Despite massive growth for the gaming industry, it has been a challenging few years as mass layoffs have hit many companies, and changes in the market are leaving their mark.
As studios big and small look toward brighter days, three industry veterans have taken it upon themselves to create The Experimentation Group, which offers free consultancy for the gaming industry. The team consists of the former VP of experimentation at King, David Nelson, former game economist at DICE and Amazon, Phillip Black and former product lead experimentation at King, Tom Storr.
To learn more about The Experimentation Group’s goals and ambitions, we spoke with Tom Storr, who tells us of the group's origins, how they plan to help the industry and how developers can get involved.
Pocketgamer.biz: Tell us a little about The Experimentation Group and its goals
Tom Storr: The Experimentation Group is three friends, David Nelson, Phillip Black and myself (Tom Storr), trying to improve something we care deeply about: the gaming industry.
At King, David and I showed how science is a tool to discover what really matters to players. The results shocked us. So many senior leaders thought certain features were the game's lifeblood, but nothing really changed when we removed or changed them.
The gaming industry has had a tough couple of years; everyone is still reeling from Apple’s IDFA depreciation.Tom Storr
The gaming industry has had a tough couple of years; everyone is still reeling from Apple’s IDFA depreciation. We felt it was the right time to bring science back as a catalyst for growth in games.
We want to help teams for free if they’re willing to share their results publicly. Rising tides lift all boats, and we want to advance the conversation. We know that might not be possible for all teams, so get in touch and we can figure out an alternative arrangement if that’s where you are.
How did this idea originate? And who's involved?
Completely organically over the summer!
I’ve known David since we worked together at King. Phil and David met after David published the “Quantity discounts on virtual goods in Candy Crush” paper with Freakonomics economist Steven Levitt. Phil messaged David saying he was coming to meet him in person and just showed up at the King's office in Sweden from LA (no, really, he did).
We started chatting this summer and the conversation evolved naturally to how we might work together to bring experimentation to the broader gaming industry. It’s something we care deeply about.
To give you a bit more detail on us individually:
David founded and led the Experimentation Group at King, finishing as the VP of Experimentation. This group proved the value of a rapid hypothesis testing approach by producing a long list of features that generated significant revenue for King and have gone on to be used across gaming, for example, Hard Level Labelling, Episode Race and On Fire.
I worked with David in the Experimentation Group at King. During that time, I worked with various teams, like Candy Crush on Candy Crush Challenge and Pet Rescue, on their award-winning partnership with Battersea Cats and Dogs Home. Since King, I’ve gone on to build experimentation processes at start-ups Weezy (now Getir) and Onsi.
Phillip Black is a failed real-world economist who read too many Yanis Varoufakis VALVEconomics posts and thought fake economics was way more fun. He worked at Scopley before moving onto Battlefield at DICE, then new projects at Amazon Game Studios. He’s been consulting at Game Economist Consulting in the past year and yelling into the void on the Deconstructor of Fun and Game Economist Cast podcasts.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the mobile gaming industry? And how can developers overcome these challenges?
The first step to growth is retention. To retain, you need to discover what really matters to your players and build more of 'it' and more systems around 'it'Tom Storr
The main challenge is making a game work economically. We all know how difficult IDFA depreciation has made targeting new players; the ads market is so competitive that it’s challenging to grow a new game.
The first step to growth is retention. To retain, you need to discover what really matters to your players and build more of 'it' and more systems around 'it.' More retention means more opportunities to monetise, which you can do having understood the core retentive factor to build monetisation features around. Having increased Lifetime Value, you can increase ad bids and get more players in the game.
It all starts with the foundation of discovering what really matters to your players and then cutting away the noise.
Conversely, what are some of the most positive things in the industry or something that excites you about the space?
The Monopoly Go! Launch this year has been inspirational.
It’s an interesting experience that is as much theatre as a game for me. When I went back to playing established puzzle games after that, I wondered why there was so much friction between levels. Do players want all these screen taps, or would they prefer to see a quick show and get back to the levels? I’d love to find out.
Kudos to the team for a polished experience; I’m really enjoying it.
We are looking for studios with a mobile casual game with 10,000 or more Daily Active Users who can ship a small experiment in two weeks or lessTom Storr
How can people get involved with The Experimentation Group? Are there any specific requirements to meet?
Just get in touch! You can find David, Phillip and me on LinkedIn or book an appointment directly on our website.
We are looking for studios with a mobile casual game with 10,000 or more Daily Active Users who can ship a small experiment in two weeks or less; think something like a UI change. If you’re happy to share updates publicly, we can work with you for free; if not, no worries, just get in touch, and we will work something out.
What can we expect to see from the future of The Experimentation Group?
Disruption, knowledge, and collaboration!
We want to push the industry forward; to do that, we need to share our knowledge. We will publish regular updates via our podcast and blog, which you can find on our LinkedIn page and website.