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March 7, 2021
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Using Guinea Pig Games to Size up Apple’s New App Analytics

by Lysiane Charest on 07/02/15 06:13:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

With all the tools existing on the market, game developers can have a good understanding of how their players interact with their games, where their most engaged players are coming from and–in the case of free to play (F2P) games–how to monetize them. Execution Labs’ mobile alumni teams use a good deal of analytics tools to help them make better decisions for their games and ultimately for their studios. For store related metrics, they use AppAnnie; for in-game analytics they use Flurry, Adjust and Unity Analytics; for acquisition and ad campaign optimisation they use a mix of network dashboards and attribution tools. However, these tools can’t tell them what is going on before the install.

A few weeks ago, Apple announced the public release of its App Analytics. In its invitation email, Apple mentioned a few things that game developers could now analyze thanks to App Analytics:

  • See how often customers visit their app’s page on the App Store
  • Find out how many of their users open their app over time
  • Check their app and In-App Purchase sales
  • Create custom campaign links and follow the success of their marketing campaigns
  • Understand which websites refer the most users

Going through the different sections of the site, it’s obvious that Apple’s new tool has a lot to offer. Most of the metrics suggested by Apple can be broken down and/or filtered by country, device type, OS version, etc. Knowing how often players visit an app’s page on the App Store also means that we can now test various versions of this page and tweak it to maximize the chances that a visitor will download the game after visiting its page in the App Store. This is the metric that we decided to study first and we will refer to it as the “install rate from views” or the “install rate”.

Many of our games have been live for well over a year. Because the studios who made these games are now focusing on other projects, and we haven’t done any user acquisition during the last several months, none of these games are highly ranked. Some of these games receive only a few installs every day while some of them receive over a hundred organic installs every day. This makes them perfect “guinea pig games” that we can experiment with to make our future games more successful and gain more knowledge of many aspects of game marketing. Some of those games are listed below:

Game

Average Daily Views

Average Install Rate

Categories

MacGuffin Quest

44

8%

Adventure & Strategy

Shattered Planet

1226

7%

Adventure & Role Playing

The Order of Souls

272

8%

Role Playing & Strategy

Winterforts

502

8%

Simulation & Strategy

BAMF! ($)

57

1%

Action & Arcade

($) denotes a premium title, which accounts for the low install rate

With four F2P games using four different combinations of categories and one premium title, we don’t have enough data to provide benchmarks, but we hope that in the coming months more developers will share these metrics. In the meantime, we can still use this data to measure the impact of various situations on one game’s metrics. For instance, these situations could include a game’s page update, an Apple feature, a social event, a media push, a Youtuber review, a celebrity tweet, etc.

ASO Efforts

In addition to giving us information on the visibility of our apps in the store, the set of metrics provided by Apple also allows us to better measure the impact of App Store Optimization (ASO) efforts. ASO is similar to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on the web, but tailored specifically toward optimizing your store page on Apple’s App Store to increase traffic and, ideally, conversion. In April, Norsfell–the studio behind Winterforts–made significant changes to improve their app page to drive more installs, with the overall goal of learning more about ASO before their next game is launched. Without App Analytics, we could only tell that their efforts resulted in a 30% increase in their daily downloads. With App Analytics, we were also able to learn that the efforts resulted in an over 60% increase in the number of views on their app’s page. The higher increase in the number of views versus the number of downloads indicates that the ASO efforts had a greater impact on their chances to be discovered than on their chances of being downloaded. The next step for them is to try optimizing the game’s page with a new icon, screenshots and promo video to increase their install rate from views.

Impact of Featuring

Although indie developers can’t always control how (or often if) Apple chooses to feature their game, it can be valuable to have some visibility on your metrics when you do get special promotion from Apple. For instance, Kitfox ’s mobile game Shattered Planet (RPG) was featured in the Dungeon Crawlers temporary category when the category first appeared in the App Store. This resulted in 350% more views in the store and 300% more downloads with almost no negative impact on the install rate, indicating a good fit within this category. So while in the past the learning may have been only “Hey guess what? Apple featuring gives you more downloads”, by looking at the install rate we learned something more material about overlap with a new potential target audience. Although ‘dungeon’ was always included in the game’s keywords, the marketing material never focused on this because the game is not a literal dungeon crawler; the action actually takes place on the surface of an alien planet. This new information could prove useful for future communications and campaigns for the game. If, for example, Kitfox decided to spend user acquisition dollars to acquire users, they might now consider targeting fans of Dungeon Crawlers on Facebook.

Our Most Recent Data

While focusing on older, more stable "guinea pig" titles is most helpful for illustrating the usefulness of Apple's new analytics, we couldn't resist also sharing some data from our most recent F2P mobile title Tadpole Tap by Outerminds. The game was recently released in the Action & Arcade categories.

Featuring

Average Daily Views

Average Install Rate

Week 1: Global featuring

288k

10%

Week 2: Minor featuring

44k

12%

Week 3: Featuring mostly over

6k

15%

Week 4: No Featuring

2.5k

17%

 

The install rates for this game are much higher than for our other games, especially post-featuring (the lower install rate during featuring is typical, as many people who have no real interest in your game will stumble upon it while it’s being featured, whereas later you tend to get more “qualified” players hitting your app page). It’s hard to tell if the difference with the other games is due to the type of game, Outermind’s choice of categories, the fact that it’s a new game, or a completely different reason. If and when more studios share this kind of data, we'll have a better explanation for these higher install rates. For now we will keep monitoring these metrics during each update and during any unique marketing occurrences related to the game or studio.

Final Thoughts

I hope that sharing some of the data we’ve acquired at Execution Labs will prove useful to other indie studios, and that other indies will post similar data so others can benefit. We plan to keep sharing useful information whenever we can. With regard to our little guinea pig experiment, it’s safe to say that Apple’s new App Analytics provide valuable information that no other tool can provide. When releasing a new mobile game on the market, indies can’t afford to miss opportunities to gather data and drive organic installs. And while many factors can influence the number of installs you’ll get (first among them being the number of people who see that your game exists), understanding how and why players who land on your app page choose to actually install your game can make a real difference. Besides, the new tool is entirely free and requires the addition of exactly zero lines of code. These are generally two very attractive arguments for indie game developers!


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