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Weekly News Recap – Epic Games & PlayVS to Bring “Fortnite” Competitions to Colleges & High Schools

By wpengine on January 27, 2020 in Articles, News

Digital/Mobile News

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The What and Why of Chaos Engineering

By Hannah Press on January 23, 2020 in Articles, Game Developers

Netflix alumnus and serial entrepreneur Casey Rosenthal recently hosted a lunch-and-learn on chaos engineering at the Skillz San Francisco office. His work on chaos engineering at Netflix has established him as a top thought leader in the field. Rosenthal is currently the CEO/Cofounder of Verica. As an Executive Manager and Senior Architect, he manages teams to tackle big data, architect solutions to difficult problems, and train others to do the same. In this blog, we explore the principles and benefits of chaos engineering.

Modern systems in engineering are complex, with an ever-growing demand for both system reliability and abundant new features. A relatively new discipline, chaos engineering helps address the complexity and demands of modern systems. Chaos engineering can be thought of as the facilitation of experiments to uncover systemic weaknesses. It provides real-world insight into how services behave in production and addresses problems that result from the interaction of the numerous components in a distributed system. 

Chaos Engineering Defined 

Chaos engineering seeks to identify the “chaos” inherent in a complex system. Rather than reactively fixing bugs and addressing failures when they occur, the chaos approach practices proactive experiments based on hypotheses to uncover systemic vulnerabilities before they affect customers. It enhances a system’s ability to keep operating and providing a positive experience for end-users even when issues arise.

Scaling complex systems is hard, so there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding it. Rosenthal listed a few of them, including the common assumption that you can make your system more robust by removing people who cause accidents. However, they are rarely, if ever, caused by a single person. While some team members may be involved in more accidents than others, this is more likely due to resource constraints, communication hindrance, or inadequate training than an individual’s shortcomings. Moreover, the system often responds worse to removing a team member vital to its health. Rather than blaming individuals, chaos engineering focuses on proactively testing the system to support growth and stability. 

The Principles of Chaos Engineering

Chaos engineering involves all system stakeholders to intentionally “break” areas of the system through well-planned experiments that mitigate the impact of failures. According to Rosenthal’s principles of chaos, you should: 

  1. Define steady state behavior to build a hypothesis. Look for measurable output that combines customer experience and operational metrics (as opposed to focusing on internal attributes of the system). This will represent the system’s steady state. Then, build a hypothesis around the aspects of the system you believe are resilient.
  2. Simulate real-world events. Introduce variables that mirror realistic events like servers dying, malformed responses, and spikes in traffic. Anything that might disrupt steady state is a viable variable to experiment with.
  3. Carry out experiments in production. This shows in real-time how your system responds to change and how failures/outages affect customers.
  4. Run experiments continuously. Automating chaos experiments saves time and allows teams to focus on building out new features. It also deepens system knowledge for engineers to detect and tackle issues faster with little consumer impact.
  5. Minimize customer impact. When running chaos experiments, it’s the engineer’s responsibility to mitigate blast radius and ensure customers aren’t greatly impacted. 

  As systems grow in complexity, it’s important to incorporate continuous verification (CV) into the continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) process. “Organizations do not have the time or resources to validate that the internal machinations of the system work as intended, so instead they verify that the output of the system is in line with expectations,” Rosenthal says of CV.

Benefits of Chaos Engineering 

Chaos engineering helps uncover the unknowns in a complex system and addresses them in a controlled environment. It’s a proactive strategy that allows proactive planning for potential problems, rather than scrambling to react to a failure in production at 10pm on a Friday when most users are engaged. 

Additionally, controlled chaos experiments help balance three important tradeoffs in engineering: economics, workload, and system safety. Ask yourself how to allocate money and resources, how your team is doing, and how much your servers can handle. By testing the system proactively within the boundaries of the team’s economic means and resources, it’s easier to maintain a healthy employee workload while ensuring the safety of the system.

A successful chaos approach empowers cultural growth across multiple teams. All stakeholders rally behind a common focus around avoiding system failures and building confidence in the future — resulting in happier, more efficient, and more engaged teams. 

As Skillz strives to make mobile competition accessible for every player worldwide, we’re focused on building confidence in our increasingly dynamic microservices system to deliver the best user experience possible. With over 30 million users on the platform, reliability is paramount. Understanding our strengths and weaknesses allows us to proactively prepare as we scale and successfully tackle failures before they damage the experience of our customers.

Competitive Multiplayer Mobile Games: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

By Hannah Press on January 23, 2020 in Articles, Game Developers

Multiplayer mobile games drive long-term player retention by allowing players to compete for bragging rights or real prizes, and encouraging players to build social connections and communities through gameplay. To build a successful multiplayer title, developers must consider the game genre, style of gameplay, audience needs, and budget to drive early player adoption. 

This blog focuses on two major types of gameplay for multiplayer mobile games — synchronous and asynchronous — including the benefits and drawbacks of both, as well as key developer considerations. 

Skillz Weekly News Recap – Twitch to Host a Twitch Rivals “Fortnite” Tournament Ahead of Super Bowl 54

By wpengine on January 22, 2020 in Articles, News

Digital/Mobile News

Gaming News

 Business News

Gaming for Good with World Wildlife Fund

By Hannah Press on January 17, 2020 in Articles, Gaming for Good

In this month’s Gaming For Good charity event series, Skillz will be donating 100% of our net proceeds to World Wildlife Fund! The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF’s mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.

WWF is working to support the emergency response to the devastating fires in Australia, as well as the long-term recovery efforts. By joining the event, you’ll be supporting them on this vital mission.

And that’s not all — Enter 5 times this weekend and earn a Skillz-branded stuffed koala!

Start: Saturday, 1/18 10 AM PST
End: Sunday, 1/19 10 PM PST

How to play:

  1. Open games.skillz.com. Download Bubble Shooter Tournaments, Cube Cube, Dominoes Gold, Strike! Bowling, Solitaire Cube, Block Blitz, Solitaire Tour, Bubble Shooter Arena, 21 Blitz, Spider Solitaire Cube, Pro Pool – Ultimate 8 Ball, Bubble Shooter League, Jewel Blitz, Diamond Strike, Bubble Cube 2, or Blackout Blitz. 
  2. Enter the “Gaming for Good” event.
  3. You can enter in as many of the listed games as you wish.

World Wildlife Fund in Australia:
Over the last 40 years WWF has worked on species conservation and habitat and landscape management across Australia, in partnership with traditional owners, communities, nonprofits, scientists, businesses, and governments. Over the coming weeks, months, and years, WWF will work together with these partners to:

  • Address immediate needs. Activities change daily but include providing extensive care to injured koalas and other species.
  • Recover critical habitats. WWF will also engage Indigenous and rural communities to improve management of critical ecosystems and fire response.
  • Prepare for future emergencies. WWF seeks to ensure recovery, reconstruction, and management responses towards securing Australia’s natural resources for people and nature over the long-term.

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NOTE: 100% of the net proceeds of this event will be donated. A minimum of $25,000 has been pledged to WWF. Net proceeds are calculated as Initial Deposit and Entry Fees, less prizes and tournament administration fees. Each Entry Fee includes a 20% service fee, and a minimum of 25% of each Entry Fee will be donated.

Prizes may vary in select games. Delivery of physical prizes will take up to 2 weeks if you live in the continental U.S. and up to 3 weeks if you live outside the continental U.S. Special-order logo items such as the participation prize and other branded items may take up to 6-8 weeks to receive.

® ‘WWF’ and ‘World Wildlife Fund’ are WWF Registered Trademarks.  © 1986 Panda Symbol WWF

How to Market your Mobile Games in 2020

By Hannah Press on January 15, 2020 in Articles, Game Developers

With over 900,000 games on Apple’s App Store, there’s no doubt that the mobile gaming ecosystem is competitive. Marketers must constantly keep their app fresh on consumers’ minds, with the ultimate goal of having it featured in the App Store to drive downloads. Getting a user to install an app isn’t easy or cheap, especially when you’re convincing them to purchase an app. To put this into perspective, the average cost of acquiring a user who makes a purchase is more than $86 on iOS and $77 on Android. On top of that, just over 5% of global mobile gamers actually make in-app purchases.

Most game developers don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars at hand to spend on marketing. So the key question to consider is: how can you acquire players with a limited budget? Let’s take a deep-dive into five successful paid acquisition strategies to drive more players to your game. 

Data and Tracking

First, integrate a Mobile Measure Partner (MMP) into the game. This MMP will provide performance metrics, such as attribution, Lifetime Value (LTV), and Return on Investment (ROI). Network attribution tracking ties an acquired user back to a specific ad campaign with an associated cost. This way, marketers can understand the monetization of the user from the specific campaign with respect to the cost of the campaign. A MMP ultimately empowers analytical thinking about marketing, which is the basis of performance marketing. For any game developer that is considering launching a Skillz-powered game, the Skillz SDK has a mobile measurement partner baked directly into it. No need to go out and establish a new partnership!

Analytical Insight

After identifying which users are acquired from each marketing campaign, you can begin the process of optimization. In this phase, you compare the quality of different campaigns and allocate budget to the ones that showed the best performance. A well-performing campaign is not necessarily one that has cheap Cost per Installs (CPIs) nor is it one that has cheap cost per actions (CPAs). What we ultimately want to focus on is the return that you are getting from the capital invested. However, this does take some time, so looking at indicators of success like CPI and CPA can be helpful, but don’t base everything on them. 

After analyzing campaign results, generate hypotheses around why the top campaigns are performing the best. Then make iterations to test these hypotheses. Ideally, some of the tests will yield better results than the current best performer, enabling budget reallocation to further aggrandize results. This process of learning, testing, and iterating is what ultimately allows a game to grow in an efficient and stable manner.

Creative, Messaging, and Audience

Now it’s time to produce the creative. If you have a limited creative budget, consider experimenting with photoshop yourself. Testing a wide variety of creative across different ad types will ultimately result in honing in on the right message and creative.

A marketer should not only look at a creative’s total portfolio spend across Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) & Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), but they should also evaluate the entire funnel. Consider how clickable an ad is (CTR), how relevant the ad is Click-to-Install (CTI), and how well the ad communicates the value proposition (monetization rate). By analyzing all of these metrics, marketers start to have a view of the full funnel. Here are a few ways to interpret full-funnel results: 

  • High CTR, Low CTI — Click-bait; lots of clicks but not relevant thus no one installs your game
  • Low CTR, High Monetization Rate — Relevant to the right people, so this is not necessarily bad. Sometimes higher CPIs are an indication of quality traffic, which makes the initial investment worth it from an ROI perspective. 

Test a wide variety of messaging across creatives and audiences to determine the highest performing type of messaging. Break up messaging into categories and measure the performance in aggregate to understand where to focus efforts. 

Additionally, test a wide variety of audiences across creative and messaging to hone in on the right people to target for advertising. Keep in mind that creative and messaging can be audience-specific so it’s important to take an audience-first approach and iterate from there. 

Be Patient

Remember that users have a lifetime value, which is inherently not immediate. It will take time for user cohorts to stack up and generate revenue, so keep a keen eye on the spend efficiency.  Make sure not to waste dollars on poor-performing campaigns holding out for hope. If spending is solely focused on ROI-positive campaigns, eventually the marketing investment starts to turn ROI positive. Finally, the extra budget allows for more cash to be funneled into marketing campaigns, which ultimately drives more players into a game!

A Great Product

Even the best marketing plan won’t work on a sub-par product. So make sure to have an engaging game, make it fun, and ensure a positive player experience — and the LTV will come.  

This is one of the areas in which Skillz delivers the most value. The Skillz competitive tournament management system provides game developers everything they need to transform a game into a mobile eSport. With a full-stack SDK that includes a wide array of features, Skillz empowers game developers to better monetize their games in a way that doesn’t interrupt the player experience. 

More than 20,000 game developers are taking advantage of the Skillz competitive tournament management system. Skillz-powered games experience higher player engagement, retention, and ultimately, better more monetization. To learn more about how you can utilize our competitive tournament system to boost your game’s revenue, head to developers.skillz.com.