Interview

Apsalar CEO Michael Oiknine on providing developers with a causal link between in-game behaviour and revenue

Apsalar CEO Michael Oiknine on providing developers with a causal link between in-game behaviour and revenue
It used to be that terms such as cohort studies and funnel analysis were limited to medical statistics and hardcore sales companies.

Now, however, they're tossed around the mobile games industry alongside other borrowed jargon such as K-factor and whales.

"It's a very competitive market. You need much better data than just your download numbers," says Michael Oiknine, CEO of mobile engagement management outfit Apsalar.

Track and engage

Set up by a group of executives who had previously built and sold a behaviour tracking solution for web users, the company is looking to educate mobile developers with a two product approach.

The most straight forward is its free ApScience analytics solution, a cross-app solution, which can be integrated directly via SDK or using web APIs.

The real secret sauce, however, is its paid ApTimiser product, which is designed to provide the smarts so you can optimise user engagement.

"Engagement is key," Oiknine explains. "You need to focus on engaging your users frequently. They need to be coming back to your game regularly if you want to monetise them."

Trigger and track

Underpinning this is Apsalar's focus on user behaviour, which is where cohort analysis - or analysis of a defined groups of users - comes into play.

Invented in medicine to track conditions such as heart disease in the general population over time, when it comes to mobile games, cohorts are be generated by in-game events such as levelling up or buying an in-app purchase, engaging with an offer wall or clicking on a banner ad. Developers set up whatever events they want to track via Apsalar's tech.

In this way, groups can be tracked through their engagement with the game, and compared with different groups when new versions or updates are released. And because Apsalar's technology is designed to work across a portfolio of games, developers can ensure they keep their best customers engaged multiple times.

"The point of our behaviour tracking later is that you can optimise an experience for different players, so if you have a whale in game #1, you can treat them differently in game #2, such as providing them with better IAP deals," Oiknine says.

Of course, all user data is anonymous to avoid any privacy issues.

Three layer cake

But it's tracking user behaviour from gameplay through to revenue that Oiknine says provides Apsalar's key competitive feature.

"We offer three layers - identifying users, targetting users and tracking monetisation. It's only when you put them all together that you get more than the sum of the parts," he argues.

It's this interlinked approach that's being reinforced with the release of the company's new Engagement Index and Revenue Analytics platform.

The former enables developers to track all the events happening in their games, with the revenue analysis part providing the causal link between the two; hence enabling the optimisation of engagement for better monetisation.

And because of the ability for developers to create and track any event within their games, the platform provides the ability to drill right down, even to the extent of seeing how user behaviour varies when they level up from level 2 to level 3 within the same game.

Price of virtual money

"Managing virtual currencies is becoming ever more important," Oiknine says, highlighting an issue first seen in large scale MMOGs such as World of Warcraft and EVE Online, which has its own inhouse economist.

"These games have mini-economies and they can suffer from inflation or deflation, which will affect players' progress through the game and how much they spend," he explains.

It all goes to demonstrate how quickly things have changed. Mobile games are no longer just about great game design prior to launch but a continuous process in terms of design and economics.

As Oiknine puts it, "Cohort analysis has been democratised." If you don't know what he's talking about, it's about time you did.
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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