Dmitri Williams

I'm currently CEO of Ninja Metrics. Previously I have been a tenured professor at USC, specializing in technology, online community, large-scale data and gamers.
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Recent Posts

Springboard Retail and Ninja Metrics bring Social Value® and Social Whaling capability to specialty retailers

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Jan 17, 2016 11:16:25 AM

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Ninja News Roundup: User Acquisition, Tips for Improving Programming Skills and Advice for Indies

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Aug 7, 2014 4:31:27 PM

What video games teach us about user acquisition

Two of the biggest challenges that a video game developer faces when monetizing their game is first acquiring users, then converting them into customers through some sort of paid method.

Fortunately, many games companies nowadays have a pretty good grip on user acquisition methods compared to other industries - thanks to business models like free-to-play and the increasing popularity of gaming user-acquisition experts, big data and analytics.

So what are video games teaching us about user and customer acquisition? Kimberly Pointer, marketer for video game publisher Kabam, recently told VentureBeat that trial and error is a key to success, and that multi-step experiences help boost engagement in the beginning: “The relevancy and engagement of the click is what matters, not just fewer steps. You benefit from adding this at the beginning of the funnel.”

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Topics: Video Games, Game News, Game Industry

Solo Players 65.3% More Likely To Quit vs Playing with Others

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Jun 3, 2014 12:17:00 PM

Increase Customer Retention With Social Engagement

While playing video games solo can be fun, playing within a network of other gamers increases customer retention through engagement. This is a key metric for developers, who are looking to further monetize their games.

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Topics: Game Analytics, Game Development, Video Game Marketing

The History and Structure of the Video Game Industry – Retail & Disruption (The New Norm) - Part 5

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Feb 14, 2014 6:05:00 AM


Distributors is the least sexy sounding part of the vertical chain, but it’s the most important one over the past decade. Everyone hears in school about the massive changes in the music industry or film, where digital destroyed the old way of delivering product. Games have gone through the same phases, and with a lot more grace than the music industry. Traditionally, distributors are responsible for the physical storage and delivery of the product, and usually for the sales effort.

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Topics: Game News, History and Structure of Video Game Industry

The History and Structure of the Video Game Industry – Structure, Development to Publishing - Part 4

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Feb 7, 2014 8:57:00 AM

Don’t be alarmed - there’s nothing complicated about this. Any industry can be thought of in what’s commonly called “vertical stages.”

Simply imagine the series of people a product goes through from its creation until it gets bought.

Now, imagine those steps arrayed from the first step with a designer at the top to the consumer at the bottom. Voila, vertical stages.

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Topics: Game News, History and Structure of Video Game Industry

The History and Structure of the Video Game Industry – Casual & Mobile Boom - Part 3

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Jan 31, 2014 8:11:00 AM

Tanjala Gica /

The Casual and Mobile Boom (2010-present)

Casual games are defined by their opposition to “hardcore” games. Where a hardcore game takes commitment and focus and features cutting-edge graphics and complex game mechanics, casual games require no real dedication, feature simple graphics and are often easy to learn and play in a short time (Juul, 2010). Yet despite the moniker, so-called “casual” gaming is the largest, most tectonic force in the history of the medium. It is also a case study in how supply, demand, cultural shifts and new technologies can create an industry almost overnight. First, consider the numbers behind casual gaming. Whereas the target population of “mainstream,” console gaming is males 18-35, casual games target everyone and attract a 60% female audience (Taylor, 2010). Typical console games cost $15-25 million to develop, last about 3 months and reach from 500,000 to four million players. Typical social and casual games cost $250-500 thousand to develop, last about 9 months and reach 10-50 million or more players (Taylor, 2010). One is played for hours, the other minutes. In the U.S. there are about 350 million dedicated game-playing devices, not including cell phones. These are home consoles and portable game players—in other words, the traditional, dedicated game-playing audience. From 2009-2010, there were about 510 million accounts on social and casual games, up from virtually zero two years before. In other words, casual gaming in only two years appeared and rapidly surpassed the 35-year-old mainstream game industry.

Enter the Smartphone

Where did this sudden explosion come from? There are many factors, but the rise and worldwide spread of smart mobile devices has to be at the top of the list. Smart phones now outnumber all other devices and game play is typically one of their primary uses. When you consider the “installed base” of a platform, mobile suddenly wins and disrupts everything.

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Topics: Game News, History and Structure of Video Game Industry

The History and Structure of the Video Game Industry – Modern Era - Part 2

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Jan 24, 2014 12:32:00 PM

Barone Firenze /

The Modern Era (2004-2010)

During the first decade of the twenty-first century, the percentage of American adults with access to the Internet increased from 37 in 2000 to 71 in 2010. Fast, broadband connections rose as well, with slower dial-up connections beginning to decline in 2001 (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2010). Meanwhile, by the end of the decade, video games had become commonplace in the American household, cutting across age and gender demographics. In 2010, estimates had 53 percent of all American adults and 67 percent of American households playing some form of video games (Entertainment Software Association, 2010; Lenhart, Kahne, et al., 2008). And despite the long-held stereotype of the young male gamer, both independent and university research (Griffiths, Davies, & Chappell, 2003; Williams, Yee, & Caplan, 2008; Yee, 2006) found this stereotype not to be true. In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA; 2010), women age 18 or older represented more of the game playing population (33%) than boys age 17 or younger (20%).

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Topics: Video Games, History and Structure of Video Game Industry

The History and Structure of the Video Game Industry – Beginnings, Boom & Bust - Part 1

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Jan 17, 2014 4:27:00 PM

This is part-1 of a 5-part series on the history and structure of the video game industry.

Beginnings (1951-1973)

Like many media industries, the home video game industry began with hobbyists and enthusiasts. The first known video game dates back to 1951, when a Cambridge University computer science graduate student named A.S. Douglas created a “naughts and crosses” (more popularly known in America as Tic-Tac-Toe) game. The next, slightly better-known video game, Tennis for Two, was developed in 1958 in a lab by a government nuclear research scientist with the fabulously improbable name of Wally Higginbotham. Higginbotham, tired of
seeing bored visitors at his lab’s open house, decided to create a game of tennis on an oscilloscope screen (Herman 1997). 1Higginbotham never patented the game, and this kept the U.S. government from owning the initial patent for the industry.

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Topics: Video Games, History and Structure of Video Game Industry

"Troll Pooling" Game Players with Negative Social Values

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Dec 18, 2013 2:03:00 PM

The social impact from customer to customer is usually a beautiful thing, but well, not all human beings behave beautifully.

In any social network there are going to be those who--how do I put this delicately--are assholes, as immortalized in this classic Penny Arcade gem. There is little doubt that these people are out there and that they cause harm. If you’ve ever made the mistake of connecting to XBox Live voice chat with random teammates in a shooter title, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s some 12 year old kid (or someone behaving like one) screaming obscenities, telling you you suck, etc., etc.

The Internet parlance for this sort of person is of course “troll.” Some of these players are awful and don’t realize it, while others take direct glee from the way they harm and annoy others. What does science have to say about this? Like just about anything, it can be measured, and in this case the process also suggests a solution.

Social Value Can Be Positive and Negative

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Topics: Social Value, Troll Pooling, Game Players, Trolls, Neutral Trolls, Evil Trolls, Game Trolls, Social Influence

The Fruit Basket Factor: Rational Churn Prevention

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Dec 4, 2013 8:08:00 AM

All players are not created equally, and frankly, not all are worth keeping.

How can a developer decide which is which, and what to do about it?

There’s a very logical answer here that combines 1) the worth of the player with 2) the likelihood of them leaving. So first brief notes on those two things.

1) The worth of a player is their future impact on the system.

In other words, it’s their predicted future LTV (Lifetime Value). Looking at what they have done up until now is the next-best option, but it gives you no insight into how how their behavior will continue. For future LTV, we use a combination of their value plus their impact on others (Social Value) because we think it

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Topics: Churn Analysis, Game Analytics, Video Game Analytics, Churn Prevention

Do Analytics Help or Hurt the Creative Process of Game Development?

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Nov 20, 2013 7:11:00 AM

For starters, analytics are rarely used in pre-launch development, unless it’s the rare case where intelligence gathered from one title informs the next. They are more typically seen post-launch. When they are used in a live service with creative iteration taking place, they can be very helpful so long as the dev team follows best practices.

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Topics: Game Analytics, Video Games, Video Game Analytics, Game Development

Basic Statistics in 5 minutes!

Posted by Dmitri Williams

Oct 23, 2013 1:37:00 PM

I hated stats class in graduate school. Nothing made me feel dumber, faster. So, this post is dedicated to that full year of ridiculous, and I hope to now reduce the key points to a 5-minute blog post.

Regression. Sounds hard, right? Watch this.

Let’s say you’ve observed a series of events. Maybe it’s the temperature and the time of day. Maybe it’s the amount of people and energy consumption. Doesn’t matter. Now, you take the numbers from those observations and you put them on a regular X- and Y-graph.

Like this:

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Topics: Game Analytics, Regression Analysis, Basic Statistics, Correlation, Coefficient

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