Game Development Reference
Knowing that we were about to dive into the more detailed mechanics of
user acquisition, we made a peremptory visit to a lexicographer's library. We
studied DAU and MAU and learned about the relationship between the two.
Both are as good a general measure of the relative health of a game as any
(other than the publisher's bank account!) And when we look at DAU/MAU,
we can begin to deduce some information about how sticky a game is. A sticky
game should end up having an MAU consistently higher than its DAU; gam-
ers should be coming back almost every day to play. This behavior can in turn
advise your strategies regarding where to spend your time and money in order
to get the greatest return. In a game with a high DAU/MAU ratio, more adver-
tising is likely to be effective. In a game with a much lower ratio, that money
might be better spent improving the stickiness of the game. This sort of infor-
mation has lasting value because these sorts of analyses are useful for any
game, on any platform, and even decades into the future.
We ran through a nonexhaustive glossary of some of the most popular acro-
nyms and slang expressions used in the industry. (“Whales!”) Most of these are
derived from old MMO developer jargon, but the concepts are still applicable
here and will likely continue to be, as long as games are played on networked
devices. Of these, perhaps the most powerful concept is that of lifetime net-
work value (LTNV). This unwieldy little acronym is critical because it conveys
the important (but hard-to-measure) sense that users have immense value to
the developer beyond the money they spend directly on a product. This notion
touches on the idea of virality, in which users have value because they may tell
their friends about the game and thereby “infect” them with the desire to play.
LTNV also captures the notion that users can be monetized in indirect ways,
from offer walls to being called upon to tutor new players.
Projecting ahead, one could imagine any number of innovative ways to
monetize users beyond those currently in play. Remember SETI@Home, or the
various protein-chain analysis screensavers that were popular around 2005?
What if users could agree to devote a portion of their computing power to solv-
ing hard problems like those? Might compensation in in-game currency be a
good reward for them? Could an enterprising game developer architect a system
by which the idle processing cycles from millions of users were farmed out as
a cloud service? Certainly, such a thing is technically possible and could have
broadly useful applications.
Midway through Chapter 5, we discussed measurements and analytics at
length. Indeed, this is a critical component of what we now call “social games.”
But there is nothing inherently social about this practice; all games, software,
and other user applications could benefit from this sort of calculated introspec-
tion. This concept remains critical throughout the rest of the topic and appears
in several of our interviews as well. In short, networked games allow develop-
ers to harvest information about how users play their games, how they mone-
tize, and when they stop playing. This information allows designers to fine-tune