GamesAnalytics on how its new Benchmark consultancy service will improve your F2P game

The best £3,250 you'll spend?

GamesAnalytics on how its new Benchmark consultancy service will improve your F2P game
Earlier this week, Edinburgh-based predictive analytics firm GamesAnalytics launched its new game design consultancy service – Benchmark.

It's designed to provide practical guidance for developers working on free-to-play games – assessing each title across 75 different categories including engagement, retention and monetisation.

And by doing so, GamesAnalytics hopes that Benchmark will help developers make better, and more lucrative, games.

To find out more, we caught up with GamesAnalytics CEO Chris Wright.

Pocket Gamer: What is Benchmark and how will it help developers create better games?

Chris Wright: Benchmark is a consultancy service designed to provide an objective analysis of a free-to-play game, by deconstructing it down to the core gameplay mechanics and looking at how each mechanic is implemented.

The aim is to make a game 'fit for purpose' so that when it is launched, it has the core mechanics in place that allow it to best retain and monetise users.

Too many developers are setting out to build games without understanding the business model and how this affects the game mechanics.

Having spent hundreds of hours analysing free-to-play, casual social, mobile and hardcore PC download games, we see the same mistakes happening over and over again.

With Benchmark, publishers and developers can gain a comprehensive understanding of any issues that might affect key areas of the game design such as monetisation and retention before a game launches.

Then they have time to make good before the game gets into the hands of paying customers.

What form does the Benchmark consultancy process take? 

We split games into eight types based on the platform (social, mobile, web and PC download) and if the game is aimed at a casual or core audience.

This allows us to compare games aimed at a similar market and each analysis does a comparison between the game, the average benchmark for that type of game and the best example.

As part of the analysis we provide game design feedback and suggestions for each category to actions to improve the game.

The end deliverable is a 50 page report providing a deep analysis of the game, its strengths and weaknesses, concluding with major recommendations alongside feedback on each category.

Benchmark assesses each game across 75 categories. What are some of these categories and how are they measured/assessed?

We split the categories into seven sections (game overview, engagement, mechanics, retention, monetisation, social, analytics).

We look at areas such as compulsion loops, gambling mechanics, task structure, rewarding, monetisation blockers, virality and appointment setting.

Each category is assessed based on a set of detailed yes/no questions that drive the score for that category. This has been tested and normalised so games will get the same score by different assessors.

The game is played in three ways, as a new player, as an experienced player and as a whale to understand how the experience changes. These all feed into the score for each category and drive the feedback.

What is the most common mistake that you see developers make when implementing the free-to-play model?

The major issue is around engagement. So many players leave games after the first session and because of this there is a tendency to try and monetise players too early.

It's vital that developers get the initial experience right by allowing players to have fun far enough into the game that they see value in continuing to play and paying for the privilege.

We call this reaching the threshold of engagement. It's extremely hard to get players to commit to that initial payment, but letting players enjoy the game for longer always converts into better retention and monetisation.

How will the service be priced? Will it be available to smaller developers, or is this primarily for large publishers?

Benchmark is priced at £3,250 per game, this should make it more than affordable for even small developers to do this.

After all, if you are going to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds on a game, then making sure you get the mechanics right early on is vital as in the end this will save the developer a lot of money.

For the big publishers there are economies of scale to be gained when using Benchmark across a portfolio of games. At this level we can also provide a more in depth analysis, focusing on the developer as well as the game, looking at how well they are set up to run and evolve a particular game.
Thanks to Chris for his time.
Staff Writer's news editor 2012-2013