Game Development Reference
be used to directly measure the impact of game design changes. Alter the way
the user first interacts with your game—something crucial in the first few min-
utes, or something that affects the core gameplay loop—and then study how
your DAU/MAU changes. Did you improve something about the accessibility or
addictiveness of the game? This ratio will tell you.
As an indicator of overall success, this metric is also quite useful. If users are
coming back to your game, then all you need to do is increase the total volume
of users (and the percentage of those users who pay you), and you're on the
road to profitability! And luckily, this ratio scales nicely. It seems to be as accu-
rate a predictor of success for games with 20 million users as it is for games of
a more modest size.
Without a high DAU/MAU, it likely doesn't make much sense to spend a sig-
nificant portion of your budget to market your game. Why? Your problem isn't
getting users to try the product. Your problem is getting them to come back.
Many of the games which care about this statistic are “freemium,” meaning
that they let users play for free in the hopes of making their money on micro-
transactions. And the freemium model works only if the first taste the users get
is so addictive that they can't help but come back for more. Until this number
looks good for a thousand users, it doesn't help you much to increase to a mil-
lion, because the hard reality is that most of them won't return.
Of those users who try out your game, how many are converted into paying
customers? The higher this rate is, the better.
PCU: Peak Concurrent Users
At any given second, how many users are playing the game? What's the largest
this number has ever been? For synchronous, real-time MMO-type games, PCU
(peak concurrent users) ends up being a big deal because it affects server loads,
how many customer service people are required at peak times, and other plan-
ning details that affect operational costs. However, the rapidly expandable/con-
tractible cloud of servers that are quickly becoming available on the cheap are
reducing the importance of this type of statistic. Finally, because the DAU/MAU
ratio ends up being a lot more informative than learning how many people are
playing your game simultaneously, PCU is falling into obscurity.
5.3 Measuring Monetization
Now let's look at some of the more important terms and metrics dealing with
how your game monetizes. The overall notion to remember is that if your
game is a typical freemium model, all the high DAU numbers in the world