The ghosts of development past — Free to Play Tips for 2013

As we look back and evaluate 2012 it’s a good time to think about upcoming development for the New Year and what things need to be slipped into the planning process for 2013.

In the F2P space, most developers are looking ahead to their new projects and next titles. Planning ahead is smart, especially since most F2P titles are live services, with a need for new content and updates. It’s important to not only keep the content updated, but the code as well.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list (and your development cycles will vary), here are a few top tasks that we, at 5th Planet Games, recommend you work into your development schedule earlier rather than later to save a few headaches down the road (a bit thank you to our friends at Tapjoy for helping us get the word out there!):

Update your third-party SDK’s:

Most developers spend a lot of time vetting the best providers of third-party services. Then, they integrate the SDK and, as long as it works, they don’t give it more thought. While it’s great to have a reliable partner, most vendors spend a lot of time updating and upgrading the services they provide you. If you haven’t looked at their product in a few months, there could be some important updates available or new features you could take advantage of.

Review your metrics data:

Ok, honestly now, when was the last time you took a good look at the data you had coming in from your game (and not just the DAU and revenue)? Set aside some time to do a deep dive into your reporting and make sure there aren’t any hidden issues you’re missing: higher user drop off, lacking sales numbers, poor re-engagement, etc. If things are moving along without any red flags, it’s a great time for these deeper looks as you might be missing the bigger picture about the health of your game. It’s possible that your current data norm is much lower than it was a few months ago, for a fixable reason.

Update your advertising usage:

Advertising providers, such as Tapjoy, are constantly coming up with new ad channels to present marketing actions to users. It’s a good idea to sit down with your account manager and see if there are some new channels to use or exciting ones that you could be taking better advantage of. You could be missing out on a significant revenue channel that a simple update could turn on for your app.

Update your metrics tracking hooks:

It’s a best practice in new development to choose a strong metrics provider and implement an event tracking system. This helps you to understand what actions your users are taking in the game. However, as new features and items are added to the game, they might not be added to the event tracking system. It’s a good idea to go through and make sure the events you’re tracking are still current.

Know what you are tracking:

Another part of keeping up with the metrics in your game is knowing why you’re tracking all those events in the first place. Sometimes, naming conventions can change, or team members move on to other projects, and the active team is tracking a number of events but is not sure what these events are. This causes a lot of noise in your reporting and can lead to the data being read incorrectly, or worse, just ignored. If you don’t know what a particular event is, find the person who put it in or have someone identify its action in the code.

Change out your game images:

How many times have your users seen the same old app icon and loading screen? Add some new art to spice up the game and get your users excited about playing again. High value images are the app icon, loading screens and store images.

Update your user messaging:

How many times have you told your users “Your sunflowers miss you! Come back and make their day sunny again?” If you’re tired of seeing it, most likely your users are too. Come up with some new calls to action to bring your users back to the game again.

Sign up for E3:

As a game developer, you are eligible to attend E3, and if you sign up early it’s free to attend. Everything doesn’t need to be about work!

posted by Rob Carroll, Chief Mobile Officer, 5th Planet Games. Rob is a paid advisor to Tapjoy.

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