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Justin Johnson

The Playmetrix CEO on why his company is different from other analytics firms

Continuing our look at a sector of the industry that's fast becoming a trend, today we talk to Justin Johnson, CEO of Playmetrix - a company that's risen out of the combination of Outso and Lockwood Publishing and those companies' activities on PlayStation Home.

Specifically, Johnson here explains what sets Playmetrix apart from other analytics firms, outlines the difference the technology made to revenues for Home title Sodium One, and who prospective partners might be.

GamesIndustry.biz We've heard a lot about metrics or analytics companies in the past couple of weeks. How is Playmetrix different from other solutions?
Justin Johnson

I think Playmetrix is fairly different, because it's born out of a real need, a requirement to exist. It's unusual in a way because it was born out of the console sector of the market, on PlayStation 3, from PlayStation Home.

The other companies I'm involved with - Outso and Lockwood Publishing - had a deep need for it when we were developing our own IP on that platform, so we had a need to measure and respond to player behaviour.

When we were first creating Sodium on Home we looked around for a solution at the time and couldn't find anything that came even remotely close. We knew that we'd have to be operating Sodium as a game-as-a-service set-up.

There was nothing available, so that's when we first decided we would have to create a metrics system specifically for monitoring and measuring player behaviour in social gaming environments. And that's when Playmetrix was born.

GamesIndustry.biz And when was that?
Justin Johnson

That process started about 18 months ago.

GamesIndustry.biz Did you have to pause production on Sodium to get Playmetrix completed?
Justin Johnson

Well, the first thing that we did, because nothing existed previously that would do what we wanted to do, we decided that the minimum we needed to do was capture the data from the games. So we created an API that sat inside Sodium, so that events were triggered from various events within it, and we captured all of that data.

We had fairly large volumes of data pouring in from the beginning, and that can be a technical challenge - to capture that data storm. And then it was only after that we started picking apart the data, manually to begin with, but then as time went on and we realised the data was so critical in running this kind of game, we started to expend more effort in creating email reports, putting graphical front ends to the data and so on.

So instead of relying on analysts and data servers to feed us that data - for us to make a request and then half a day later get the data back - we'd just get it straight away in graph form as part of the process.

GamesIndustry.biz I'm sure that people - whether that's web development or game design - do collect a lot of data; but the point is, you need to know what to do with it.
Justin Johnson

Absolutely. We've also talked with a lot of companies that are collecting colossal reams of data, but they're completely frozen out because they don't know what to do with it. We're talking about terabytes' worth - collecting it is just the first step; they haven't thought about how to analyse it, how to tear it apart and infer player behaviour or future development from it.

That's something we focused quite heavily on in the last year or so of developing Playmetrix.

GamesIndustry.biz How did it prove its effectiveness with Sodium then? What difference did it make?
Justin Johnson

Sodium's probably our premier test case, really. With that, we were collecting metric data on where players were going in the virtual world environment, what they were buying, which sort of social mini-games we put in there that they were engaging with, the durations...

We had bar charts, pie charts - you name it - and with all that visibility, we found out pretty early on that we had certain navigation issues that meant players weren't getting to the conversion points.

GamesIndustry.biz The point where they'd convert from a non-paying customer into a paying one?
Justin Johnson

Sure - but conversions can also be purely gameplay, and this is particularly pertinent to game designers. They create a certain game experience that they want a player to go through, and I wonder how many boxed retail games are played where the gamers do nothing that the designers expect them to do.