In this guest blog for GamesIndustry.biz, Justin Johnson, chief technical officer of game analytics firm Playmetrix,breaks down the new language of game metrics.
Gaming metrics is still a young field of analysis with a multitude of approaches taken by service providers and developers/publishers alike. Even so, the world of gaming metrics comes with its own panoply of terms, definitions and acronyms. Many of these terms have roots in internet marketing although some are from further removed fields - for example K-Factor is a term borrowed from Virology.
In this article I'll describe some of the more common terms and acronyms in use along with a description that will shed light on what they are and what they mean.
An event is a discreet record of activity logged by the game and usually sent to a remote analytics system, in our case the Playmetrix collector server network. Examples of an event could be when a player starts or finishes a game (session events), upgrades inventory items, gets a reward or enters a particular game area or level. A metric analysis system can then digest these events - usually in their millions - and produce meaningful time series visual data in the form of charts and tabled reports.
Uniques are a useful term for talking about events when it only matters that the event happens at all - the frequency of the event is not significant. For example, if we ask the question 'how many players turned up today?' it doesn't matter whether a particular player played once or several times. We'll just treat the fact that they turned up at least once as a unique count. Another example might be 'how many players played the haunted house level this week?' A particular player may have played that level several times during the week but we only want to count that once.
DAU is an acronym for Daily Active Users. It is the unique number of players that played your game in a 24 hour period. It doesn't matter if a particular player plays your game several times in this period - their attendance is counted only once. A graphed visualisation of this metric gives a good indication of daily activity. At Playmetrix we use a variation where the 'U' stands for 'Uniques' rather than 'Users' and we generate this metric for all known events.
WAU is an acronym for Weekly Active Users. It's calculated in exactly the same way as the DAU except the time period is now 7 days rather than 24 hours. Interestingly, the metric is not as commonly used as DAU and MAU, although obtaining visibility on a 7 day period is useful in practice.
MAU is an acronym for Monthly Active Users. This metric also is calculated in the same way as DAU and WAU except that the period is now 30 days. A 30 day period is a good mid-term range for viewing metric data and making decisions based on subsequent analysis. With this metric you're now recording whether a player attends at least once in the month. As with DAU, at Playmetrix we use a variation where the 'U' stands for 'Uniques' rather than Users and we generate this metric for all known events. That means we can produce an MAU graph for a specific game event rather than player attendance alone.
This is a ratio calculated by dividing the DAU by the MAU. Converted to a percentage, it answers the question 'what percentage of my monthly players turn up each day?' For example, given a MAU of 600,000 and a DAU of 30,000 gives 0.05, that's 5 per cent of the total monthly players turning up each day. The target values for this metric can be fairly subjective but top Facebook games look to hit 25 per cent and higher. It's been cited that reaching 15 per cent is one of the indicators that the game is 'sticky', has a low enough churn rate and is viable for increasing advertising spend. At 15 per cent plus, the game will hold onto players long enough to ensure healthy growth with low attrition.
The Average Revenue Per User is calculated by dividing total revenue by the total number of players. Seems simple enough but it becomes interesting when you have a section of your player base that doesn't pay anything - for example the players joining a freemium game, or those that are on a free trial period. The ARPU gives you an idea of the revenue generated by your entire player base, apportioned to each player, and may be reported using time periods. For example, what was our ARPU last month? What's our ARPU so far this year?