Didn’t attend this year’s Game Developers Conference? AE’s Captain of Customer Success and resident gaming expert, Grant, has got you covered! In this post, Grant shares a recap of his favorite Game Developers Conference Summer 2020 panels.

After it’s initial cancellation earlier this year due to COVID-19 concerns, the 2020 Game Developers Conference (GDC) was moved entirely online. And while the digital space presented some networking challenges, it gave me the opportunity to attend more panels than I would have been able to otherwise.

I took in a ton of information and gained insights from the experts hosting panels at GDC this year — far more than I could fit in one blog post! So, from privacy legislation to player segmentation analysis, here’s a recap of my favorite panels from GDC Summer 2020.


California’s New Privacy Law: Five Steps for Updating Your Privacy Practices


Speaker: Will Bucher, Associate, Debevoise & Plimpton

Following in the footsteps of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) came into effect on January 1, 2020. In his GDC panel, Will Bucher, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property law, provided 5 practical steps that GDPR compliant companies can follow to expand their privacy practices in order to conform with CCPA regulations.

There are a few criteria your company needs to meet for the CCPA to be applicable to you. Criteria is listed on the California Attorney General’s website, but, as Bucher pointed out in this panel, unless you’re a small indie developer, your company likely falls under CCPA regulations.


Will Bucher laid out the criteria for whether or not the CCPA applies to your company. (Courtesy of Will Bucher and GDC Summer 2020)


To summarize Bucher’s 5 steps for CCPA compliance:

  1. If you differentiate data practices by region, bring Californians under the same umbrella as your European customers.
  2. Create a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link that allows your customers to easily opt-out of the sale of their data.
  3. Set-up a toll-free number that customers can call to opt-out of of the sale of their data.
  4. Update your privacy policy.
  5. Review and update your privacy policy every 12 months.
Why not apply GDPR and CCPA practices to all customers? Have a listen to why Annabel, CMO and Co-Founder at AE, believes that trust is the next big data opportunity!
The Takeaway: There’s a good chance that the California Consumer Privacy Act applies to your game company! You need to be thinking about how to comply with the regulations, and the 5 simple steps given in this presentation will get you started in the right direction.


Funding 20/20: A Vision for Game Investing (Presented by Xsolla)


In this round-table panel, Justin Berenbaum, General Manager of Xsolla Funding Club at Xsolla, led a discussion about what has changed and what has remained the same in  the world of game publishing and investment in 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional in-person events that bring together publishers and developers (like GDC!) have moved to the online space with no change in attendance volume. The lack of in-person networking has led to a few issues, but one benefit is that digital events have given publishers the ability to connect with developers that they may have previously been unable to due to geographical limitations.

What are publishers looking for when developers are pitching their game? The resounding consensus from the panel participants was that developers that demonstrate care, devotion and investment in their game are the ones that catch their eye. The panel also advised developers to look for publishers that align with their vision and values — Look at the relationship with a publisher as a long-term partnership and don’t compromise on what you want your game to be.

The Takeaway: While some aspects of game investment have changed due to limited in-person contact, the fundamentals remain the same: clearly communicate the vision of your game, show dedication and passion for your craft and you’ll catch the attention of a publisher that suits you and your game.

Developing AI to Motivate Game Players: The Case of MARVEL Future Fight (Presented by TENTUPLAY)

Speaker: Hyeyon Kwon, COO and Co-Founder, TENTUPLAY

All gamers have different personas; their motivations, preferences and playing styles are varied. In her panel, Hyeyon Kwon, COO and co-founder of TENTUPLAY used examples of AI-identified player personas from MARVEL Future Fight to show that if you can differentiate players, you can tailor the experience to them and deliver what they need. This leads to increased in-app purchases and retention rate.

TENTUPLAY determined what players expect from a game using information from psychological game theories and communities like Reddit, and then created player personas that aligned with the different expectations (“expected utility”). They developed an AI that compares the gap between expected utility and what the players are actually experiencing in the game with player drop-off rates. TENTUPLAY’s AI segments the players into the different player personas based on this information.


TENTUPLAY uses AI to segment players into different personas.

TENTUPLAY uses AI to segment players into different persona groups. (Courtesy of GDC Summer 2020 and TENTUPLAY)

Kwon’s team identified 8 different player persona present in MARVEL Future Fight. Two of these personas were used as examples: “Collectors” and “Smart and Busy”.

“Collectors” are players that like collecting and playing as various heroes. “Collectors” were found to leave the game because they were required to progress and level-up continuously to obtain new heroes. TENTUPLAY found that by offering useful items in-game to help “Collectors” to level up, retention rates increased.

“Smart and busy” players are players who balance resources, spend them efficiently and spend less time in the game. They leave the game because they run out of in-game currency. By making it easier for these players to earn in-game currency by using personalized in-game messaging to recommend currency-gaining content, retention rates and in-app purchases increased.

You know what your players are doing in-game, but who are they outside of your game? Get to know your players better with AE’s insights about their online social interactions.

Developing AI to Motivate Game Players: The Case of MARVEL Future Fight is available to watch on YouTube.

The Takeaway: You can use in-game data and AI to break down your players into key segments. By implementing specific retention strategies in each group, you’ll increase your retention rates.


Productizing Privacy Compliance: Best Practices & Philosophies Compliance in Mobile Games (Presented by AdColony)


This panel, hosted by Jonathan Harrop and featuring Alan Chapell, is focused on privacy compliance in the mobile gaming space. Chapell stressed the importance of good data governance: really understanding what data you’re collecting and how you’re using it. You want to be able to accurately represent what’s going on inside your app in your privacy policy.

Consumers have the right to know how their data is being used. Take a look at AE’s guide to writing a privacy policy here!

Chapell also talked about privacy by design. This means thinking about privacy implications from the very beginning – start thinking about privacy before you need to! Chapell advised that best practice is to think of privacy as an organization-wide, holistic directive.

If you haven’t started with a privacy mindset, how do you adopt one? Chapell outlined 3 easy steps:

  1. Understand what data you’re collecting.
  2. Understand what information you’re receiving from partners, service providers, etc.
  3. Know what kind of data your partners are collecting from your app.


Alan Chapell provides three steps for adopting a privacy mindset and good data governance. (Courtesy of GDC Summer 2020 and AdColony)

The Takeaway: Good data governance is important! Understand your data flows, and be aware of what the rules and regulations are. Start thinking about privacy from the very beginning of development.


Let the Data Speak: Using Analytics to Guide Every Stage of Your Game (Presented by Sisu)


This panel on data-driven game development hosted by Peter Bailis, Founder and CEO of Sisu and featuring Stephan Sherman, Co-Founder and CTO/CPO of Bazooka Tango, centered on the fusion of the art of game development with the science of data and analytics.


Peter Bailis and Stephan Sherman discuss the importance of using data to guide your game development. (Courtesy of GDC Summer 2020 and Sisu)

Peter Bailis and Stephan Sherman discuss the importance of using data to guide your game development. (Courtesy of GDC Summer 2020 and Sisu)


Sherman put forth that you should be using data from the very beginning of game development. You want to use focus groups to understand what is needed/wanted in the market and be open to pivoting if there’s no desire for your original idea. Data from marketing (focus sessions, idea generation, surveys, etc.), paid QA testers and actual players should be used to guide you during your game’s development stage.

The importance of retention metrics in mobile gaming was also discussed in this panel. Sherman stressed that a key learning here is to drive value right away. Think of the sunk cost fallacy: if your players feel that they’ve gotten value within the first week, they will return. The panel discussion also made the case for measuring emotional data points (e.g. player triumph vs. challenge vs. frustration). By doing so, you can cater the experience to different play-styles in order to increase retention.

Finally, the panel discussion touched on the importance of cross-promotion/influencer strategies to build word of mouth marketing. Partnering with the right high-profile players (i.e. esports pros) gets your game on a larger platform. Gamers want to play the same games as their favorite influencers, and in some cases want to become better in order to compete as well.

At AE, we love a good collaboration. Check out our article about brand partnerships with influencers to learn more.
The Takeaway: For successful game studios, data has to be thought of as essential. You should be using analytics from the very start to drive your game’s development and should continue to use analytics to deliver the experience your players are looking for. If you can measure it, do it!


Player Segments Based on Gaming Motivations: an Analysis of 400,000 Gamers

Speaker: Nick Yee, Co-Founder, Quantic Foundry

There are a number of valid ways to segment your players, and the value of that segmentation really depends on the problem that you’re trying to solve. In this data-focused panel, Nick Yee, Co-Founder at Quantic Foundry, presented a novel player segmentation model.

Instead of measuring metrics such as player retention and in-game performance, Quantic Foundry looked to player motivation as the basis for their segmentation. They surveyed 400,000 gamers and based on the responses came up with a model of 9 different player segments.


Quantic Foundry’s player motivation segments grouped into 3 high level clusters. (Courtesy of GDC Summer 2020 and Quantic Foundry)

Quantic Foundry’s player motivation segments grouped into 3 high level clusters. (Courtesy of GDC Summer 2020 and Quantic Foundry)


By segmenting players based on their gaming motivations, Yee argued that you’re better able to understand what is actually going on with players.

Here’s an example: You have a cluster of players who are dropping off the game after only a few days. These players are also measuring poorly in performance metrics (e.g. they’re taking longer than average to complete a section of the game). You may think that these players are having difficulty with the game, and therefore need more assistance. But when surveyed, Yee found that these players were actually highly motivated by fast-paced, chaotic gameplay and the game was punishing them for not staying under cover.

You can find a more indepth recap of Nick Yee’s panel and the 9 player segments on the Quantic Foundry blog.

The Takeaway: Using player motivation as the basis for your segmentation analysis can help to avoid the pitfalls of using traditional metrics and will help you better understand your players and how to cater to them.


Engage, Retain and Delight Players With LiveOps on AWS (Presented by AWS Game Tech)


Last year, Fortnite’s Blackhole event drew in a whopping 8 million viewers with 1.7 million concurrent Twitch users, making it the largest live ops event in history. In this panel, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Game Tech’s Tabitha Graves and Chris Finch talked about how LiveOps on AWS can help you collect and learn from player and game data in order to make adjustments that cater to your audience.

AE gives you insights about your players’ behaviour outside your game so you can make smarter marketing decisions. Read more about how AE works here.
Tabitha Graves and Chris Finch discuss how player engagement is at the center of everything and AWS LiveOps is the bridge that connects the developers and the players. (Courtsey of GDC Summer 2020 and AWS)

Tabitha Graves and Chris Finch discuss how player engagement is at the center of everything and AWS LiveOps is the bridge that connects the developers and the players. (Courtsey of GDC Summer 2020 and AWS)


Tabitha and Chris discuss three main topics related to data collection, analysis and player engagement :

  1. Community building
    • Live events such as Fortnite’s Marshmello concert foster community building
    • Social media (Twitch, Discord, etc.) is a valuable source for insights about what your community is thinking about your game
  2. Measuring and responding to player behavior
    • Gathering in-game data on your players allows you to build features into your game that will engage your players
      • E.g. leaving surprising items in a place your player thought they knew
    • Machine learning can help you to understand patterns and anomalies so that you can identify threats such as fraud
  3. New content and features
    • Segment your audience and push specific messaging to individual groups based on their play-style, interests, etc.
    • Pushing out new releases quickly lets your players know that you appreciate them.
The Takeaway: While this panel focuses on the features of AWS LiveOps, the underlying message is clear: If you’re not collecting data, you can’t build it into the next generation of your design and make changes that let your players know that you’re listening.



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