When it comes to video games, is there such a thing as having too much fun? It’s a tricky question to answer, but one that Aaron Loeb, group GM of EA Mobile, was able to figure out thanks to insights gleaned from his company’s big data efforts.

/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/mobilegamer_397989.jpgLoeb was a session panelist on “Media Without Borders” here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. His big problem? Finding the fun in big data, or more specifically, trying to stem churn and tech glitches in The Simpsons: Tapped Out, a mobile game that’s turned into a runaway hit for EA. In The Simpsons: Tapped Out, gamers build their own town of Springfield as it was destroyed in a blast from the nearby nuclear power plant. As gamers rebuild Springfield, create jobs and complete other tasks around town they collect experience points.

Loeb said Tapped Out is constantly updated to keep gamers engaged. The average gamer plays it five times per day, 30 minutes per day.

“It has been constantly growing,” said Loeb. “It’s a highly engaging game, and we remain in contact with some gamers for over a year.”

In an effort to learn more about how gamers play EA games, Loeb uncovered three valuable lessons:

  1. Is there such a thing as too much fun?
  2. How to identify when players are bored.
  3. Players are not stats

“We’ve had to learn how to make games as services,” said Loeb. “So we looked at our most engaged users. What is happening with them? How do you know if someone is having fun?”

Loeb said you can definitely measure when people aren’t having fun anymore. For instance, Loeb and his team noticed a spike in the churn rate, traced back to, surprisingly enough, one of the most popular attributes of Tapped Out.

“Due to mobile we made it too hard for players to manage all characters in the game,” said Loeb. “So we introduced a simple feature, a box at the top to find all the characters available. People found the game easier to get into and churn reduced.”

Loeb also uncovered a “genetic marker” via big data from MMO games that indicates when gamers get bored. “If someone only plays on the weekend, that’s a bored player,” said Loeb who indicated the same predictive churn measure could be used against The Simpsons: Tapped Out. People who play six to seven days per week, on the other hand, will not leave the game. Loeb also uncovered a small game glitch by looking at the data due to an unexpected spike in churn, which they were able to fix.

“We are using data to understand customers to understand what works and doesn’t work for them,” said Loeb. “But sometimes you can chase it too far down the path. We once looked at every comment and took every complaint.”

In closing, Loeb left the audience with three valuable big data tips that applies to any business:

  1. Make it easier for your most engaged users
  2. Predictive measures of churns are enticing and misread
  3. Connect directly with the most engaged consumers

D’oh! Get your big data game on with SAP in Hall 6 at Mobile World Congress then share a Kwik-E-Mart doughnut with me on Twitter @TClark01.

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