I seem to be spending a lot of time arguing about appropriate metrics lately. Chris Dixon’s post about benchmark numbers was good as a rule of thumb. But too many people are using a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring data, particularly in games.
“It’s a numbers game/but shit don’t add up somehow” -Mos Def
In conversations with games people I often get asked questions about Daily Active Users (DAU). Most of these folks are coming from either a social or mobile background and can’t imagine a world which isn’t ruled by these parameters. However kids gaming is about as far removed from that as you could imagine. It’s literally a case of 10yr-old boys versus their moms.
Here’s some data to put it in perspective. This is what the DAU distribution looks like for Cityville (I’m not picking on Zynga here, just selecting a game which is relatively mature, at least by social standards). Notwithstanding the gradual decline, you see that it’s a pretty consistent play pattern with very minor drops (-5% for Sunday/Mondays).
By contrast this is what the play pattern looks like for an 8-12 game (Fight My Monster). Bear in mind that kids playtimes are shaped by parental permission, school vacations, homework and weather.
As is clear, kids gaming can have usage variation of up to 50% or even greater. Which means that taking a DAU measure is going to be pretty meaningless. Similarly, if you look at session time in an average Zynga title (an average of 4.95 mins) versus a kids game (Fight My Monster is 30 mins+), you’ll see the same level of disparity. But it doesn’t mean that one company is underperforming relative to the other.
Take a look at Nicholas Lovell’s excellent collection of game conversion data and you’ll see just how different absolute numbers can be. The simple point is this: define the benchmarks that actually make sense for your company and don’t be afraid to disagree with ‘industry metrics’.