Europe 2016Video Coverage

Michal Witkowski: Putting Psychology and Analytics Together | Casual Connect Video

May 24, 2016 — by Catherine Quinton

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Europe 2016Video Coverage

Michal Witkowski: Putting Psychology and Analytics Together | Casual Connect Video

May 24, 2016 — by Catherine Quinton

'Making games people love and playing alongside them is a beautiful thing.' - Michal WitkowskiClick To Tweet

Social casino players’ behavior differs from that of other casual gamers. In a presentation by Michal Witkowski, head of product analytics at GameDesire, Michal showed these differences in terms of the most important monetization and engagement KPIs, with an extra focus on Facebook players. Tune in as Michal breaks down the data from the analysis to infer about potential business strategies that can help in getting more loyal and higher-paying players in social casino games. “Bingo new registration are very scarce on Facebook. This means that you should really take care of your new players and focus more on reactivating and keeping your players loyal.” Hear this and other insights that Michal has been able to derive from data analysis.

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Michal Witkowski is head of product analytics at GameDesire, Ltd, in Poland. Michal had not heard of product analytics until a friend mentioned the opportunity to start a career in game development as a game analyst. After discovering what it was, Michal decided to do everything they could to get the job and, fortunately, succeeded.

Focusing Psychology on Games

Michal Witkowski is head of product analytics at GameDesire, Ltd
Michal Witkowski is head of product analytics at GameDesire, Ltd

While studying psychology at university, Michal spent two years as a volunteer research assistant and more than a year as a full-time research assistant on a team studying the psychology of language, having, at the time, the intention of beginning a career in academia. The work they did at that time, designing experiments, coding them into computer-based tasks, running them, and analyzing the data from strictly psychological sources, allowed them to gain valuable insight into how psychological research works. Since Michal already had a lifelong passion for games, as well as mathematical and programming skills, starting in game development was both exciting and simple. All that was required was adjusting these skills and knowledge to the players’ behavior and the business background.




There are two aspects to a job in game analytics that Michal especially enjoys. The first is the opportunity to gain valuable insights into human behavior, both as individuals and as groups, on a scale that would be impossible in an academic setting, in the interesting and quickly developing field of computer gaming behavior. The second is the fact that the intellectual endeavors are all focused on games. As Michal says, “It may sound like a cliché, but I actually earn money doing my dream job, and it is great!”

The greatest challenge Michal has faced in their career surfaced almost immediately: the quick and intense development in analytical knowhow in GameDesire. “It required a lot of coordination between many teams and people, some of them being my superiors, and a lot of conceptual work,” Michal describes. “This required not only technical skills, but also, more importantly, interpersonal skills – recreation of the whole analytical system for a mid-size company means that there are a lot of stakeholders you need to negotiate with and take them into account when planning things.” To make sure every stakeholder was cognizant of what was happening with the analytics was a difficult task, requiring Michal to do a lot of educational and organizational work.




Michal is someone who greatly enjoys their work and is proud of every major and minor accomplishment, enjoying the way that leads them to whatever goal is ahead. “This way I’m wasting much less time in my life doing things I don’t like just to achieve a goal that may or may not bring me some imagined satisfaction.” The fun of being in the games industry comes simply from having games everywhere. And, although it might have seemed impossible with a background in academic psychology, being able to earn a good living through working in game development brings incredible fulfillment.

Perhaps the attraction to analytics is not a surprise when we discover that Michal, as a child, was fascinated by statistics, including, for some months, the Polish statistical yearbook. And they still remembers that their region was one of the top potato producers in the mid-1970s.

The Developing Market

To those interested in this career, Michal recommends starting as soon as possible. “If you feel you can cope with a mixture of research skills, psychology and programming, just do it. The market at the moment is very young, and analysts, if anything, will become more and more needed. Seize this opportunity as in five to ten years the market will already start to saturate. Please note I’m not speaking about data scientists here, they’ll be needed but they are something else.”




“The market at the moment is very young, and analysts, if anything, will become more and more needed. Seize this opportunity as in five to ten years the market will already start to saturate.”

Michal points out that the market in this industry changes so quickly that it is impossible to foresee what will be happening in a year in terms of the general market. They have seen enough long term forecasts to recognize that they are used to create markets rather than to foresee trends that would give experts opportunities to compete in their analytical skills. Michal emphasizes that an analyst should never be trying to create the market.

But there are certainly emerging markets for social casino; in Michal’s opinion, these markets are in virtually every B-rated country in the world (including Muslim countries) with positive outlook in the rating change. The main driver in this industry is the inclination to take risks, something almost universally a part of being human.

Possible Platforms

Apple Watch is not something Michal considers a viable future platform for social casino. The space is simply too small for a social casino game interface and there a too few people willing to play on it; a phone gives a much better experience. On the other hand, Oculus may have a future as a platform in this segment of gaming. “Just imagine having almost lifelike interactions in virtual Bingo while the numbers are displayed one after another in a screen somewhere in the background. There is huge potential there, but it’s just too early.” Right now the technology and the market are not ready. The development costs are high, the price is high, and the reach is still too small.

Oculus may have a future as a platform in this segment of gaming. “Just imagine having almost lifelike interactions in virtual Bingo while the numbers are displayed one after another in a screen somewhere in the background.”

The only constant in the technology of social casino is change, in Michal’s view. Success comes when you are able to choose the change that leads to development. This will happen only with hard work, some luck, and realistic planning, as opposed to wishful thinking or focusing on short term profits.

Skills and Mindset

The biggest problem Michal sees in the industry today is too much data with too few people who can understand it and use it to build narratives. As a psychologist and statistician, Michal has never had a problem doing this. It is important to have a data warehouse that will enable tracking of data on a day-to-day basis in every important area and keep its software well maintained.

But the particular tools you use to do this are not important as long as you are comfortable with them. As Michal says, “Possession of the best rifle in the world does not automatically make you the best sniper and possession of a rifle that’s costly to maintain may be overkill when you’re just there to hunt ducks. In analytics, tools are secondary to skills and mindset.”




“In analytics, tools are secondary to skills and mindset.”

Michal’s passion for games extends beyond work into free time, playing narrative RPGs with a group of friends almost every week, and enjoying chess and modern board games. And for social casino, “Poker Texas Hold’em by GamesDesire is my favorite, period!” An additional passion is cooking, lots of cooking.

 

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Catherine Quinton

Catherine Quinton

Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.

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