy use of player data to optimise monetisation is viewed something of a moral grey area. What's your response to the argument that you're providing tools for companies to take advantage of their players?

I think this is an important point. Our primary focus is to enhance the playing experience by adjusting the design and building the community of engaged players. We are personalising gameplay.

This in turn provides more opportunities for monetisation but targeted messages will enhance the experience because they are timely, appropriate and build an intelligent relationship.

The alternative is uniform and un-differentiated messaging across the player base, which is very jarring for players. There is a tendency for games to over-message players. Our technology has 'rules of engagement' built in so that we never over-message.

You've recently struck a deal with Urban Airship for push notifications. How can this fairly crude type of messaging system help developers?

Our aim as the partnership develops is to consolidate push notifications and in-game messages into the same contact strategy to make these two streams coherent and complementary.

This be a big step forward in enhancing the player interactions.

You've come from outside of the games industry, so what have you found the most surprising things in terms of how game developers deal with and use their data?

I think the games industry is incredibly well off for data. Banks and retailers have been running customer relationship management systems based on similar practices for many years but they do not have the ability to understand their consumers in as much depth as the games industry.

However this is not trivial. There are challenges with Big Data and the complexity of behaviours.

But the methodologies that have been developed by GamesAnalytics gives developers a framework to start to provide solutions to retention and monetisation based on a better understanding of players.

What's next for GamesAnalytics?

We are working hard to evangelise the potential for player behavioural analysis and targeted in-game messages. It is gratifying to see the reception we get at industry shows.

And we will continue to expand our technology alongside our business development resource in several territories as the sector orientates itself to a clear focus on players.

Thanks to Mark for his time.

You can find out more about GamesAnalytics offerings via its website.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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