An Introduction to Analytics for Games

January 26, 2022 Unity Technologies

What are analytics for games?

To start with the basics, analytics is simply discovering and understanding meaningful patterns of data and using those insights. In games, that data relates to how players interact with your game and the game’s general performance. 
 

You obtain this data by adding and tracking “events” that happen at specific moments in your game, such as when a player completes a level or actions a purchase. Events are also accompanied by “parameters” which add a bit more context, like how many lives the player used to complete the level or the price and name of the item they purchased. 
 

By examining these aggregated events, and grouping them by a given time period or a player segment, you can begin to see trends arise and learn about how people are playing your game and the potential areas for improvement.

Why are analytics important?

It is hard to develop and grow your game without understanding how people are playing your game, what bits work, and what is struggling to keep people engaged.
 

Having a strong understanding of your analytics is particularly important for developers with a free-to-play (F2P) business model as they rely entirely on understanding their players and core game loops to drive revenue.

Here are some common issues that developers face and how some decisions, backed by strong analytics, can help:


My players aren’t spending money

 

One of the best data points to understand if you want to improve monetization is your game’s difficulty. If your player’s are finding things too easy, they won’t purchase items, boosters, or additional hints to help them progress. If you track things like mission success rates, time taken to complete certain tasks, and death or failure type, then you can gradually tweak the experience without going overboard and making your game suddenly impossible to complete.

 

My players are all leaving on day one

 

With so many games on the market to choose from, players will move on quickly if the game does not hook them in from the offset. If you closely track the specific moments players are dropping out of your game, and the bits that they never drop out from, you can focus on developing those areas so people can get the full experience of your game.

 

My player lifetime value (LTV) is lower than my acquisition cost

 

By maximizing the value and return for each acquired player we can increase our expected LTVs, which subsequently can unlock higher CPI targets that bring in even more valuable players. Understanding exactly what is hooking your current players (and what is not!) is critical for growing your game.

 

One way you can do this is to track the most and least popular store purchases your players are making and at what stage in the game they are heading to the store, whether it is at the start, after failing, or after running out of a certain resource.

 

Once you know the things your engaged players want and what they don’t care for, you can start to craft offers that appeal to your dedicated fanbase and will also be very tempting for non-spenders.

What are KPIs?

KPIs, or key performance indicators, refer to a set of metrics that are commonly used to measure performance of a game. Some basic building blocks of many KPIs include:

  • Daily, weekly, and monthly active users (DAU, WAU, MAU): The number of unique players who played the game at least once in a day, a week, or a month.
     
  • Session count: A gameplay session starts when a player opens the game and ends when they close it and move on to something else. Some players will play multiple sessions in a day.
     
  • In-app purchase (IAP) revenue: Money made from players buying things from the store (power-ups, new equipment, in-game currency).
     
  • Advertising revenue: Money made from players watching ads in the game. 
     

What should I focus on in the early stages of gameplay?

In the early game, you should focus on KPIs related to engagement – how players are actually interacting with your game. It is important to consider all of the following KPIs, as they will give you an idea of how frequently players are playing your game and how engaged they are:

DAU (daily active users)


The total number of players who are active on a given day. This gives an immediate measure of the popularity of the game, and, when tracked over time, DAU can provide a quick way to confirm that the game is healthy and all services are working as intended.

 

Day ‘X’ retention

 

Day one: How many users, who installed on a specific day, came back to play the subsequent day?

 

Day three and day seven: How many users, who installed on a specific day, are still playing three or seven days later? Understanding the percentage of players who return to the game on day one, three, and beyond gives a strong indication of how compelling your content is, and how strong the incentive to continue playing is.

 

Next-day return rate

 

How many users who logged in on a specific day came back to play the subsequent day? Players returning the very next day is a good sign that they had a positive experience with the game.

 

Something to note is that the above KPIs are measured as a percentage of the total playing on day zero. For example, if 1,000 users play on a given day, and 500 return the subsequent day, the next day return rate is 50%. 

 

Session frequency

 

How many times per day are players starting up and playing the game? This is another way of measuring how compelling the game is, as players who log in multiple times per day are likely to be more engaged.
 

Session length
 

How long are users playing the game before moving on to something else? The optimal session length will vary depending on the game genre, but understanding the best-in-genre benchmarks (more below) will create some solid and attainable goals to aim for.

How can I make the best use of analytics?

Using an analytics platform, the KPIs suggested above can be tracked and you can start gathering information on the way your game is played and make more informed decisions on how to develop your game. If players always seem to log out at a specific point or play to a certain length, you can start tweaking with that in mind.


To make it easier on yourself, you can build charts and dashboards so you can see at a glance all the different ways your players are engaging with your game, how it has changed over time, and the impact of your tweaks.

 

Aside from standard KPIs, you can also track metrics which are bespoke to your game. This is done by sending events, moments when players complete an action in the game, to an analytics platform. Many events are collected as standard, but others which are more custom will need to be manually instrumented. 

How can I tell if my game is any good?

After collecting data on players and visualizing it in charts, probably the most important question to ask is: “How do I know if my game is performing well?”. 
 

You might have your own internal benchmarks for a successful game, or you might be interested in comparisons to the best games out there, but it is a question that demands answers. Engagement benchmarks will, of course, vary by platform and genre, but the following are considered generally good industry-wide:

  • D1 retention: 31.1%
  • D3 retention: 23.3%
  • D7 retention: 18.8%
  • Avg session per day, a week after install: 2.8 
  • Avg session length a week after install: 14.3 minutes  

 

Your partner manager at Unity can help you uncover genre-specific benchmarks upon request. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have covered the engagement KPIs which are of particular importance in the early stages of gameplay. In future articles, we will cover important KPIs for understanding player journey and lifetime value and focus on metrics relating to monetizing your player base.

Get Started with Unity Gaming Services
 

Unity offers a wide range of tools to help your team maximize your game’s potential. With Unity Gaming Services, you’ll have access to powerful analytics and the engagement functionality to react accordingly, optimizing things as you go. Follow this link to sign up for our beta and see these tools in action.

 
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