In mobile game marketing, the importance of distribution channels beyond classic user acquisition is increasing. Join Julian Runge, head of the analytics team at Wooga, as he described in his Casual Connect Tel Aviv 2015 lecture that users that are not coming from user acquisition are key for marketability of a game in light of the struggle to keep lifetime value above effective cost per install. Unfortunately, data on these users is sparse. It is mostly unknown why they download an app. How did they hear about it in the first place?
This talk focused on what is widely regarded as the most important source of organic downloads in the mobile app ecosystem – word-of-mouth. Looking into the share of word-of-mouth in organic downloads and the quality of the resulting traffic, this talk will help you understand and utilize this powerful tool. Tune in below and also learn about the drivers of word-of-mouth for mobile apps are identified.
Julian Runge is head of the analytics team at Wooga, a Berlin-based mobile games developer of hit titles such as Jelly Splash and Pearl’s Peril. Julian joined Wooga, directly out of graduate school. He knew he wanted to work somewhere in the data science/analytics field and, with his passion for games, Wooga was a natural fit.
Working with Passionate People
Games are his favorite part of his work and, he says, “What motivates me most in my day-to-day work is working with highly passionate people, digging into sometimes nerdy questions and assisting Wooga in developing awesome products.” This could mean anything from A/B testing over deep dives on the balancing of a game all the way to advanced marketing and analytics.
While Julian was in graduate school he worked as a research assistant where he got to know empirical methodology and tools. He also freelanced for Zalando’s data intelligence, exposing him to how businesses make data work. He participated in a six month internship with Siemen’s Strategic Planning unit in New York as part of a high-performing team in a global context. All these experiences combined aided him in his present work but the most helpful experience has been learned on the job at Wooga, with people that challenged and trained him, and the dynamics and freedom to grow quickly.
A Hybrid Approach to Analytics
The greatest challenge of his career with Wooga has developed into the work that brought him the greatest satisfaction: changing the way the company does analytics. Shortly after joining the company, they also hired a number of other analysts. They were each placed in game teams and reported to the respective product leads. The only thing done centrally was data infrastructure, that is tracking and tools for reporting, A/B testing and dashboards. Although there was some knowledge exchange, it was infrequent, unstructured and typically informal. But in early 2014, at Strata conference in Santa Clara, he heard how most product-focused companies were using a hybrid approach with a central analytics team and also analysts embedded in the product teams. While the embedding cycle differed from company to company, the general approach was consistent and made sense to Julian.
It took some time for him to convince senior management at Wooga to move toward a more centralized approach, but eventually he got the go-ahead for building Team Analytics and to develop a hybrid approach to their analytics. Julian best describes their new process in this way, “Team Analytics is the central go-to station and the majority of the analysts continue to be embedded in game teams. We normally put an analyst in a game team a month or two before soft launch. They then stay in the team for up to one and a half years. We have a weekly planning meeting and daily standups. The knowledge exchange is much more intense and structured.”
The change to the hybrid approach to analytics has led also led to another important change at Wooga: there is now a career in analytics with the company. This was not really the case when analysts reported to product leads; then the only option for advancement was the product manager path.
So far the hybrid system has been working very well, particularly with the high dynamics of Hit Filter, where many projects are stopped and started all the time. In addition, creating Team Analytics and successfully changing the way Wooga handles analytics is undoubtedly the accomplishment that brings Julian great pride.
The Continuing Challenge of Monetization
Understanding how to approach monetization is a continuing challenge. According to Julian, the key to monetization is its meaningful integration into a well-balanced game. It cannot be an add-on, but must be considered from the beginning of development, all the way from concept to prototype. He suspects that few designers are trained this way.
Admittedly though, analytically understanding monetization and its interrelation to gameplay is a challenge. For example, Julian hears people say, “You need to monetize people because that makes them stick around longer and more.” But in his experience that is simply not the case. He insists, “The starting point is fun. Engagement with a game drives monetization, not the other way around.” A fun game play drives the engagement and retention that leads players to purchase something in a game. If the purchase is meaningful to the gameplay, engagement and retention can be increased. But the starting point must always be fun.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.