How Certain Affinity used Google’s Mobile App Analytics to improve game design

Certain Affinity, an experienced independent game developer has recently been working on their first mobile title, Age of Booty: Tactics. Age of Booty: Tactics is an asynchronous turn-based tactics game hybridized with a collectable card game. Certain Affinity wanted a solution enabling them to measure and analyze specific metrics to improve both the pre-release and post-release designs of the game. They researched a number of analytics solutions, but were frequently frustrated by the cost, size, and limited flexibility offered.

Ramping Up Reporting
Certain Affinity has used Google Analytics for website analytics since 2005, and began talking to mobile partners after becoming aware of Google Analytics’ (GA’s) application in mobile gaming. Given their existing experience, the relative cost of the platform, and the extensive feature set, Certain Affinity quickly and easily integrated GA into the game. The early inclusion of GA into the design process resulted in easy access to analytics to assist in influencing direction across design, art, and ultimately production.

UI Optimization
Google Analytics provides an intuitive way to understand engagement across multiple screens and events. By leveraging engagement flow and average screen time analytics, Certain Affinity understood when specific areas within the UI were either too complex or buried to drive the desired behavior. They identified that the storefront was overly complex and required significant streamlining to become easily accessible. Additionally,they found that a number of options within the menus were too complex and lead to users looping within the UI prior to engaging in an actual game. They also were able to reduce screens per session from 15.5 to 8, resulting in a cleaner UI as well as less back and forth in the game.

Gameplay Duration
Certain Affinity wanted to better understand the average duration of play to optimize the experience on mobile. Given that users tend to spend less time gaming on their mobile devices than in the console space, it was vital to ensure the game was consumable and enjoyable in the “bite sized” engagement window.

Certain Affinity leveraged session durations to understand the existing top-level behavior. In analyzing the data,they found that the typical session was over 25% longer in length than was ideal. They tracked events such as turn submission, undo, and return to main menu to identify any behavior that was artificially extending the average duration of play. Certain Affinity then specifically targeted optimization to the areas requiring the most work.

Custom Dimensions
By leveraging Google Analytics Custom Dimensions, Certain Affinity could measure analytics across a number of key metrics in the mobile gaming space including retention, virality, and monetization. While this data was not widely used until launch,the ability to verify collection was instrumental in ensuring a successful soft launch.“The flexibility GA provides is quite amazing. While no analytics provider will ever have everything you need out of the box, it is great to have a solution that allows us to implement our own requirements [through custom variables], so easily!” explains Certain Affinity’s Lead Server Engineer.

You can check out the full case study here.

Posted by Aditi Rajaram, Google Analytics team
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