Big Data is Everywhere, Even in Social Gaming

Scramble with Friends

As a gamer geek who has spent hundreds of dollars on games for my iPad and iPhone, I was very excited to attend the Social Gaming and Gambling Summit as a speaker.

Even though half of Apple’s US App Store revenue went to just 25 developers in 2012, I saw a lot of excitement from the boutique game developers at the conference. Almost all of those 25 developers were game companies like Rovio or Electronic Arts. You don’t have to be in the top downloads section to still make a fair amount of money from game apps. Most of the sessions that I attended were focused on making more money from your game.

During our session, Tony Ventrice of Badgeville, and I, spoke about how game designers and game studios can move into the Enterprise gamification space. We’re each finding a lot of interest from large organizations in implementing game elements in their business and there’s a lot for all parties to learn.

From points and badges on the website to deeper engagement and better training for call center reps or students, gamification is a green field right now and game designers have an opportunity in front of them similar to the one that early social media enthusiasts had a few years ago. Here are some of my observations from the event.

Big Data in Game Monetization

One of my favorite sessions was by Hugh Reynolds, CEO of Swrve, who talked about data analysis and creating personalization experiences inside of games. My favorite recommendations were all centered around putting non-paying users into segments based on their in-game activity.

I can imagine all kinds of segments, including: how long do they play, where did they download the game from, or how often do they share activity.

By putting your users into segments, you can start to see how specific groups behave in response to advertising. Hugh, and later Damon Marshall from Supersonic Ads, showed some great examples of monetizing by testing different ads to different segments to see how they respond to the ad and testing little tweaks to the ad to optimize views and click-throughs. Damon was able to demonstrate that video ads in social games have been especially effective.

Adding Social Data to the Mix

As Hugh was talking, I couldn’t help but wonder how many game developers are really taking full advantage of social login to pull in user demographics and interest graphs. Can you can imagine some of the same segmentation above, coupled with knowing which games your players are already fans of, or who their friends are from other social networks?

By using social login with Facebook or Twitter, you can see whether your users already Like any of your game pages or follow any of your games on Twitter. From there, it’s simple to build segmented campaigns to visit specific sponsors, to invite them to download similar titles, invite them to Like and follow your other games, or send them personalized emails.

By knowing who your users’ friends are, you can build invitation experiences. Allowing gamers to invite their friends to play a game can be far more effective than simply hoping someone discovers your game in the app store or see one of your ads.

Cross Platform and Cross Identity Game Play

Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at Inside Network, nailed it when he pointed out that many social and gambling game developers still don’t understand the power of social game mechanics themselves.

There are opportunities for game developers to integrate cross-platform and cross-game identity solutions, so that players carry their points and achievements from tablet to console, from game to game. This is something that a few organizations are doing well.

Microsoft, for example, has seen successful adoption of their Xbox Live platform where people can interact with friends no matter what game they are playing (Janrain has been partnering with Badgeville on some initiatives like this over the past year, and I’ve had the privilege of working on them – exciting times).

In the same way, many game studios could create their own network effect by creating a studio ID. Rewarding players for registering multiple games, inviting their friends, and then displaying these rewards on a leaderboard for all to see is a great first step toward building a central brand identity and strengthening customer loyalty.

Are you a game developer or did you attend the Social Gaming and Gambling Summit? Let us know what you think about the role big data and identity play in gamification in the comments below.

Image courtesy chrisjta.ylor.ca.