Video gaming has come a long way since the debut of “Tennis for Two” in 1958. Its developer, who’d created the “Pong” precursor as office entertainment, probably had no idea that he’d given birth to what would become one of the world’s most lucrative industries — one that generated $116B in 2017 alone, a year-over-year increase of 10.7%. (For context, global box-office sales chalked up only about $40B during the same period, with less than half of the growth rate.)
An interesting consequence of the rise of social gaming is that the leading market players distinguish themselves by their effective use of data, especially real-time data. As in many other industries, data in the gaming industry brings with it the potential for greater engagement, better features, optimized performance, new revenue opportunities, and more. Social gaming pioneers, such as Zynga (developers of Farmville), rose to dominance by harnessing that potential. More recent market entrants have also leveraged mammoth investments in data analysis to crush the competition.
These gaming leaders utilize sophisticated data analysis to help them achieve the following goals:
- Optimizing the experience. The tiniest changes are often the most powerful. But making the right changes requires a deep, detailed understanding of the player experience. What are the gameplay moments that lead to player success (or failure)? Do players notice and take advantage of new features? Are there specific events that correspond to users terminating a session? Unless you can gain an intimate understanding of players’ "digital body language," these answers remain mysteries. Data is the key.
- Boosting revenues. Gaming companies live or die by the strategies that help them grow and maintain subscribers, increase in-game purchases, and sell advertising. Their data hides thousands of tiny clues about players’ psychology, demographics, and behaviors, all of which can help them design and time promotions for optimum effectiveness.
- Maximizing ROI. While critical, making money in the online gaming space takes more than just acquiring players and successfully coaxing their purchases of subscriptions or tokens. It’s a precarious balancing act between money coming in and money going out. Data — from advertising networks, social media platforms, CRMs, accounting systems, and other sources — drives these decisions.
Navigating the Minefield of Data Collection and Analysis
Dominating in the data-driven world of online gaming means surmounting numerous challenges, many of which can be effectively addressed with the help of a robust extract, transform, load (ETL) platform, like Alooma.
Collecting and integrating large volumes of (often siloed) data from multiple sources in real time. Gaming produces a massive influx of data in many formats and from multiple sources, including scores, in-game events, purchases, clickstreams, and more. The data may be generated by the gameplay itself (first-party data) or by third-party sources (such as Facebook). Game producers may also wish to enrich their streaming data with other data sources. All of this consolidating, converting, and processing presents a constantly evolving problem.
An ETL platform can process and ingest high volumes of data from different sources and of various types. For example, Alooma can utilize data from SDKs, REST APIs, S3, and server logs through its real-time streaming data pipeline. After sorting the inputs, Alooma lets customers enrich their data before it goes to their data warehouses. They can leverage their favorite business intelligence (BI) and data visualization tools to help them extract actionable insights.
Alooma’s Code Engine scrubs and transforms data, making it easier to analyze with the help of a BI tool, once it is in the data warehouse. The Mapper provides precise control over the data (or infers the schema automatically, if preferred), whether it’s structured, semi-structured, static, or changing.
- Extracting and cleansing legacy data. Innovative companies are always in motion, so as time goes on, they amass a wealth of hard-won lessons about what worked, what didn’t work, what the biggest mistakes were, and so on. Being able to leverage these historical learnings requires bringing data forward, which means deduping, updating, and migrating legacy data — building connections between the old and the new. A sophisticated ETL platform makes this possible. For example, Alooma’s Mapper joins old and new data types and puts them in the right tables in the data warehouse. Its Restream Queue is a safety net, catching errors and preventing data loss.
Migrating on-premise data warehouses to the cloud. Growth is the inevitable byproduct of success, which is why market leaders must become masters of scale. And when it comes to scaling real-time data, the logical answer is cloud. Because the cloud confers so many advantages for data storage and analysis — flexible cost, availability, and speed, to name a few — it’s a natural move for growing video game companies. But the move itself is a complex process, especially when it involves restructuring of database schemas or rebuilding data pipelines.
A modern cloud ETL platform, such as Alooma, can simplify and manage the process of cloud migration, reading in the data from various sources, structuring it in specific ways tailored to the individual environment, and getting it into the cloud data warehouse.
Customers Who Unlocked the Next Level Using Alooma
Real life is where the rubber meets the road. Our customers in the gaming industry have demonstrated how using an ETL platform like Alooma helped them gain a deep understanding of what was happening in their businesses — both in the moment and over time. And their results have been noteworthy:
- Dots, a mobile gaming company in New York City, was on a mission to gain insights into player behavior, with the goal of optimizing the gameplay experience. For example, what were the reasons that some customers quit playing after only three levels, and how could they improve the situation? They knew the answers lay in the data, but their inflexible analytics stack was not providing the insights they needed. Now, after implementing Alooma, Dots is getting both the descriptive and the predictive analytics they need to spot trends and conduct feature experiments.
- Wargaming, a game developer located in Nicosia, Cyprus, had goals similar to Dots’: understanding player behavior in order to serve up the features, content, and experiences that would make their products irresistible. They wanted to assemble terabytes of data from first and third parties and begin to analyze trends — such as how players performed and what they liked — to help them construct a deep, detailed window into what was happening. Alooma was the answer. Now Wargaming is able to access and analyze data in real time, which helps the company develop better features and to get early feedback on how events, sales, and promotions are performing.
The age of big data and sophisticated analysis has re-energized the 60-year-old video game industry. An ETL platform like Alooma can help game developers and publishers transform the firehose of incoming data into actionable insights that drive market wins.