A better way to track events in your game

Widespread best practices for analytics don’t necessarily apply to gaming. Set your live games up for success with effective event tracking.

In order to make the most of your analytics and engagement tools, it’s essential to track the right events and collect the right data. 

Analyzing games requires a specific approach that ignores certain instincts and practices that work well in other media. This blog post provides the blueprint for setting up your tools to track events in a way that empowers your analysts and marketers in the pursuit of optimization.

Why caution leads to confusion

Without games-specific analytics experience, developers often borrow techniques and methodologies from web analytics. In that field, it’s a good practice to track every click and page view.

User flows

A game’s user interface (UI) creates a lot of headaches for developers. You want to ensure a clean, simple, and easy player experience. The natural instinct is to document how players are exploring the UI and moving through its various branches, but that creates a problematic dataset. 

In games, there are many different ways that players might perform similar actions or tasks. Tracking them all would record a million different paths to the same result but yield nothing in terms of meaningful insights. 

In games with building mechanics, for instance, it really doesn’t matter how many times a player cycled through the same sub-menu and hovered over each material. All you actually want to know is what they eventually built after all the hesitation.

Collecting and harvesting

It’s very common for developers to track certain individual actions when there is absolutely no need to do so. This is especially common (and especially problematic) in games that involve harvesting resources as a core gameplay element. 

At a glance, the logical way to track a player’s 126-coin harvesting spree is to send a data point for every coin earned. Tracking repetitive actions with this level of detail is completely unnecessary. Instead of weighing down your analysts with 126 individual events, you should wait until the harvesting is over and send one data point: “this player harvested ‘x’ coins over ‘y’ time.”

That approach doesn’t work for games. Tracking every action takes up a huge amount of storage, but, more importantly, it makes your data almost impossible to analyze. To demonstrate just how easy it is to create a catastrophically noisy dataset with millions of data points, let’s look at two examples of common analytics missteps.

The importance of aggregates 

The key to good games analytics is being brave enough to pinpoint the important information and leave the rest out. By their nature, all games involve a huge degree of repetition. As such, tracking aggregates rather than individual actions is a very effective way of reducing the size and noise of your datasets:

Instead of tracking all clicks inside the store, track the number of offers abandoned and transactions completed. Instead of tracking every gunshot in an FPS, track the total number of hits and misses per mission. Instead of tracking every tree chopped for wood, track the amount of wood harvested per session. The more you track, the harder it gets

Unfortunately, you can’t just track everything and work it out afterwards. A cautious, ‘catch-all’ approach to event-tracking will get in the way of meaningful analysis and

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