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Measuring the success of IP-based gaming integrations: are we talking about engagement enough?

Industry Commentary
Image: Adweek

How do you put a value on IP? You could focus on total sales to date, or the current buzz surrounding an IP, but it’s probably better to focus on the average engaged time per user (AETPU), according to entertainment lawyer Simon Pulman, an indicator which Pulman says is ‘seldom mentioned’ in his article about the value assessments of IP. Pulman highlights the power of online media, specifically video games, when it comes to having an advantage in driving engagement time. The more time we spend engaging with an IP, the more we care about it. And that time can easily add up in a AAA open-world game (as anyone who’s currently playing Tears of the Kingdom can attest to), or live service games such as Fortnite, League of Legends, and Destiny 2. As Pulman writes:

“Effectively, I'm positing that the amount of engaged time that a user spends with a property (or "story world" or "entertainment brand" or other term you may prefer) is a key indicator of how much time and money they will spend on it in the future.”

Of course, Pulman is writing about engagement from the perspective of an entertainment lawyer valuing entertainment franchises for acquisition. But Pulman’s article got us thinking about IP integrations in video games – either as limited-time events or new games/worlds based on IP – and how people measure the success of these deals. Often, engagement is rarely mentioned as a success metric.

Let’s take a look at Roblox as an example, purely because there are so many branded experiences on the platform. Most of the press releases for these branded experiences focus on the total number of visits, as do the marketing posts on LinkedIn and other platforms in the days following the launch of these experiences.

Why visits? Roblox has 66.1 million daily active users according to its latest financials, so it's easy for big brands to reach a large number of visitors when they launch new experiences on the platform. This means it’s hardly surprising when the marketing professionals involved with creating the experience highlight its success by pointing their clients  to the millions of visits it's achieved. This information for branded experiences is then regurgitated through press releases for the general public, with the entertainment industry and non-gaming brands learning to define success by the total number of visits a branded experience can get.

Metrics that are rarely mentioned in branded Roblox experiences are concurrent users (CCUs) and session length, often because they’re so low. Most branded experiences on Roblox (with the exception of the top-rated ones) become digital ghost towns less than a few weeks after release. Average session lengths are typically under four minutes, barely enough time for an FPS player to sort out a load-out and find a game in multiplayer, let alone complete one. Walmart Land is a great example of this dichotomy: over 18 million visitors, but an average of 25 people playing the game at any given time.

Of course, there are plenty of decent  branded experiences on Roblox, notably Sonic Speed Simulator, Vans World, and Hot Wheels Open World. Sonic Speed Simulator has an average session time of around 15 minutes, according to Romonitor, which shows players are more emotionally invested in the world.

We need to be more realistic about the success of integrations and licensing deals in the gaming world. Otherwise, we risk creating an echo chamber where vanity metrics such as visits and views take precedence over engagement, and overshadow the importance of building quality gameplay mechanics. Great games equal great engagement - and great engagement points to great games.

That said – and as Pulman points out in a follow-up post regarding his article – AETPU isn’t the metric to end all metrics. Yes, engagement time is undervalued, but assessing the value (or success) of an IP or IP integration solely on engagement time would be the wrong thing to do. There are plenty of other factors you should take into account.

Here are some key metrics you should measure when evaluating the success of an IP-based integration in video games.

Engagement – Quantifying this can be difficult depending on the platform/game you’re integrating with, but there are several ways to do this. Stephen Dypiangco from Metaverse Marcom notes that badges – essentially Roblox’s equivalent of achievements or trophies – are a great way to check player progress on the platform, and ultimately how much they’re engaging with an experience. Similarly, you can use achievements or trophies on Xbox and PlayStation to measure the success of IP-based DLC as milestones for player progress.

Average session length – We’ve already spoken about this with reference to Roblox, but longer engagement times indicate that your branded experience has enough going on to keep players engaged. Short engagement times suggest that players are losing interest and leaving to check out other games on the platform.

Revenue – Make sure any IP-based integration you launch is monetized with themed items, available at a range of pricing points. Not only is this a great way of generating revenues, but sales are a great indicator that players are emotionally investing into your integration.

Downloads – More of a metric for mobile integrations, but if you’re licensing IP as part of a mobile game’s LiveOps, game studios can and should provide an update on how downloads have been affected.

Conversions – Depending on your commercial objectives, you may want to consider setting up a CTA in-game or at least in a game or experience’s page description (on Roblox) directing them to a website, especially if it’s linked to a campaign. As an example, Prada hosted a playable branded experience in Candy Crush that directed players to a campaign website for free samples.

Traffic to external sites and pages – Most video games have passionate communities, so any noticeable boosts to your social media page followers or website traffic demonstrate players are enjoying your integration enough to learn more about your IP/brand afterwards.

June 1, 2023

Read the episode transcript here

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