In this episode of the LevelUp podcast, Tom Hammond, CEO & Co-Founder of UserWise sits down with our host Melissa Zeloof, VP Marketing at ironSource. They discuss how game developers can better understand user psychology, putting user motivations into action within a game, and how game developers can utilize personalization with LiveOps. 

Tune in here or keep reading for the edited highlights:

Leveraging player psychology 

“Some companies are extremely data-driven. Other publishers use the data but also talk to players and understand them using pretty large insights teams. Typically, as companies get larger, they start to leverage this more. Riot, Blizzard, and Zynga all have pretty large player insight teams whose entire job is just better understanding their players and their potential players - so that they can turn those insights into something valuable.”

The impact of surveys on user acquisition

“I’ve heard of one company, Solsten, creating a deep psychological survey for their players - they can figure out what really drives X, Y, Z to get some very interesting insights. I was talking to one game studio that used Solten, to deeply understand their players - it was a battle royale game. They found that a lot of their most engaged paying players were actually very altruistic, and weren't really so concerned with competition. 

So the company actually changed some of their creatives to focus on players helping each other, rather than the typical battle royal shooting all over the place. And they reduced their CPIs by about 50%. This was such an interesting insight because we can ask ourselves - can we better connect with the players that are most going to love our game? What are those things that the players truly love about our game or really drives them from an internal perspective?"

Missed opportunities for player retention

“Something companies often overlook is social connections. Look at many of the games that have long-term retention, like Clash Royal or Clash of Clans. If you talk to players that have been playing for a year or two years or more - the reason that they come back to the game each day isn't because of anything special from a Live OS perspective. They come back because they feel the social obligation to do their part for their clan that has supported them for so long. After day 30, there's so much retention that comes from these social aspects and making sure you have the right social connectivity. So usually whenever I'm working with a game and they're struggling with post day-30 retention, I ask - well, how are your players working together?”

When player data isn’t enough

“As powerful as I think the data can be, I think that there is always value in talking to your players and understanding how or why they do things in a specific way. For example, with data, I can figure out which of my players spent three months collecting a hundred hero chips, but didn't upgrade their hero. But it's very difficult for me to figure out why someone would go through all that and then not upgrade their hero. Some of those ‘why’ questions are difficult with just data. As good as algorithms might be in the future, I still think that there will be value in having actual human creativity thinking about: what's the next thing?”

Putting player psychology into practice

“First, you need to play your game a lot - you need to determine if it’s actually going to provide you value. I was talking with someone at Scopely about their Star Trek game - at any given time, they have anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 personalized individual offers (segments) based on what the player has in their inventory at the current moment. What are the things that they're working towards in the game at this current moment? What kind of payments have they made in the past? What should we price something based on the player’s historical purchasing behavior? Because they know so much about a player - they also know exactly what thing that they most need at this point in time.”

Implementing personalization at scale

“There are phases - maybe you go from 5 offers to 50, and then 50 to 500, and 500 to 5,000 offers over time, as you deeply understand what these players are doing. There's a combination of looking at players from a data perspective, surveying them, talking to them, playing through the game at those different moments, and just recording what they need. And, of course, a whole lot of a/b testing and iteration. It’s easiest with a platform like UserWise or something built internally because with 10,000 individual offers and 10,000 segments and campaigns happening simultaneously - it gets really complex, really fast. If you wanna sell someone something, you need to give them the valuable thing they need at this point in time. Because otherwise, why are they gonna buy that?”

The future of LiveOps

“Here’s an interesting trend - I've started to see some publishers come into UserWise and create a segment of players that saw a specific creative. Let’s say it’s a Disney game and they saw a Princess Jasmine creative linked to the page that's all about Aladdin saving Princess Jasmine. 

They get into UserWise, and now there's a segment of Princess Jasmine players, which actually changes the content that they get first. So now, instead of waiting till chapter 10, these users will see a first chapter all about going through to save Princess Jasmine from Jafar. Basically, it's allowing the marketing team to actually change the player's early experience. They could change the ads that players see per session, based on if I think this is going to be a high-value creative or a low-value, high ad type creative, etc. It’s enabling the marketing team to be able to do more than just showing the ad.

But how do I think about the player experience from the end-to-end, from the moment they see the ad? What's in the app store page? How far do we want to let the marketing team ultimately control this to really drive the most ideal player experience?”

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