Not just fun and games: What the gaming world can teach business

 

While some may think of video games as a simple form of entertainment for the likes of children or teens, the gaming industry is far larger and more sophisticated. The UK alone boasts a whopping 20 million gamers and the people behind the games have been called “some of the most innovative minds in the tech sector” and “artists and creators [that] continue to push the entertainment envelope.”

The gaming industry is not child’s play. Even people who aren’t in the business of entertainment can benefit from taking a look at what game developers and companies are doing to stay ahead of competition, capture more users and rev up profitability.

Balance creativity with objectivity

One way game developers are pushing the envelope is by making their games significantly more data-driven. Developing a game or a new update has historically been more art than science, where concepts and key decisions were made by creative leads based largely on instinct and experience. But now, creative teams are being aided by key data points, collected from players and other sources.

Take Germany’s Aeria Games, for example. The company creates free-to-play online games, enjoyed by 70 million people. This amounts to a lot of data. This includes data points such as the length of time players spend online, player engagement at various points in the game or in-game purchases.

In the company’s S4 League title, the team believed that big ticket items like new weapons or in-game currency, were most popular. But by visualizing the vast amount of data at hand, they quickly learned that players were most interested in things like clothing style and hair colour – elements that personalized the gaming experience. And the company reacted accordingly, creating more accessory options.

With that in mind, businesses can harness data to push the creative envelope – try new approaches and develop new campaigns – while making sure results are measured along the way.

Expand your definition of collaboration

Industry experts have been preaching collaboration and breaking down silos for some time, but that philosophy shouldn’t be limited to the four walls of your business. Take LightBox Interactive, a small video gaming business, as an example. The company created a sci-fi western-style game called Starhawk, released by Sony. Chief executive Dylan Jobe told VentureBeat that the company “watched the game industry change and saw the rise of Zynga, which focused on learning from its social game analytics and immediately modifying its games as a result.”

During the Starhawk beta, LightBox looked at its user data, forum data and more – using that information to adjust weaponry and address holes more quickly than it had for past releases. This builds on the data-driven approach already mentioned. LightBox used data to expand its idea of collaboration and also work together with its own players.

Other businesses can do the same, breaking down the “fourth wall” of the commercial world by really listening and learning from their own customers.

Always be listening

It’s important to remember that such collaboration isn’t a “sometimes thing”. It’s not a one-off survey, for instance. The aforementioned Aeria Games uses visual analytics software to sift through hundreds of gigabytes of data coming right from players… and it does so in real time.

Along the same lines, the new normal for gaming companies is to build a prototype before its perfect and then release it to the world to gather feedback in real-time, making improvements on the go.

Blizzard, which is behind popular games like World of Warcraft and Starcraft, recently released its beta for a new gamed called Overwatch. While the beta itself is interesting, you can bet Blizzard is also using it to improve the game and drive even more sales.

Companies in other industries should take a similar approach, using real-time information to offer quick responses and improvements.

Be willing to cut your losses

Let’s pretend a gaming company has brainstormed a great new idea. Its employees are thrilled about it, so they build a beta and begin testing the game: engagement, user feedback and monetisation.

While these are important best practices, they aren’t magic.

Sometimes, you’ll do all the right things with regards to collaboration, creativity, data and more, but what the data shows is unfortunately not a pretty picture. Your game isn’t popular. It’s not making money. Your engagement isn’t improving. Your efforts aren’t helping.

In such an instance, it’s time to cut your losses and move onto something new. Truly listening means responding to what you hear. And when you don’t like what you’re hearing, that can be the hardest part.

The gaming industry is one to watch for its ability to make data-driven decisions that impact the player experience and bottom line. In the midst of an increasingly competitive marketplace and increasing amounts of data, businesses have much to learn from this industry that is no longer just fun and games.

By James Eiloart, SVP EMEA at Tableau Software