Beware! People invent their own scores if you don’t give them yours.

One of my working theories is that if you don’t show people the score, for whatever endeavour you are currently engaged in, they will, subconsciously or otherwise, invent their own.

Take the example of the creative agency whose management team has failed to share the company KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) with their staff. As a result some staff believe the “score” is the number of awards the agency wins and spend undue time trying to win awards rather than deliver results for clients. Others might believe the score is the number of hours spent in the office – and so is bred a work culture where being seen to be present, long into the night, is valued more highly than  a job finished on time and to budget.

Some of the best offices I’ve been in show people the score that matters and keep them notified.

When I visited Playfish, the social games company that sold to EA in Nov 2009 for $300 million, the digital dashboard allover the office clearly showed the number of DAUs (Daily Active Users) and MAUs (Monthly Active Users) – the two key metrics that the company believed were important (and for a social games company they are.) If you worked at Playfish you could never have been in any doubt what was the important score – it wasn’t the number of lines of code you had written, the brilliance of your memos or your attentiveness at meetings – no it was the engagement of your customers. As long as those two numbers were climbing, everyone could sleep easy, knowing that they and their company were hitting their objectives.

Key KPIs to measure when commissioning a game

So you’ve decided to commission a game. Well done you.

Whether it’s for entertainment without an ulterior motive, an advergame to subtly inject your brand message or a serious game to educate and drive new behaviours, it is worth considering how you will measure success.

At times like these I like to turn to the Playfish troika of metrics – gleaned from the successful social gaming company these categories have been shown time and again to be the right prioritized order of metrics.

They are engagement, virality and monetization.

Let’s take each in turn.

Engagement is first and foremost – are people engaging in your game, do they enjoy being here and do they return time and again to your game.

The metrics are standardised – daily active users (DAUs) and monthly active users (MAUs). Beyond simply number of installs or downloads, MAU and DAU track actual users and engagement. For the advanced among us you can look at dwell times (the average duration of an engagement) and churn rates (cohort declines over time) but MAU and DAU still reign supreme.

Next up is virality, because once people are engaged in your game they should want to share it with their friends. Unless your game has no social dynamics (like uh huh?) virality becomes your next concern after engagement. Here the metrics should be viral coefficient (how many people does each engaged player bring in to the game) – any number over 1 is good, a number over 2 is stellar. For the advanced you should look at the average time to share to get a feel for how quickly your virus will spread. If it takes people a few hours before they share with friends great, if it takes a few months then you have a virality issue.

Finally consider monetization. What? It’s last for a reason. People will pay, and indeed want to pay for your game, for level ups, for access to new features, but only once they are hooked and their friends are there too, egging them on. Monetisation is the art of converting online desires into cold hard cash. Typically your KPIs here are CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) but the key one is ARPU (Average Revenue Per User). Ensure your ARPU exceeds your CAC and you have a viable, sustainable business, less and you are in trouble.

So the KPIs to measure are:

  • Engagement – MAU/DAU
  • Virality – Viral Coefficient
  • Monetisation – ARPU & CAC

Good luck!