Personalizing the Game Player Experience

This article breaks down the opportunities video game companies have to build on the success of their games by personalizing player touchpoints throughout the player journey.

Video gamers have logged into their favorite game environments with the intent to be entertained by inventive game developers and players. Game companies have great opportunities to engage with players to drive retention and revenue with personalization practices addressing their player base. Compounding this opportunity is that over 80% of games are free-to-play (F2P), so player investment is small at first.

According to recent trends, 74% of games are single player so companies are increasing their reliance on player personalization in their engagement efforts. Player personalization is defined as tailoring the communications and features inside and outside of the game to meet the specific needs of individual players.

Why personalization? For starters, the opportunity is there. Player activity generates huge amounts of data on player game genre preferences, games played, player level, entitlements, play style, play behavior, motivation, avatar attributes, session frequency and length, and purchasing behavior among other data. Companies that take an organized approach to collecting, storing, accessing, classifying, analyzing, and acting on the data can generate personalized experiences designed to increase game popularity, average revenue per user (ARPU), average revenue per paid user (ARPPU), and average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU).

Personalization opportunities exist along the entire player journey for game companies. These opportunities are summarized below:

Player Marketing and Targeting

Game companies can access information about anonymized customer behavior and contact information to reach them through targeted e-mail campaigns and drive traffic to their game websites. After sign-up (with a confirmed e-mail address), publishers can continue to stay in touch with players outside of the game environment with special offers, events, game updates, and other enhancements to their game experience with a call to action. Inside the game, merchandise offers guided by predictive analytics can improve player ARPPU.

Game Service Account User Interface

Game companies can leverage the success of video streaming companies with their UIs by soliciting and logging player preferences upon setup, then updating the data based on subsequent player decisions. This approach gives game companies opportunities to suggest games that users may enjoy and builds on the selections that players make on an ongoing basis by using AI to elevate recommendations and predictions.

Other best practices on the game services account UIs include:

  • Use a colorful, simple look-and-feel.
  • Let players have precision and control.
  • Improve navigation with a fast and easy search experience.
  • Present game recommendations effectively.
  • Let players save games for later, on a watch list.
  • Build excitement by anticipating future games and mods.
  • Support player needs with parental controls.
  • Provide enough content (third-party games may need to be added).

Several providers, such as Adobe, Sitecore, and Acquia offer AI-enabled web content management suites that can assist with personalizing and presenting web content. The game account UI is one of the best opportunities game services companies can use to identify player preferences and present personalized experiences.

Player Communications

In addition to game services interacting with players, player self-expression and interaction is essential in most game environments. The advent of internal (e.g., in-game chat) and external A/V communication applications (e.g., Discord) supports personalized gameplay experiences. Game companies only need to offer chat/voice communication capabilities and a way for players to see who is playing at any given time for them to form their own in-game communities.

Business Model and Payment Customization

A primary objective of game services companies is to make it easy to understand and pay for content. Game companies benefit by offering single and multi-layer business models (e.g., subscription with in-game purchases to manage entitlements) as well as customized payment methods based on ease and simplicity. For games that use advertising-supported business models, personalized ads can increase player retention and game monetization.

Cloud Gaming

The ability to provide personalized game experiences extends to the devices players use. Players can increasingly play games anywhere at any time with near console-level quality. Players are familiar with how their devices work and they are always available. See post Cloud Gaming: Taking the Action to the Edge for details on cloud gaming and why it is transforming the game landscape for millions of players.

Game Communities and Forums

A key benefit of game communities is providing players environments where they can share their experiences and build relationships with developers and other players. Self-expression also enables game companies to provide technical support and learn how to improve gameplay experiences. Many successful games have active player communities moderated by their game developers and/or volunteers.

Avatar Generation

Choices that players make regarding name, gender, special powers, complexion, age, vanity items, and other characteristics are a rich source of information on player profiles that can be used for game design and in-game merchandising offers. Companies can mine this data with predictive analytics to anticipate player preferences and offer customized in-game items that players value. This type of engagement is based on character personalization and is one of the best drivers of game retention.

Purchasing Behavior

Game companies have been able to support ongoing game development and community growth by funding their games with in-game purchases. A not-so-publicized fact is that a small fraction of players in F2P games (2.2% on average) pay to play at all. Within the group of paying players are big spenders (whales), who provide up to 50% of overall game revenue. Game companies that identify, engage, and delight these players can earn large rewards, since moving a F2P game’s paid player percentage a small amount can lead to outsized revenue increases.

Customer/Technical Support

Of course, free players also need to be engaged because they provide a competitive environment for those players who spend money and form a source of potential paid players. Game company player service strategies often provide a baseline of service, with special care, features, and responsiveness to emerging spenders and monetization support needs.

Live Events

Game companies continue to innovate with live content and events that generate player anticipation and excitement, such as concerts, contests, competitions, and interviews which can be tailored to the interests of players who fit the game players’ profiles.

Interactive Leaderboards

Many players want to be recognized by the game community for their performance. Whatever the measurement of success is, many players celebrate personal recognition of achievement in the games they play. In multiplayer games, matchmaking needs to make use of interactive leaderboards to ensure player success, satisfaction, and retention.

Game Design

Game companies can personalize game experiences based on player modeling. Four approaches are applicable to this technique:

  1. Modeling actions – best for predicting actions
  2. Modeling tactics – best for personalizing the player game experience
  3. Modeling strategies – best for predicting player gameplay challenges
  4. Player profiling best for predicting player experience and satisfaction

Player needs that influence play style include experiential enhancement, growth and identity, and tension reduction. Game companies should rely on AI to adapt the game based on in-game player observations because of the need to adapt quickly based on limited data. Game adaptation based on player data can include space (e.g., open expanse vs mazes), mission/task, character, game mechanics, narrative (interactive storytelling), music and sound, in addition to procedural computer-generated content.

Data drives effective personalization  

Data-driven personalization remains the most effective approach to achieve desirable game business outcomes. Game developers and live services operators will continue in their never-ending quest to increase revenue and game adoption based on creating rewarding personalized experiences for every player.

 

Kurt Nipp is SVP, High Tech – Entertainment at Softtek Integration Systems. Contact Kurt at kurt.nipp@softtek.com to learn more about personalized gaming and what Softtek services contribute to player experience, including: Customer Experience Design & Engineering; Advanced Analytics & Insight; Cognitive Analytics (AI/ML); Digital Platform Architecture & Advisory; Unified Commerce Solutions; and Public Cloud Management.

Game controller and pixelated clouds in a purple hue