For Gaming Publishers, Telemetry Data Helps Keep Score

January 15, 2016 • Blog Post • By Todd Wasserman, HPE Matter Contributor


  • Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMOG) companies track players’ movements and screen taps, a process called telemetry, to gain consumer insights and optimize the gaming experience
  • Gaming companies can then roll out improvements and new features in real time

HPE chief field technologist Walter Maguire shares how to keep gamers engaged

For consumers, Zynga might be best known for FarmVille, but for people in the gaming industry, the company is famous for harvesting something else: data from users that it employs to inform game design.

As Walter Maguire, chief field technologist for Hewlett Packard Enterprise explains though, the heyday for browser-based games – a category in which Zynga ruled – peaked a few years ago. “Then mobile washed over everything,” he says. In fact, gaming research firm Newzoo expects that in 2015, global mobile game revenues will eclipse console game revenuesfor the first time.

Sought-after data

Game companies can tell a lot about how consumers use mobile games by analyzing their movements and screen taps, a process known as telemetry. In MMPOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games), game makers can record and analyze every event generated by upwards of 50,000 people. In the early days, the gaming companies often wound up dumping the data because they didn’t have the infrastructure to support it, Maguire says.

In MMPOGs, the game makers can track movement in a virtual arena and execute path analysis based on geospatial information. “You can look at how they’re traversing a given game and where they’re getting stuck,” he added.

Such analysis is similar to the heat maps that retailers use to determine which areas of the stores or websites are getting the most traffic. “The interesting thing about this is we see a lot of tried-and-true techniques being brought here from other spaces,” Maguire says. That leads to information about where people are abandoning the game and places where people aren’t exploring but they should.

Use case: a perfect predictor of abandonment

A Hewlett Packard Enterprise customer, Game Show Network offers a good example of how this data might be employed. A wait screen that was shown to players who ascended another level was a “perfect predictor of abandonment,” says Maguire.

Why? Because players would hit the refresh button repeatedly and rapidly. After they viewed the wait screen a few times though, they would hit the button slower and slower. “The theory is they get less and less motivated and less and less excited,” he says. “And then they eventually quit.”

Agile development

Thanks to agile development, such changes can occur constantly and in real time. For instance, if there’s a monster in your game that everyone is discussing in chat rooms, then you can roll out the monster more widely.

Likewise, developers can do A/B testing to determine how new characters and obstacles work based on key metrics gathered from player behavior.

Key metrics

Mobile game makers typically charge little or nothing for their games, making make most of their money by selling players virtual goods within the games. “So game makers watch for measures of ongoing engagement,” Maguire says.

Getting a player is easy, he says, but keeping them is tough. That’s why churn – the rate at which players abandon the game – is so important.

That’s not to say that games can be broken down into a few isolated data points. Like any industry, there’s a certain mystery behind which ones become breakout hits. No one can say, for instance, why Angry Birds became such a monster hit.

“They all want to duplicate a big hit,” he says. “If it were that easy then they’d all do it.”


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