By adaptive - January 25th, 2016

There’s now a vast ocean of mobile gaming opportunities on various platforms and different payment models but the games trying to stay afloat increasingly need to identify and retain the whales, that is the serious players not only willing to pay to play, but willing to pay in size.

And as Ella Williamson reports, analytics firms including Whally are trying to help mobile games harpoon the big fish.

 The mobile gaming industry in 2015 is worth around $25 billion John Koetsier, mobile economist for TUNE, tells Open Mobile Media. The analytics sector alone is worth around $500 million.

Analyzing and identifying the top paying and playing gamers – the so-called whales - are key for mobile game publishers. By targeting and acquiring them, publishers can set about ensuring that these whales spend money in their games. Koetsier reveals that, “Easily 50 percent of games revenue comes from whales and I’ve spoken to game publishers who had players with a 7-figure spend.”

At just a few months old – analytics platform Whally is on a mission to catch the iOS whales by building the next generation of mobile game usage intelligence. Funded by London Venture Partners, its hope is to reduce publishers’ cost of acquisition (which can vary from $3 to $50 per user) at the same time as increasing publishers’ revenue. The service, launched for free in September, analyzes historical scoring activity of more than 190,000 iOS games in 20 categories – constituting more than 400 million iOS players globally. Paul Heydon, director of London Venture Partners has high expectations for the analytics firm, “Whally has the potential to deliver real value for mobile game companies and disrupt analytics and user acquisition.”

Whally joins the ranks of an increasingly growing space of app analytics firms -an arena enjoyed by App Annie, IHS, and Mixpanel to name a few. So what sets Whally apart from the other app intelligence companies out there? The firm’s CEO and co-founder, Fred Thuard, asserts, “Whally is the first and only analytics company to track user behaviour on mobile games without any SDK. As no SDK is required for usage analytics, we are unique in understanding usage based on in-game scoring.” As a result, Whally displays only what is genuinely played daily and aggregates daily public data of game sessions and real scores.

Thuard, a former employee of App Annie, divulges his inspiration for Whally, “Talking to mobile game publishers daily for the last five years lets me understand how mobile gaming market intelligence has been dominated by app store ranking and number of installs or downloads. As the market is getting more and more competitive, benchmarking a game, building a monetization strategy or acquiring users at high costs are getting more and more scientific. So we figured out that public data on scoring is a serious way to understand player engagement and track user behaviour daily.”
With new companies and tools popping up, it has become commonplace for game publishers to use handfuls of analytics intelligence platforms at a time. Ubisoft Mobile uses around five of them according to the company’s data scientist, Aymeric Bouley.

App Annie, a company that defines itself as, “the largest app intelligence platform” observes the impact that new tools have had on developers over the last year. “Many tools have realised the power of integrations through APIs with other key partners like App Annie, Salesforce or Marketo to accelerate their growth in the mobile eco-system. And most of the developers are now making this inter-operability of analytics and marketing tools a key requirement in their RFP processes,” says Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, App Annie’s VP of Marketing.

Koetsier, the Tune mobile economist, reflects on industry changes over the last year, “On the one hand, top grossing games seem to stay on the top of the charts for a long time. On the other, costs of user acquisition have jumped easily 25 percent, competition is even tougher, and yet the tools that game publishers have available to find and nurture the best users have really exploded as well.”

Ubisoft’s Bouley says the rapidly evolving analytics space is having a positive impact on publishers: “We found very interesting stuff about what kind of features our users wanted to keep them engaged in the game thanks to analytics.” Ubisoft Mobile is currently using Whally in demo mode and Bouley particularly appreciates its easy to use, quality interface, rankings and having indications of competitor’s data.

With many publishers using mobile analytics in an exemplary way, Koetsier believes that non-gaming brands should take note, “DraftKings does a really good job in mobile analytics. Supercell is amazing at it, as are most of the big mobile gaming companies. Brands can learn a lot from the gamers”.

So what can we expect next from the mobile gaming space? Koetsier predicts further change afoot taking it, “Beyond analytics and into the realm almost of mobile CRM - really understanding, engaging and serving your millions of users on an individualised basis.”  

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