Analytics-based game optimization bears fruit

How Cherrypick Games leveraged deltaDNA for increased revenue and less churn.

My Spa Resort: A Unity case study

The ability to pull, analyze, and act upon game data in real-time is essential for studios producing free-to-play (F2P) games and games-as-a-service (GaaS). Warsaw-based Cherrypick Games uses deltaDNA to run campaigns, analyze engagement, and mod the game as necessary via remote configuration.

The challenge

To access real-time user data in order to better understand player behaviors, make smart business decisions, and ultimately improve their games

Platforms
Project staff

CEO, VP Games,
Data Director, LiveOps Manager

Company

Warsaw, Poland

20 employees

Engaging deltaDNA for better player engagement

Formed in 2014, Cherrypick Games found quick success with Touchdown Hero right out of the gate. The Cherrypick team has been prolific ever since, releasing and operating multiple titles per year. Their current flagship game is My Spa Resort, a hugely popular title that includes all aspects of running a successful spa, from sourcing ingredients for beauty products to pampering clients with massages, hair care, and other beauty treatments. After launching and operating several games using different customer relationship management (CRM) tools, Cherrypick grew frustrated with certain analytics and campaign limitations, which is why they chose to integrate deltaDNA for My Spa Resort.

The results

By deploying deltaDNA, Cherrypick achieved impressive benefits across the game lifecycle:

  • Early game optimization improved day 7 (D7) retention by 50%
  • Segmenting ad-point setups by country increased average revenue per daily active users (ARPDAU)
  • Late-game soft currency balancing improved in-app purchase (IAP) monetization among players level 20+

Focusing early on low-hanging fruit: New players

Cherrypick has used deltaDNA for different initiatives throughout the lifespan of My Spa Resort, from prelaunch problem-solving to ongoing optimization of the live product. According to Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, “Data from deltaDNA helped a lot during the early stage of the game’s soft launch when we faced a serious challenge with the tutorial and the level funnel optimization.” 

Using funnels in deltaDNA, Cherrypick discovered that a large proportion of early game churn was happening at specific pinch points within the tutorial. This crucial player data was the catalyst for several changes and iterations that resulted in the 50% uplift to D7 retention. Having pinpointed that the in-game harvesting mechanics were problematic, Cherrypick reworked some animations and made the farm fields (where players sow seeds and harvest plants for cosmetics) larger to smooth out the player experience. 

Experimenting with both the order and number of steps in the tutorial process also allowed their analysts to precisely evaluate different configurations and uncover what players found most engaging in the tutorial. The first-time user experience (FTUE) always carries the biggest churn risk for any game, so onboarding players smoothly and effectively is critical.

Updating in real-time without disrupting gameplay

Once they launched the game and it became a hit, the studio’s focus shifted to maintaining high levels of player engagement. “Since the global launch we have relied on Unity’s deltaDNA for important real-time player data and its Remote Config tool to make immediate adjustments where necessary, keeping us on track,” says Kwaśnica.

While the studio typically releases build updates for My Spa Resort just once or twice a year, they apply all other changes and tweaks via remote configuration, which doesn’t disrupt players or gameplay. This is extremely important for a team that is constantly optimizing the player experience as well as one that likes to launch and assess creative in-game experiments. 

As a concrete example of the value of deltaDNA’s real-time analytics and remote configuration capabilities, one day Cherrypick noticed a strange imbalance in their in-game economy. High-level players were beginning to exploit rewards from a VIP mechanic and, overloaded, they flooded the in-game market with excess assets that early-game players should not have been exposed to. With the Remote Config tool, Cherrypick seamlessly adjusted the necessary parameters for advanced players without disrupting any users.

Smoother campaigns, better engagement

Cherrypick’s greatest frustration with their previous CRM system hinged on running engagement campaigns – there simply was not enough design flexibility. Switching to deltaDNA allowed them to easily create, manage, test, edit, and localize messaging campaigns to support their monetization and engagement strategies.

For example, rewarded ads provide a big engagement boost and revenue driver in My Spa Resort. Using deltaDNA, Cherrypick defined 11 “ad points” in the game – locations where rewarded ads could potentially be surfaced. Each ad point in turn has an associated action/decision-point campaign, facilitating easy variation of ad frequency, rewards and daily limits for different player segments. One campaign uses a player’s locations and IAP history to define whether or not an individual should see a rewarded ad at that particular juncture. This makes it possible to strategically blend ads with IAPs both easily and intelligently.

Achieving more balanced in-game economies

Using deep data and sophisticated engagement to fine-tune games is the key to long-term, sustainable success. Informed micro-changes made with deltaDNA can all add up to considerable uplift across the board, as with economy-balancing in My Spa Resort.

The studio runs balancing experiments where in-game parameters are adjusted to assess the impact on soft currency IAPs. Rafał Łabędzki, Data Director, shares their approach: “Our latest rebalance action aimed to improve the gain/drain of soft currency. We measure daily gain and drain from each source and from paid sources separately. Taking retention and other factors into account, we test and analyze our metrics to find the best balance for players.”

Uncovering hidden value with ad points

When the studio analyzed the ad points in My Spa Resort they uncovered some surprising results. There were substantial differences regarding how players in different countries responded to various rewarded ad types in the game. This engagement data tells us which ad points are most popular, with whom, and for what specific purpose. Take Taiwan, for example. Very few Taiwanese players engage with the ad point within the Beautique, but they are the second most likely demographic to watch an ad in exchange for diamonds within the shop. 

By analyzing engagement at a more granular level, Cherrypick uncovered valuable information that helped them improve targeting and optimize messaging, as Łabędzki explains.

“We can use this knowledge to deliver better experiences for our players and improve monetization at the same time. For instance, we learned that players in Indonesia and the Philippines use advertisements to remove obstacles from their map, which means that they like to build and decorate. With this knowledge we can encourage them to develop their spas even more by increasing limits for this ad point (more ad impressions) and to buy special decoration bundles for hard currency (which can also be obtained by watching ads) or for IAP.”

The importance of analytics-based game-tuning

The most successful games are not defined by perfection at launch, but by their studios’ ongoing dedication to optimizing player experience. Kwaśnica advises other game-makers to “not measure and control every little piece of the game from the very beginning. Allow for organic development of your events and campaigns. And be ready to measure and understand the impact of any actions you take.”

Through their laser focus on game improvement, Cherrypick keeps My Spa Resort in a state of perpetual and frictionless updates. This has resulted in uplifts across multiple key performance indicators (KPIs), affecting everyone from new players to late-game experts. Operating on a truly agile, player-first philosophy, My Spa Resort is a thing of beauty where, appropriately, Cherrypick pampers its new and returning clientele.

Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, Cherrypick Games

“You can’t expect everything to be perfect at launch, or even months after. Using Unity’s deltaDNA allows us to better understand our players and keep improving our games to set up for long-term success.”

Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, Cherrypick Games
Rafał Łabędzki, Data Director, Cherrypick Games

“The deeper you go, the more valuable insights you find. Thanks to Unity’s deltaDNA, we can make minor adjustments that have a big impact on our KPIs and overall player happiness.”

Rafał Łabędzki, Data Director, Cherrypick Games
Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, Cherrypick Games

“Data from deltaDNA helped a lot during the early stage of the game’s soft launch when we faced a serious challenge with the tutorial and the level funnel optimization.”

Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, Cherrypick Games
Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, Cherrypick Games

“Since the global launch we have relied on Unity’s deltaDNA for important real-time player data and its Remote Config tool to make immediate adjustments where necessary, keeping us on track.”

Martin Kwaśnica, CEO, Cherrypick Games

Ready to learn more?

With cross-platform and rich data capability, Unity’s deltaDNA enables publishers and developers to better understand different player behaviors and create personalized experiences by targeting individual players in real-time. Anyone can get a fully featured free trial of deltaDNA for 30 days.

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