GDC 2015: User Acquisition, Analytics, and a Whole Lot of Bacon

Published March 11, 2015 by James Winter

As my first experience at GDC comes to an end, I’ve got to say it was quite the event. My only prior experience with gaming events came from attending E3 a couple years ago and I really had no idea what to expect, especially since E3 is such a circus of loud music, explosions, and lasers.

I worried I wouldn’t be able to find enough sessions for the trip to be worth it as my decision to attend was fairly last minute. Luckily, I was wrong.

While gaming does not have a huge amount of crossover with A2P SMS today, we have seen some interest from big companies like Wargaming who are using Nexmo to help authenticate their users. I wanted to talk with game developers to understand how they think SMS could help solve some of their challenges such as user authentication and discovery.GDC1

SMS and the problem of game discovery…and bacon

While SMS two-factor-authentication (2FA) and gaming have the potential to be a great fit, the utility doesn’t stop there. Most talks I attended this year were focused around the social aspects of gaming and user acquisition. As a newbie to the gaming industry, it seems the single most pressing challenge many game developers and publishers face is discovery, due to the sheer volume of games out there.


the number of iOS games launched per day


the number of Google Play games launched per day

Chartboost’s Head of International, Pepe Agell, gave a great talk on the 5 Best Practices for Cost-Efficient User Acquisition, which shed some light on the staggering amount of games that are launched daily on iOS and Google Play. With crazy numbers like that, it’s no wonder GDC had so many tracks dedicated to marketing and business. According to some of the other user acquisition talks I attended, a dedicated user acquisition specialist is one of the first key hires for any budding game development company.

One of the theories I have, which I’m still working on validating, is that users, who are invited by people they know, are worth more on average than randomly acquired users from ad networks or other channels. I believe that there is additional stickiness provided for users when they have “real-life” friends who are playing games with them. I know it was true for me. I had no interest in Words with Friends until a friend of mine kept challenging me while we were sitting through our Market Research class in college (sorry Professor Campbell).

The Coolest Session

The best session I attended this year was put on by Dmitri Williams, the CEO of Ninja Metrics, a game analytics company. His talk focused on the idea that some users are worth more than just their spend amount. He based this on mathematical and statistical modeling his company performed, which shows certain users have increased social value inside of games. He measures social value as being the effect a certain player has on other players spend within the same game.

If you’re in the game space and there is any sort of social interaction in your game, I’d highly encourage you take a look at what they have to offer.



The Best Booth Marketing

Gotta give a shout-out to Chartboost, who had a pretty cool booth giveaway going on. They had a theme going with bacon and really stuck to it. They had “bacon bucks,” which were fake dollars you could use to receive a variety of bacon-flavored snacks at the vinyl-wrapped food trucks they had out front.

Overall, it was an incredible learning experience and I learned how user acquisition and A2P can be a huge boon to game developers. It was a great show and I can’t wait to see what happens there next year.


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