Table of Contents
- Knowing which KPIs are important
- The most important mobile game KPIs to track
- Getting the most from core mobile game KPIs
Managing modern mobile games involves measuring and tracking dozens of metrics. Each value lets you know how well your game is doing in a specific area, such as user experience, infrastructure, and monetization, to name but a few. But not all KPIs are created equally. Some metrics are more valuable than others in terms of helping you make informed business and technical decisions about your game.
That’s what we’ll take a look at in this article. This post takes a deep dive into the most critical KPIs to keep an eye on for each of the five major areas of mobile game monitoring. We’ll also go over a few key ideas and best practices to help you leverage these metrics as a mobile game developer.
As you’ll see later in this article, a key component in collecting and analyzing mobile game KPIs is having a robust monitoring system. This is where MetricFire comes in handy.
MetricFire takes the pain out of monitoring KPIs in every aspect of your mobile game. MetricFire is often used for application metrics, infrastructure and systems monitoring, as well as business metrics. MetricFire is a complete monitoring platform built on top of hosted versions of popular observability tools including Prometheus, Graphite, and Grafana.
Knowing which KPIs are important
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that let you measure how well a product or activity (in this case, your mobile game) performs in a set of defined objectives. In terms of monitoring mobile games, the right set of KPIs help you spot trends in user behavior, gauge the quality of the user experience, determine the health of your infrastructure, and evaluate the app’s earning potential.
But that all depends on being able to, first and foremost, choose the right set of metrics to track and measure. As a developer, you’re well aware of the massive amounts of data points your game can collect, not only throughout the player journey but also across the different components of your app and stack. However, only a handful of these metrics actually matter to effectively monitor and manage mobile games.
So which mobile game KPIs should you keep track of? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but “important” KPIs tend to share some common characteristics. In addition, there are factors related to the mobile game system itself that will affect which KPIs to choose and which ones to avoid.
What makes a KPI “important”?
According to KPI.org, a metric qualifies as a good KPI if it:
- Lets you objectively evaluate progress toward meeting a target result
- Measures a specific outcome or factor that affects decision-making
- Gauges the degree of performance change over time
- Tracks efficiency, effectiveness, quality, timeliness, behaviours, economics, or a resource usage
- Either shows past performance (lagging indicator) or helps predict future success (leading indicator)
Let’s use a very simple example to see how these qualities help pinpoint important mobile game KPIs. Say you’re looking to increase your app’s user retention rate by 25% at the end of this quarter. A hypothetical set of metrics to track might include:
- Historical values of retention rate serve as lagging indicators to measure past performance over time.
- User experience metrics (like load times, user error rates, and crashes) and infrastructure metrics (such as latency and uptime) can serve as leading indicators that correlate with retention rate.
With these data points, you now have a baseline (historical values) for setting and analyzing objectives. You can then specify a desired level of performance for each of the leading indicators (UX and infrastructure metrics). These targets, in turn, help evaluate and predict your success at meeting the desired increase in user retention rates.
What other factors affect which KPIs to choose?
In our example below, we hand-picked the metrics that work well together as good KPIs for managing user retention rates. In reality, the choice of metrics won’t be as clear-cut. Specific KPIs depend on many different factors, such as:
- Audience and type of mobile game: Your game’s player base, genre/category, and monetization model will determine which engagement and user experience metrics to prioritize.
- Stage of growth: The KPIs to track for an early-stage mobile game will be very different from a more mature app’s critical metrics.
- The complexity of your stack and environments: As the game’s infrastructure and deployment setup grow more complex, the choice of KPIs will need to evolve along with it in order to keep up.
- The metric’s actual impact: The usefulness or benefit of tracking a metric can change throughout your app’s life cycle, so you need to constantly evaluate which KPIs provide value to your decision-making process.
- Available resources: The choice of KPIs also boils down to what you can afford to track with the amount of time, effort, and money you or your company sets aside for metrics.
Now that you know what makes up an “important” KPI and what you need to take into account when choosing one, we’ll go over some of the most widely-used metrics for monitoring different areas of a modern mobile game.
The most important mobile game KPIs to track
In the previous section, we saw that “important” is a relative term to describe KPIs. That’s because a metric can be mission-critical in one context, while it can be non-essential in another.
There are, however, specific metrics that are almost always present in a modern mobile game’s monitoring dashboards. These core KPIs form the standard set of metrics that measure performance in five critical areas:
- Overall Growth
- User Experience
Let’s go over each of these items in more detail.
Overall Growth KPIs give you a glimpse of the app’s overall performance such as the size of the game’s player base, user growth, popularity, and potential opportunities.
- Downloads: The number of times users download the app into their devices
- Installs: The number of times users install the downloaded app
- Sign-ups/Registrations: How many users complete the sign-up or registration process
- Upgrades: How many users transition into a premium or paid version of the game
- User growth rate: How much the size of your user base has increased/decreased in a given time
Overall Growth metrics like downloads, installs, and sign-ups also serve as starting points for analyzing KPIs in other areas. They’re good indicators of user activity at each stage of your user acquisition funnel (from download, to installation, and conversion).
Engagement metrics let you objectively gauge user behavior and level of activity. If Overall Growth KPIs tell you how well your game attracts and grows your user base, engagement KPIs measure how successful your app is at keeping existing users active.
- Daily active users (DAU) and monthly active users (MAU): The number of unique users who open the app at least once in the past 24 hours (DAU) and at least once during the past 30 days (MAU)
- Stickiness: The ratio of DAU to MAU; tells you how many monthly users are daily users
- Retention rate: The percentage of users who come back to open the app after a given time period (typically 1 day, 3 days, 5 days, 7 days, and 30 days)
- Churn rate: The percentage of users who have stopped playing after a given time period (usually a month)
- Sessions: The number of times users open the app (includes both unique and non-unique users)
Engagement KPIs work best when used together. For example, expressing sessions relative to DAU gives a more accurate measure of engagement than what you’d get by simply looking at the value of sessions alone. Sessions per DAU tells you how many times, on average, a unique user plays the game each day–which is something that you’d want to maximize in a free-to-play (F2P) mobile game.
This group of KPIs sheds light on the quality of game experience your app provides. That makes these metrics among the most critical data points you need to track.
- Load times: The time players need to wait before they can use the app when opening it or when moving from one screen to another
- Crashes: The number of times the app freezes, hangs, or unexpectedly exits
- User error rate: The percentage of user actions that are either slips or mistakes; indicates usability of the game UI
- Devices and OS: Breakdown of devices and operating systems where the app runs
- In-game metrics: Game-specific metrics that measure playability; includes in-game resources (sources, sinks, and flow) and progression metrics (starts, fails, and completes)
Because UX metrics offer direct insight into how users enjoy your game, they’re often used as leading indicators to predict or determine other KPIs like engagement and monetization.
Infrastructure KPIs measure the health and reliability of the system that powers your mobile app. This is also a very critical category of metrics since it directly impacts user experience and, in turn, drives how other KPIs behave.
- Throughput: The number of requests your server receives per second
- Latency: The total round-trip time between the mobile app and the server
- Uptime: Measures the availability of your server or other services in your infrastructure
- Hardware utilization: Includes CPU usage, memory usage, and disk usage
- Infrastructure cost: Cost of running the mobile game infrastructure
As we’ve seen in the previous section, the complexity of your infrastructure affects which specific KPIs to choose. The metrics we mentioned above are part of the standard infrastructure KPIs for monitoring mobile games, so they’re ideal starting data points you can extend according to your needs.
Monetization KPIs help you evaluate how well your mobile game is able to meet your revenue and profitability targets. Among the most important monetization metrics are:
- Average revenue per user (ARPU): How much revenue your app earns, on average, from each user
- Lifetime value (LTV): The total amount of revenue an active user generates with your app
- Average transaction value (ATV): How much your app earns, on average, per transaction
- Time to purchase (TTP): How long it takes for a user to make a purchase
- Cost per install (CPI): How much you’re spending to generate an install
Some of the monetization metrics we’ve mentioned above only apply to F2P mobile games. F2P apps incur ongoing marketing expenses, so you typically need to keep track of CPI, TTP, and ATV along with the other KPIs if you’re managing a F2P title.
With a full list of standard mobile game KPIs under our belts, we’re now ready to learn a few best practices to make sure we get the most out of these metrics.
Getting the most from core mobile game KPIs
Mobile game KPIs work best when they’re used in the right context and when they help answer specific questions about your app’s performance. In addition, KPIs provide the most value when they’re clear, understandable, and well-documented. Lastly, the best way to turn KPIs into actionable insights for making decisions is with the help of a robust monitoring platform.
Define the context where a KPI applies
Context is everything when it comes to choosing and using KPIs. Context determines whether or not a metric is relevant. Use the following guidelines to help you pinpoint the specific context where a KPI applies:
- Specify which current high-level goal a KPI relates to: A KPI always needs to be tied to a higher-level goal. Regardless of whether it’s a strategic objective or an operational target, the reason why KPIs exist is to tell you if you’re on track or not. For example, targeting a 30% increase in app downloads can be tied to a higher-level goal like increased market share.
- Describe the KPI’s intended audience: Who will be using the KPI? Will it be specific people in the development team? Do other teams need to track the metric, too?
- Indicate which key performance questions (KPQs) the KPI helps answer: Making sure that a KPI answers at least one key performance question about your app will help you determine whether or not a metric will be useful in that context. Keep in mind that a single KPI can help answer multiple KPQs, and a single KPQ can be answered by more than one KPI.
- Explain how the KPI will and will not be used: It’s important to list specific ways the KPI will be used, as well as describe the limits of its uses.
Document crucial details for each KPI
Useful KPIs are clearly defined and easy to understand. That’s why, whether you work with others or are just a one-person development shop, you need to document critical details of every KPI you use. According to Bernard Marr, these crucial KPI details include:
- The name or title of the KPI
- How data and values for the KPI will be collected
- How the metric is measured or calculated
- Benchmark and performance thresholds
- Data source
- When and how often the data will be collected
- Method and frequency of reporting
- Person in charge
- Data expiry and validity period
- Cost of collecting and tracking
- Completeness and limitation of the data
Use the right KPI monitoring platform
A reliable monitoring system helps you maximize the value of every mobile game KPI you’re tracking. But with so many different solutions available out there, how can you find the right tool for the job?
Each monitoring platform or service has its strengths and weaknesses. But there’s a set of features common to most top-ranking tools for monitoring mobile games:
- Separate from your mobile stack: A good monitoring tool must be independent or separate from the system being monitored. This helps minimize the observer effect and ensures reliability in the event your stack encounters failures and outages.
- Ease of setup and use: How quickly can you get up and running? How much setup and config is required? How steep is the learning curve?
- Streamlined reporting and analytics: The monitoring platform should let you track the exact metrics and KPIs you need, at varying levels of granularity (high-level summaries, detailed reports, interactive dashboards, etc.).
- Monitor across your mobile stack: A good mobile game monitoring tool provides end-to-end visibility of your entire stack, from infrastructure all the way to client-side performance.
- Correlate metrics from different sources and components: The monitoring system should let you easily combine and display data points from different sources.
- Scalability and extensibility: Does the monitoring platform easily scale with your needs? Can you add new metrics and customize dashboards right away?
- Alert and notification capabilities: This is one of the most critical features of a monitoring system. The tool should allow you to customize alerts and choose the notification setup of your choice.
As an example, MetricFire supports all the critical features you need to reliably monitor mobile game KPIs:
- Time-series metrics monitoring and alerting with Hosted Prometheus and Hosted Graphite
- Customizable charts and data visualization with Hosted Grafana Dashboards
- End-to-end monitoring throughout your stack, including both backend and front-end performance metrics
- Scalable cloud and on-premise options to match your deployment needs
- Delivers value from day one with a fully-managed solution
The best way to experience these features first-hand is to sign up for a free trial or schedule a demo today.
In this article, we learned about what makes a KPI important, talked about which KPIs are typically monitored in mobile games, and discussed a few best practices to help you get the most from those KPIs.
Now that you’ve gained a deeper understanding of the important mobile game metrics to track, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action. Sign up for a free trial and start tracking your game’s KPIs right away, and book a demo to explore MetricFire’s suite of monitoring tools.