Unity’s Operate Dashboard: How to measure, monitor and optimize your free-to-play game for success
As a game developer, your ultimate goal is to create an innovative, engaging, and fun experience for your players. This process requires not only a great deal of creativity and passion but also a lot of sweat and tears, not to mention all those long working days. After all that time and energy, how do you determine if the game is a success?
In this blog, we’re going to highlight the metrics you’re going to want to regularly keep track of, and how you can use those statistics to create a better experience for your players, and a healthier business for yourself. All of this is accessible via Unity’s free, fully-integrated Operate Dashboard, giving you all the tools you need to monitor and tweak your game for long-term success.
The 3 Rs of live operations
In order to achieve success with a free-to-play game, it’s important to keep track of statistics from three categories: reach, revenue, and retention. These are known as the three “R’s” of liveops: The high-level categories of key performance indicators that you’ll need to monitor on a regular basis.
- Reach refers to the number of new players coming in and their behavior on the first session, as well as how your player base scales over time.
- Revenue is the behavior of players who watch ads or purchase one or more of your in-app purchase offerings.
- Retention denotes how well your game is keeping players engaged and coming back to play over time.
Together, these three KPI categories make up the formula you need for long-term success. Acquire a player base, retain them in your game, and offer a fun experience that can monetize well.
The mission control center for your studio
Using the Operate Dashboard is a great way to keep track of the 3 Rs.
The dashboard is organized into different categories. The area you would navigate to depends on the stage your game is in and your role within the organization you fit into. For your game’s liveops management, you’ll want to navigate to the Operate tab.
Make sure your project is connected to your Unity ID; that way it will automatically show up in the list of projects for your studio on the Operate Dashboard homepage and Project List. If you need help linking the project to your ID, you can reference our manual.
The Operate Dashboard has two levels. First, you can view reporting and other options for all your studio’s games at once, and then you can select a particular project and open additional reporting options and monetization tools for that specific project.
Reach: Understand your player base
You can use the Operate Dashboard to explore how many new players download your game daily and monthly, their geographic location, operating system, and you can slice and dice the data further to determine whether you’re meeting your reach KPIs. It helps you answer the essential questions: Are players finding your game, and continue playing it once they do?
If you built your game with Unity, don’t forget to enable Unity Analytics in the Service Panel in the editor. Doing so will allow you to see how many players you’ve acquired on the Dashboard page, across all your games you’ve published.
The Reach KPIs that are important to pay close attention to are New Users and the Daily Active Users (DAU). These numbers are key to determining how popular game your game is currently and predicting its future growth.
Powerful insight in the details
Knowing exactly where your users are coming from gives you great power. Android vs iOS players might behave differently. A player from the United States might have different behavior than a player from Italy, and so on. Detailed player information offers some context behind the data you see for the player’s monetization and retention habits. For example, players from North America will tend to spend on certain decorative items, while players for Asia prefer a loot box type item.
DAU is the number of unique players who start one session in a day, and Monthly Active Users (MAU) is the number of players who log in monthly. Keeping tracking of the ratio between DAU and MAU is a good way to get a sense of how engaged your users are. Operate allows you to dig into how your players engage on a daily basis showing you how many times they play a given game each day.
You can slice your in-game events even further by different platforms and countries in the data explorer for that project. The more events you create during development, the more ways you can analyze behavior once you launch.
Revenue: Managing your game’s economy
While KPIs for growth are tracked similarly across different types of games, the monetization strategies often vary across different genres. The most successful free-to-play games, however, include a mix of in-app purchases and ads. This allows you to offer your experience for free to all users, while still giving them the option to purchase items if they want to, or to watch ads in exchange for free rewards. It’s a win/win for everyone. The most important metrics for tracking revenue are ARPDAU and ad impressions — let’s take a look.
ARPDAU: Average Daily Revenue Per User
ARPDAU indicates how much you are making per each player that uses your game. The Operate Dashboard shows you how that breaks down across all your projects on the studio level so you can see which projects were monetizing best during the date range you selected. Next, you’re going to want to see how your ARPDAU is split between ads and IAP; a healthy game will have a relatively equal mix of both revenue sources.
Ad impressions refers to how many video ads are shown to your users in a day. On top of that, you’re going to want to see how many Impressions the average user sees in a day. This metric is called Impressions/DAU. The more impressions shown to your users via rewarded video, the more free game-currency they receive, and the more revenue you earn on a daily basis.
You can access Impressions/DAU via the Ad Revenue report on the Operate Dashboard for an individual project. There, you can also see how your Impressions/DAU stack up against similar games to see how you are doing relative to other game developers.
Creating engaging rewarded ad placements is key to your success with mobile advertising. Players are happy to engage with these ads if the right in-game rewards are offered. Done correctly, rewarded video placements improve game economies and even increase long-term in-app purchases as a result. You can create more rewarded placements under the Placement page on the project level of Operate.
Retention: Do your players return to your game?
Last, but certainly not least, is retention. Retention is the category that, ultimately, reflects how your game resonates with new players and showcases when and how frequently your players return to your game after downloading it from the app stores. The important KPIs for retention to track are Day 1 retention, Day 7 retention, and sessions per day, all showcased on your Operate Dashboard.
Day 1 and Day 7 retention refer to the number of users who installed on the first day that return 1 or 7 days later. Day 1 retention is a good indicator of whether or not your tutorial or onboarding experience is effectively educating users on how to perform the first actions in your game.
Day 7 retention is a good indicator of whether the game has enough initial content, or if the aspirational aspect and the end goal of the game is exciting enough to motivate players to continue investing the time. Day 7 is often a very good predictor of overall game health, so measure and monitor this KPI as much as you can.
Significantly reduce your efforts with the Operate Dashboard
The journey of a free-to-play game doesn’t end when a game launches. A successful game requires that you embark on a continuous journey towards improving the player experience, keeping them engaged, and ultimately growing your game into a sustainable business.
Not only is Unity a powerful game engine, it is also a platform that gives you the tools you need to monitor player behavior, tweak your game and optimize player retention to meet your monetization goals. With Unity’s Operate Dashboard, we partner with you to give you the insights and tools to significantly reduce the effort of live game operations.
To get started, head to the Operate Dashboard now.