How a VR business analyst uses metrics to map out opportunities in the game industry
What is a Key Performance Indicator? (KPI)
Let’s break it down. According to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, an indicator is “any group of statistical values that taken together give an indication of the health of the economy”.
Good job using the word in the description, MW, but you guys are a bright bunch. Throw in the modifiers “key” and “performance” and you realize that a KPI is a measurement that evaluates all that important stuff your company does.
Simply put, KPIs are representations of goals and progress whittled down into numbers. These numbers serve as variables that reflect how your business is positioned in the industry. Key performance indicators can be used to evaluate the potential for growth and track how actions taken by your team can translate into success.
A bunch of digits in a spreadsheet can look intimidating or make your eyes gloss over, but trust me. When it comes to video game marketing strategy, KPI analysis is a sexy skill.
What's with all the acronyms?
A quick google search throws abbreviation pasta at you. CPI, OSOV, LTV, CpE, DAU, MAU, D1 - D7, ROI, NPS, ROA…. Yeah...what does that all mean?
More importantly, how do you figure out what sorts of indicators are important evaluation tools for improving video game development from the biz dev side? The first hurdle to successfully utilizing KPIs for video game development is to cut through all the jargon and figure out what which metrics are important to your game studio.
I broke down the needs of my virtual reality game studio into segments: Marketing, Social Media, SEO, Financial, and In-game. No need for crazy acronyms before you understand what information is most helpful.
Which KPIs are important to track when developing a video game?
It doesn’t matter if you are an indie producer or a marketing lead for a AAA studio. KPIs are a way to digitize potential and quantify goals.
When DreamSail Games hired me on as their business analyst, one of the first things I did was sit down with our producer and have a conversation. As a scientist, I brought to the table a list of all the analytics tools I use and why they are important.
My list included:
- Google Analytics for studio website, our launched game website, and the Steam Product page for our first title.
- Twitter Analytics for our twitter pages
- Facebook Insights for our company and game pages
- Discord server information
- Steamspy stats on our first game
- GameAnalytics for in-game information on our published game
- Alexa Web Traffic, Statistics, and Competitor Analysis
- StreamHatchet Analytics for Twitch
- SteamWorks Marketing Analytics and Financial Tools
Over the span of two weeks, I narrowed down a database of over 120 indicators by priority into a list of 40 KPIs. The indicators that made the final cut were chosen because they provided large scope visualization touching on the social aspects of game development.
How to track KPIs
Tried and true, this is where a spreadsheet is handy. It is important to collect data and update your database at regular intervals. Once a week, I aggregate values for each KPI and enter them into my spreadsheet.
Some KPIs to take into consideration are:
- Facebook Page likes and engagement
- Twitter impressions, tweets, and mentions
- Discord membership and activity levels
- Steamspy owners, players in two weeks, and PCCU
- Twitch peak views, chat activity, and average viewership per stream
- Youtube views and comments
- Steam reviews and steam community engagement
- Google website analytics such as users and sessions, segmented into cohorts
- GameAnalytics stats on new users, DAU, and retention
- Alexa website traffic ranking, backlinks, competitor keywords
- SteamWorks financial information regarding paid downloads, voucher activations, wishlists, and demo downloads
This list is customizable. Key performance indicators can be added or removed to tailor what information is tracked and available for quick generation into marketing reports or large scope business scorecards.
The first column of the Weekly Analytics Tracking spreadsheet consists of dates. Each date represents a summation of all data collected for a calendar week. This creates a KPI value system of weekly snapshots.
The top row of the spreadsheet is where each KPI is grouped by analytic suite. Tracking KPIs serves as an organized way to sort through all the information you collect on your business and run routine analysis. If you are logged into Facebook Insights to gather information pertaining to engagement and impressions, it is easy to gauge any aberration from norms in publication frequency or calls to action.
The person in charge of checking analytics in your studio now has a system that tracks variables. The savvy analytics person uses this information to promote incentives that “growth hack” development through SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timebound) objectives.
How to use Key Performance Indicators to map out opportunities
Suppose your team wants to exhibit at a gaming convention. Your game is still in development. Besides Wishlist additions on Steam...how can you use KPIs to demonstrate “success”? How do you decide what success at a game convention looks like?
SMART Marketing Proposal:
“We think that showing at the game convention will increase public awareness and ultimately help drive sales. KPIs that stand to be positively influenced are traffic to website and Steam page, social media engagement, backlinks through press coverage, Twitch viewership, and Discord membership”
Instead of just hoping to see a bump in Steam page wishlists that corresponds to the dates of the convention, the marketing team has an archive of social KPIs that shows normal growth and fluctuation. They can create specific proposals that target each KPI they think can be impacted and assign realistic goals.
Using analytics to determine KPIs produces a system of quantitative improvement. When actions are taken on the business side of game development focus on progress, guesswork is eliminated through quick experiments.
Let your trending flags fly.
Cindy Mallory is the business analyst at DreamSail Games.
Originally featured on Gamasutra.