In 2022, 4.7 billion people in the world owned a smartphone, with 1.93 billion of them being active mobile gamers, making the 286.5-billion-dollar mobile game market highly competitive. As more and more people become mobile gamers, how can developers distinguish themselves from their competitors?
The answer might lie within web analytics.
Finding relevant analytics
The first step to using web analytics in building an app’s success is to know which metrics to look at the closest. Here are the top metrics app developers should track when starting out with analytics:
Daily Active Users (DAU) and Monthly Active Users (MAU)
As their names imply, these metrics track the number of unique active users of an app either per day, or per month. Here, an active user is someone who has either downloaded or accessed an app within a defined time period – either a day, or a month.
Daily Active Users can help mobile developers identify issues within their app, or behavioural patterns of their audience. Indeed, a sudden change in the number daily active users of an app can caused by a number of reasons; while developers should not rely solely on their number of active users, it can be a clue that something within the app needs to be investigated further, as it could be either a warning sign or an opportunity arisen.
Monthly Active Users give mobile developers a wider scope of data and can thus help them identify the impact of marketing efforts on their users, as well as a potential seasonality in app usage.
While these metrics sound attractive on their own, they are better used either together, or in combination with other metrics to create ratios. Indeed, standing on their own, they might be vanity metrics; while seeing numbers go up can be pleasing, developers might miss out on crucial information by not exploiting these metrics to their full potential.
Stickiness Rate and Retention Rate
Calculated by dividing the number of daily active users by that of monthly active users, an app’s stickiness rate helps developers see at a glance a metric of their user’s engagement, with a higher stickiness being a sign of a higher engagement.
Similarly, the retention rate informs the developer on whether the people who log in – or another event decided by the developer – come back and trigger that same event again the next day or period. Ultimately, the goal of the developer is to maximise retention rate, as the more their users are engaged with their app, the more likely it is that their lifetime value will increase, making the app more profitable in the long run.
Given that in-game purchases are the main source of revenue from a mobile app, it is important for developers to be able to track how much they get from them. Metrics such as the average revenue per daily user or in-game transactions, whether they be made with in-game currency or actual money, allow the developers to see the impact of special offers, marketing campaigns, and in-game changes on their revenue, as well as see in general whether their app is profitable or not.
Analytics as a solution to mobile gaming challenges
Segmenting the audience
As always, it is crucial for developers to know their audience, and especially to know how to best target and satisfy the needs of their existing audience.
By using the data they collect about their users, developers can better understand the kind of players their app currently has; whether it be casual gamers, who tend to play less often, and for shorter periods, or dedicated gamers that play more regularly, for example.
Identifying these segments can help developers understand their metrics better, as well as help them adapt their app to fit the preferences of their userbase.
Identifying player needs
Once the player segments have been determined, it becomes easier to fine tune the app to their preferences. For instance, if one were to identify that dedicated gamers tend to participate to in-game events much more than casual gamers, they could search for an alternative way for casual players to participate in these special events, by offering gameplay elements favoured by users in the casual segment along those that work best with dedicated users during live events.
Getting insights about an audience
When it comes to collecting data about their users, developers have access to several development platforms.
Developed by Google, Firebase is a mobile and web development platform that allows developers to track metrics on their mobile apps. It can be used with Google Tag Manager, which allows developers to simply add a tag to each of their pages instead of having to add code to implement Firebase on their app or website. This way, the data collected on the app is sent directly to Firebase, ready to be analysed and exploited by the developers.
Moreover, Firebase allows users to create their own custom events and triggers, allowing for a more personalised platform suited to the developer’s needs.
Firebase and Google Tag Manager are available for both iOS and Android apps, meaning that developers can use a single platform to manage their analytics.
App Analytics (Apple)
Included in Apple’s toolkit for people developing apps on iOS, App Analytics serves a similar purpose as Firebase. The platform offers several metrics informing the developer on the source of their downloads – meaning, how many people discovered the app while browsing the App Store, how many came from referral links, etc. – as well as the impact of marketing campaigns on the app’s performance. App Analytics does also offer reports on crashes, user engagement, and sales. App Analytics also allows developers with several published apps to consult all of their dashboards on the same page.
App Analytics is only available for iOS apps, meaning that developers who also publish their apps on android devices need to implement another platform in order to capture the data of their entire userbase.
Developed by Yahoo, Flurry offers different sets of analytics tools, including some tailored specifically for games developed on specific game engines such as Unity. Flurry is an API, meaning that once you obtain a key corresponding to the type of analytics you want and your development platform, you can add it to your app and immediately start collecting data. Flurry also offers detailed real-time Crash reports and Revenue Analytics, meaning that developers can quickly identify problems within their apps as well as whether or not their app is bringing in as much money from in-app purchases as they expect it to. Moreover, the data collected in Flurry can be exported in different formats such as CSV or JSON to allow developers to analyse and integrate their data with other tools their company might be using.
While Flurry supports both Android and iOS, its API mode of functioning requires developers to obtain a key for each of the platform they publish on. That means that while developers will not have to find an entirely different platform to collect data, they will have separate dashboards for each of their publishing platforms.
Web analytics and their part in your app’s success: the case of Trihex Studios and Redcliff City
Trihex Studios has developed the extremely successful Redcliff City, a roleplay game hosted on the multiplayer game creation platform Roblox. In 2022, the open world simulator had amassed over 40 million players and had even seen their number of daily active users surpass 700,000 distinct users.
The studio attributes part of their success to their efficient use of user data and the insights they got from analysing it. Indeed, while developing the game, the studio was confronted with a major issue: while some of their players were very vocal about what they liked and didn’t like about the game, the vast majority of them were silent. On top of that, as most of Roblox’s player base is very young, it was illegal in several countries for them to ask for information from their users as some surveys might reveal sensitive information concerning minors.
By using a web analytics solution, the two-man team was able to monitor closely how their users behaved in-game, as well as some metrics such as retention to see how the changes they implemented impacted their game. Thus, using analytics, the developers were able to know in real time how their player base was interacting with their new features and whether their updates were successful with their users.
In conclusion, web analytics can be used as a tool by mobile developers to help them track their app’s technical performance, as well as helping them tailor their users’ experience in order to increase their app’s success. Several platforms are at the disposal of aspiring developers to allow them to find the one best suited to their needs and to guide them to best distinguish themselves from their numerous competitors.
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Apple, 2023, Measuring App Performance (https://developer.apple.com/app-store/measuring-app-performance/)
Clement J., August 31, 2023, Statista, Mobile gaming market worldwide – Statistics & Facts (https://www.statista.com/topics/7950/mobile-gaming-market-worldwide/#topicOverview)
GameAnalytics, October 27, 2022, Trihex Studios: delighting 40M players with analytics (https://gameanalytics.com/case-studies/trihex-studios/)
Google, 2023, Firebase (https://developers.google.com/learn/topics/firebase)
Keller J., March 5, 2018, iMore, App Analytics: Everything you need to know! (https://www.imore.com/app-analytics-everything-you-need-know)
Statista, July 2023, Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2013 to 2028 (https://www.statista.com/forecasts/1143723/smartphone-users-in-the-world)
Yahoo, 2023, Flurry Documentation (https://developer.yahoo.com/flurry/docs/)