Games generate more data then an average application because of the game state machine. Terabytes of data can be accumulated in a short period of time in a gaming environment. Essentially, a player can enter a game and cycle through a series of scenarios for a prolonged period resulting in the opportunity to generate considerably more data about a player and game play characteristics than a standard waterfall application. This unique characteristic of games results in an opportunity to capture more data throughout the game cycle and to potentially add this data to a depository for the purpose of business intelligence(BI). Ironically, this perceived gold mine for project managers, financial analysis, game designers and business managers creates its own set of challenges. Be careful what you wish for!
Data Capture, Format Of Data And Player Experience - There is price to pay for adding data capture for the full cycle of a game. The data itself has to be identified in a way to make sure that each data point is uniquely identified and can be used to generate BI on a game, its players, traffic sources, revenue, etc.
The data capture has be executed in a way that does not impact game play. The speed of game play, transitions in a game and messaging in the game have a significant influence over the popularity of a game. Data capture has to avoid any impact on these game mechanics.
The game data has to be in a form that allows for the data to be retrieved and evaluated in the context of the information requirements of different stakeholders in an organization. The challenge is to maintain a balance between the objectives of a player and the objectives of the organization's desire to learn as much from game play as it can.
There has to be a place to put the data and a way to handle the spikes that can occur in game data generation. Social game developers and platform providers were some of the first adopters of the NoSQL model because they could quickly store game data in a simplified format and at the same time capture data about game play. The problem with this approach is that often the format of that data and the storage depository makes it very difficult to retrieve and make any sense out of this data. Things are changing with more emphasis on the ultimate goal of using the data for BI. There are companies attempting to create a bridge between NoSQL and SQL reporting databases.
Retrieving Data, Reporting And Business Intelligence - Business intelligence has emerged as a very important aspect of operating a successful game company. Internet gambling, MMOG and RPG game providers were early adopters of traditional business intelligence tools to help them understand cost of acquisition, player retention, revenue per player, game mechanics factors, identification of important players in the game community, etc. Social game companies have followed adding NoSQL strategies to cope with high data volume. The social game companies have pushed the envelope or data capture and reporting due to the potential for social games to grow large communities of gamers quickly and for these communities to shrink quickly. NoSQL products are evolving based on the experience gained from the early adoption of NoSQL by social game companies.
A number of traditional BI companies, SQL and NoSQL providers and newly minted data reporting platform providers focused on the social and casual gaming sector have entered the market to address the specific data and reporting needs of the gaming sector. This is an indication that new innovations and tools will become available for game companies. It also indicates that were are not quite there yet. Very often unique BI, analytics, data capture and retrieval techniques are being created by the game companies themselves because no ultimate data capture and reporting tool kit is available.
In summary, the game data and intelligence world is evolving quickly. Competition within gaming sectors and the cross over of players between different gaming sectors is requiring any company desiring to be competitive in the gaming market to have efficient data capture, report centered data stores and a full menu of key performance indicators and adhoc reporting to adjust to ever changing situations and to remain competitive in the marketplace.
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Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane, Inc. Kevin writes extensively about online games and their impact and integration into iGaming and E-commerce environments. Kevin is a frequent speaker at online game events and conferences in Asia, Europe and the US. Kevin and his Gameinlane team are currently working with online gambling, social gaming and e-commerce companies integrating social gaming with online gaming operations and integrate game mechanics into e-commerce applications.