On an average day at Electronic Arts, players of the video game publisher's hit title "Battlefield 3" create over one terabyte (TB) of data. In the course of a month, the company will collect more than 50 TB from its respective titles.
For a long time, that information wasn't immediately harvested. Certainly, it would be sifted through as planning began on a sequel, but that was about it. Eighteen months ago, however, the company realized it was ignoring valuable data, and launched a program to change that.
Today, that program is quickly becoming one of EA's most valuable assets.
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"The level of sophistication needed in the interactive gaming space is under-appreciated by anyone not in the industry," said Rajat Taneja, executive vice president and chief technology officer at the company. "The complexity of the data and the volume of the data...is more sophisticated than anything else out there in the industry. We are in the very early innings of our investment here. Looking 10 years ahead, data will be the core lubricant of most games in the online economy."
Data analysis in games is currently being used in a variety of fashions. The most obvious example is with game play itself. As developers and data analysts examine how players interact with the game, they're able to make subtle tweaks to improve the experience, something that can increase the time players spend in the game and, in some instances, help boost the number of in-game purchases they make, which gives publishers a revenue bump.
That's particularly true in mobile and free-to-play games. Because players of those titles are used to regular, small patches and updates, it's easier for developers to make changes—and make them quickly.
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"It's critical to adapt a game very quickly after it launches based on how people are interacting with the game, versus how we imagined it initially," said Keith Kawahata, vice president of Kabam Studios. "It's very easy to make aggregate, broad assessments, but the real trick is slicing that data by a number of different vectors. We look at players socio-economically. We look at players geographically. We look at players by carrier. We look at players by device. And we will modify the game based on that information."