A Beginner’s Guide to Player Segmentation

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Top publishers have learned that a one-size-fits-all approach to digital merchandizing isn’t enough to get their game in to the top grossing charts. In order to stay competitive, they’ve had to build products that cater to the needs of their players in real-time. At Fuse Powered, we call this “player-centric” design.

In future weeks, we’ll be discussing specific player-centric design strategies used by top grossers, but the first step in knowing what your players want is learning who they are. Segmentation is the process of tracking every player’s game-relevant information in order to monetize them more effectively by offering them an optimized game experience.

Identifying Players

Games need to be able to consistently recognize their players. Up until 2013, most iOS games tracked Unique Device Identifiers, or UDIDs. Every Apple device has one and it serves as a persistent digital fingerprint. This changed in May of 2013, as reported by macworld.com:

…Apple informed iOS App developers that as of May 1, the App Store will stop accepting new apps or app updates that access a device’s unique identifier … With iOS 6, Apple introduced a new way for app makers and advertisers to identify individual iOS devices, and warned developers that the old method would eventually be deprecated.

In response to growing privacy concerns, Apple introduced the  IDFA and IDVA identifiers as an alternative to the UDID. Apple users have greater control over which apps can use these identifiers, and can disable tracking entirely via the “Privacy” tab in their device settings, which was introduced in iOS 6. Almost all third-party platforms and vendors use a combination of IDFA and IDVA as a means of identifying users and tracking analytics. Android went through a similar change in August of 2014, migrating to the Android AID system, which has become the standard method of Android user tracking in most mobile analytic platforms.

When a player starts their first session after installing a game that uses segmentation, these identifiers are captured and recorded remotely. Whenever the player starts another session, the same identifiers are compared against the existing set of known players. If there is a match, gameplay data will be recorded for that player. If the identifiers are new to the system, a new entry is made, and gameplay data is recorded there instead.

Tracking Behaviour

Once players are being consistently identified, its time to start learning about them. Each player’s records are updated as they play, and in order to inform dynamic engagement and monetization strategies, this data can’t be anonymized. Every system is a little different in the information it tracks, but they all aim to answer the questions of when, where, why, and how players have played. The more advanced your marketing strategy, the more data you’ll end up wanting to analyze, but during our time as a publisher we found that we got the most value out of tracking player progress and player value.

Tracking Progress

As players get deeper in to your game, their needs change. Games that feature some form of linear progression (Candy Crush, Clash of Clans) are easily divided in to content sections. Player-centric designers know where the difficulty increases and what will help players progress through the pinch points. By tracking progression and knowing where the demand lies for different game commodities, publishers know exactly what offers players are most likely to engage with.

For games that don’t feature linear progression, we suggest tracking the accumulated engagement of your players. For super casuals like Crossy Road, this means keeping track of how many “runs” a player has completed. In the absence of linear progression, this is the next best metric for learning how invested players are in your game and whether or not they’re likely to engage with different types of offers.

For more info on tracking player progress, check out our article on pocketgamer.biz.

Tracking Value

The next step in understanding your players is tracking their spending history. While knowing a player’s LTV (lifetime value) is useful at a high level, getting granular information on what players are purchasing is crucial when it comes to effectively monetizing large numbers of players.

Top publishers will track which IAPs players purchased first, how long it took them to make that purchase, and how far they progressed after making that purchase. All of this helps inform upsell offers that are then delivered to the player later on in progression, and having this data leaves the door open for more advanced analyses of the game economy through methods like price sensitivity analysis.

Defining Segments

With all this data collected, the last step is to start defining segments. A segment consists of a name and a series of criteria that players must meet in order to be counted as being part of that segment. Here are a few examples:

 

Segment Name: Early Spenders

Segment Criteria: 

– Player Level is Less Than 3

– Total IAP Spend is Greater Than $0.99

 

Segment Name: One Week Absent

Segment Criteria:

– Time of Last Session is Greater Than One Week Ago

 

Note that segments don’t have to be mutually exclusive. A player could be in both the “Early Spender” and “One Week Absent” segments.

With segments defined, publishers are free to start delivering crafted engagement and monetization experiences that resonate with their segments. As a result, players get a better game experience and publishers earn more revenue.

 

What segments do you track, and how have they been useful in delivering better experiences to your players? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @FusePowered.

In our next post, we’ll go over the few player segments that even smaller games should be tracking.

Evan Fradley-Pereira
Marketing Manager at Fuse Powered
Evan is an award-winning game designer, prolific blogger, and an adequate Hearthstone player.
He creates podcasts, videos, and articles that help people make better games.

You can contact him on Twitter at @fp_evan

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