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Whenever a new game platform arises, so too does an analytics startup. That’s because analytics deliver insights, and that’s what we’re seeing now with the launch of Helika for Web3 analytics.
Helika raised $4 million in March to expand its analytics platform for the Web3 community, and one of the new companies it is serving is Yuga Labs, the maker of the Bored Ape Yacht Club non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Bored Ape games.
To understand this better, I spoke with Anton Umnov, Helika CEO, and Spencer Tucker, chief gaming officer at Yuga Labs. Helika has about 20 people, mostly engineers, and it is based in Toronto with offices in Austin, Texas. The business is just getting off the ground.
Helika tries to monitor the wallet information to capture data on a user, and then track it across a social graph, wherever that wallet goes. Then they aggregate the behavior of the individuals into cohorts of users that behave alike to glean broader insights about what people play. Helika cross references whatever data it can, though it’s sometimes very difficult to do so in a world without identifiers, as companies have to play by stronger privacy rules now.
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“We have a number of game initiatives in development. And we will be using Helika to help us understand and inform us about what we’re doing,” Tucker said. “They’re in different genres with different play styles. And so it’ll be interesting to see what those ultimately manifest as in terms of player engagement and reach, and how Helika can help us understand those relationships in the aggregate sense and help us better optimize and create more compelling and sticky experiences going forward.”
Helika’s funding round was led by Diagram Ventures, with participation from Sfermion, Sparkle Ventures, StreamingFast, Brain Holdings, Fenbushi, and Builder Capital. As well as participation from strategic angels, including Montreal investor and game entrepreneur Marc Alloul.
The investors saw that most companies in Web3 struggle to make data-driven decisions to drive growth. Helika’s no-code platform with integrated in-game, on-chain and social media analytics allows companies to understand their user’s behavior and interactions to increase engagement, retention, user acquisition, and make better strategic decisions.
The platform offers a suite of powerful products allowing Helika clients such as Yuga Labs and Treasure to gather sales and royalty data, analyze user wallet activity, onboard new users, and determine optimal mint pricing for future NFT drops.
The lack of visibility on reach, retention, and revenue of NFT collections has been a major challenge for many Web3 gaming studios and popular NFT projects. Helika’s platform provides these insights so that top web3 companies can make informed, strategic decisions.
Helika aims to provide gaming studios and NFT projects by giving them the ability to understand their user engagement and retention, gain insights into other games and NFTs their users interact with, and integrate on-chain, off-chain, Web2, social, and zero-party data. With this data, Helika believes Web3 projects will be able to boost growth and product performance.
“The intersection of gaming and blockchain will provide a more sophisticated understanding of player behavior and interests as well as user acquisition performance. This is going to disrupt gaming as we know it. Helika is instrumental in unlocking the value of both Web2 and Web3 game data,” said Alloul, game entrepreneur, investor, and adviser, in an email.
Looking at Dookey Dash
Back in December, members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club community took to the sewers to play something called Dookey Dash.
Yuga Labs introduced complex and innovative mint mechanics through a narrative-driven experience that introduced new people to the world of Web3. More than 75% of Dookey Dash players were new to the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem.
It was also a stake in the ground for Yuga, which firmly believes that Web3 and gaming can and should intersect. In fact, esports legend Kyle Jackson AKA Mongraal won the ultimate prize for Dookey Dash.
Helika has been digging into the data on the performance of Yuga’s skill-based game, and it has dug out a lot of interesting numbers demonstrating that Dookie Dash’s performance matches – and in some cases, exceeds – similar Web2 games.
Helika is already working with multiple partners including Yuga Labs, Sandbox, Azra Games, Azuki and five triple-A game studios (to be announced soon).
Learning from Dookey Dash
While looking at the Dookey Dash game data, Tucker said he was setting up ways to find internal and external benchmarks for the game, so that the team could figure out where to put their energy and attention in the future.
“Working with Helika, we were able to get visibility into the product,” Tucker said.
With this information, Yuga Labs can better figure out how to improve the product for the player.
One of the things that Yuga Labs found was that the Dookey Dash engagement was longer and stronger than it appeared to be at first.
“It means we had strong retention,” he said. “And many of these players were new to the ecosystem.”
Helika will merge data that is coming in from Yuga’s on-chain events with the off-chain events and use that to create a profile of a player. Helika also tries to compile competitive analytics, so developers can know how much time a player spends on other apps besides the developers’ game.
“It allows you to not only understand your competitive landscape, but actually identify the partnerships opportunities with brands that want to collaborate with you,” Umnov said.
Origins and familiar patterns
Umnov has a data science background with a focus on gaming.
Umnov has built four analytics companies and he worked at the Nielsen Company too.
“The whole Nielsen premise was how can we syndicate and standardize analytics across the whole industry,” he said.
Helika has built a lot of game analytics products for different game studios, mostly inhouse. But about 18 months ago, he gathered a team to focus on analytics for the fledgling industry of Web3 games. These blockchain-based game companies operated in very different ways from traditional game companies.
Yet they had the same problem where they didn’t really need to build their own analytics tools. Rather, they needed to focus on making great games, Umnov said. So Helika built its Web3 analytics platform and offered to offload the task from the developers.
“The gaming studios should be focusing on building the great games,” Umnov said. “So let us do the dirty work and the teams can design the best products for consumers essentially.”
I heard this kind of pitch with the rise of social games (Kontagent), mobile games (Flurry and App Annie — now Data.ai), virtual reality (Virtualitics) multiplayer games (Playfab) and more. Helika has been on the market for a year now, and so it feels like it’s on the ground floor of Web3 gaming, which has a core of dedicated players but has yet to break into the mainstream. And Umnov believes analytics is key to that breakthrough.
It started working with Yuga Labs last fall to provide it with a “foundational layer” of analytics for its NFT collections, Umnov said. Key to getting understanding is to be able to take the player data and segment it in a meaningful way to understand how loyal they are and how much they might spend over time in a game, Umnov said.
“This understanding helps game developers build better experiences for the end consumers,” he said.
How to learn from the analytics
It was a procedurally generated infinite runner game that was hyper competitive, as players were ranked on a leaderboard. Yuga Labs also created a tech called a “warm wallet,” where an owner of a token could allow someone else to use it, maybe a family member, without having to own it. It’s like a virtual token for someone else. That helped with growth of the game as it spread to others. In that sense, the core players could become evangelists for a game and they can bring more people into the ecosystem.
Using a data product like Helika across a bunch of games gives you insights into the relationship between the games, how people are interacting, and understanding the social graph, Tucker said.
“How many people are touching how many of your different products?” he said. “You may have a unique identifier, but the joining of those datasets is complex, even inside of a company that’s got a pretty mature one in terms of data infrastructure,” Tucker added. “What blockchain allows you to do is make those relationships very clear, very easily if there’s a lot of data. And what Helika provides is the ability to parse that data in a meaningful way, and then tie them back and give us a better perspective on the overall participation, overlap and engagement within the ecosystem.”
And he said, “Put it another way. In the old Web2 world, maybe you paid $3 for this player and they spent $1.50. So the ROI wasn’t there. However, what if you brought in that person for $3, they spent $1.50 in that one game, but they just also happened to organically start playing three or four other games in your portfolio?”
“This idea of the social graph is very important because we can see how that specific players spends across different games or how much time they spend, giving you additional insights on attributes or meta data,” Tucker said.
Why Web3 analytics is tough
Umnov was been talking with one company, which senior data engineers, and it took them eight to nine months to be able to roll out even the foundational analytics layer.
“It’s a highly competitive industry and they’re really trying to fast-track it,” he said. “They figure out it takes a lot of resources and time. The biggest issue is how you merge all of the datasets together.”
“We work with a lot of Web 2.5 studios,” Umnov added. “If you’ve been an analyst in Web2 and you make the leap to Web3, it’s not necessarily intuitive that that person can pick it up right away. There’s a lot of stuff happening. On the backend, there are in-game events recorded on the chain. And so many people will be struggling.”
Tucker noted you have to do wallet deduplication, since many users create lots of different wallets and don’t stick with them for very long.
“I would agree with that. I also have a lot of sort of analytics data and business intelligence in my background,” Tucker said. “The problem space for Web3 is pretty unique in that the blockchain is, by definition, very anonymous. That notion of a consistent identifier is effectively nothing. I can create a new wallet on the fly. And so the process of identifying an individual person and tracking behavior and what they do and how they interact with the on-chain experiences is pretty complex.”
Anchoring behavior data back to a unique identifier and tracking a person’s experiences over time can be tricky. Tracking tokens in the crypto space often isn’t helpful because the tokens can change hands so much in crypto trading.
“You’ve got all kinds of additional complexities that you don’t really run into,” Tucker said “It’s an interesting problem space. The data product is a thing that’s definitely going to be necessary for Web3 companies to have a better point of view.”
Some data on the blockchain is very transparent. But when you want to create a cohort, or group of users who are similar, then it gets complex.
“It’s an anonymous wallet,” Tucker said. “You know what it holds and what it does, but you don’t know if it’s the only wallet for that person. Or if that person has multiple wallets. Or if they transfer things between them.”
He said, “We’re trying to push the boundaries, especially on the blockchain tech side. It’s an interesting problem space. I don’t think a lot of people understand the complexities of designing and building Web3 games. There are so many things that are so counterintuitive to Web2 gaming that you would never even have to consider. Just because people own the content they can sell it. And like what that does to your game design and balance and stuff is complex, to say the least.”
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