Many decisions go into creating products or games that users enjoy, and a good analytics system is often behind them. In a nutshell, analytics itself is the process of collecting and interpreting data in order to make better decisions. For a mobile word game like Hexicon, we use analytics to learn about gameplay stats and user behaviors in our app, and then we use what we learn to add new features or redesign existing ones. Working with stats and analytics is also a lot of fun, especially when we can watch the growth of our game over time with real data!
Here are a few specific examples of data collected from Hexicon and the resulting changes we decided to make. All data and graphs come from Amplitude, an analytics tool we use along with React Native.
We keep a list of all invalid words that people try to play in Hexicon, including entertaining words such as “BEARSCREAMING” and “HANDTREES” to name a couple of our favorites! More importantly, this list helps us discover words that were incorrectly flagged as invalid. For instance, we saw that “MAGE,” “TOON,” “LEAR,” and “LIER” were each attempted to be played by at least 15 different players in the last month. These words all turned out to be Scrabble Official, so we added them to Hexicon’s dictionary. While this process starts off slowly, we hope that it will scale and become more efficient as Hexicon’s playerbase grows.
Most Popular Game Modes
In Hexicon’s early stages, we were primarily focused on designing for player vs. player matches, the game mode we expected to be most popular. We also had created Hexbot, a basic AI, just prior to launching Closed Alpha so that players could have something to do while waiting for opponents to play back. However, we were stunned to find that over 90% of all Hexicon games were being played against our AI! While 90% was much higher than we anticipated, this statistic does make sense in retrospect. An AI plays back instantly and is always available; human opponents generally don’t promote continuous gameplay.
After seeing these numbers, we added two easier bots and one super-hard bot to give players a better path of progression within our most popular game mode. We also monitor how frequently players win against each of these bots in order to balance for difficulty, but that’s a topic for another time.
We planned to eventually add more content for solo play after full release, but Hexbot’s success led us to re-prioritize and add a new Daily Solo Challenge mode during open beta. This mode uses the same Hexicon mechanics but challenges players to score the most points with only their own words. In the first week after releasing this feature, we found that 25% of active players were completing a solo challenge on a daily basis. The above graph shows a breakdown of all words played in the last month, sorted by game type. In the last month, this new mode accounted for about 20% of all words submitted in Hexicon, while Hexbot accounts for 66% of all words submitted. The remaining 14% accounts for words played against friends and random opponents.
Item Shop Discoverability
Players earn in-game currency called Hexicoins which can be used in our shop to purchase cute avatar icons, new colors for the app, and other cosmetic items. After the first month of our open beta, we noticed that only 33.6% of all active users had actually ever entered the shop. We had created many fun items to buy and use, but over 64% of our users didn’t even know they existed!
Of course, there was the possibility that those 64% realized there must be a shop and didn’t care. But the more likely (and since proven) reason is that these players simply did not know there was a shop or how to enter it. Armed with this knowledge, we redesigned the layout of the home screen and gave the shop a dedicated navigation tab to improve discoverability. Our efforts were rewarded with tangible results; in the following month, an average of 42% additional players were entering our shop each week.
In the above examples, we learned a lot even from basic percentages and were able to move Hexicon in a better direction. More complex studies also provide a lot of value, but simple analytics can make a huge difference. If you are working on a product or game, we highly recommend setting up analytics of some form. The process is not too complicated, and it’s definitely worthwhile. We’ll also write up an article walking through Hexicon’s setup with Amplitude in the coming weeks!