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Why Large Firms In The Video Gaming Ecosystem Rely On Niche Partners Like Gameopedia

The Current Demand For Video Games

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of people to stay indoors. One pastime that has seen a spike in interest as a result of this forced isolation is video gaming. This sudden increase in the demand for video games has been a huge boon for the Video Game industry. The number of gamers have increased on all platforms, be it mobile, console, or PC. Video game publishers and stores have also reported rapid growth during this period. Even better, this growth has been observed across all sectors of gaming, ranging from the big AAA market to the niche Indie/AA market.

This growth has led to increased collaboration between large companies and smaller firms to tackle the rapidly changing trends.

Video Gaming Ecosystem

Traditionally, large companies find it a challenge to be agile when it comes to decision-making. Their policies are controlled by a huge leadership team, which in turn is influenced by the interests of the company’s investors and shareholders. As a result, bigger companies turn to outsourcing to adapt to changing trends. They partner with smaller, boutique firms that can provide them with various services at a fraction of what it would have cost to set up the same in-house. These smaller firms are focused on a very specific niche in the industry, such as Game Teardowns or Sentiment Analysis of game reviews. This sharp focus allows them to become subject matter experts faster than most large firms.

Benefits Of Working With Niche Gaming Partners

Let’s see why using niche firms is a more attractive proposition as compared to setting up a new business unit in-house:

  1. Focus – A niche market offering is all about solving those crucial time-consuming and error-prone problems faced by businesses. Niche players do not cast their net wide but are very specific about whom they serve and how they do it. This focus helps bigger companies as they get to take advantage of an expert team’s services without a huge upfront investment.
  2. Scale – Large firms are often skeptical about collaborating with other larger players. Niche firms are a safe bet, as they are more focused on developing their expertise, and the smaller scale at which they operate negates the risk of competition, thus making them an ideal partner for larger firms to collaborate with.
  3. Speed – Niche firms in general do not deal with a lot of bureaucracy and red tape. They operate with much leaner and faster processes, which enables them to constantly adapt to their clients’ needs. This in turn makes it possible to deliver results faster. This speed can rarely be found when collaborating with a larger firm.
  4. Customizability – Expanding on the previous point, given that niche firms are more flexible with their processes, they are also able to offer more customized solutions without compromising on speed. Their clients are also comfortable discussing more customizable options, as they know that the dedicated team of experts will do their very best to meet the requirements. This is not to say that a larger firm would not be able to offer the same, but it would likely take much longer to get back with a similar offering, not to mention at a significantly higher cost.
  5. Pricing – Speaking of costs, hiring niche firms remains profitable for most large companies, as the former have a small employee base. Every person hired in these firms is chosen after careful consideration and this reflects in the very reasonable pricing structure offered to clients. In these uncertain times, these firms place great emphasis on building relationships, so they are unlikely to increase their rates overnight. This makes them an economical choice to work with.
  6. Dedication – While every service firm does its best to treat its clients with equal priority, the fact remains that the larger the firm, the more likely it is that the client will be given only as much response as contractually obligated. Smaller firms realize the need to treat their clients with utmost priority and can focus on delivering the very best customer experience.

Services that Niche Gaming Firms Can Offer to the Video Game Industry

  • Video Game MetadataMetadata provides essential information about a game such as its developer and publisher, release date, age ratings, and so on. This data is essential to maintain several kinds of game databases and plays an important role in data analysis as well.
  • Game Teardowns – Looking into what makes a game successful can help other developers and publishers understand what makes a game tick. A game teardown offers a vast and comprehensive breakdown of what a game consists of and how all of its moving parts work. This work is best done by experts in the industry who do similar work on hundreds, if not thousands of games each year.
  • Game Insights – Part of the process of making a game involves understanding how the market is reacting to certain elements in a game. A proper analysis of multiple games which have already been released in the market can provide these insights, and not every developer can or will want to do this analysis in-house.
  • Sentiment Analysis – Another service that niche firms are best suited to offer is sentiment analysis. This involves analyzing the conversations and general sentiment about a game after its release. A game may garner varying opinions from critics and the public. As it is these reviews that influence sales in the long term, understanding these sentiments is important for developers of upcoming games.
  • Game Content For Reference Fingerprints –  Automatic Content Recognition helps identify the game being played on a screen, be it a Smart TV or a Smart Device connected to a TV. ACR data is used by several players in the market, and for the recognition to be made possible, Reference Fingerprints of the game being played are required to match against the sample collected from the consumer.
  • Video Game Media – Some companies – especially stores – require specialized game media to use on their portals. This includes custom box art, descriptions, short clips, and so on.
  • Customized Services – There are services which are unique to the company looking for them. These services may not have been defined by the industry yet. Resolving them requires a team of experts who are well-versed with the multitude of games coming into the market each year and can provide custom solutions.

While the gaming industry has been fortunate to come out strong during the pandemic, the world economy continues to remain uncertain. It is also riskier for large firms to take new initiatives in these unpredictable times. In such a period, it is beneficial for large firms to entrust niche companies to help them adapt to the changing trends, instead of trying to develop new in-house capabilities from scratch.

Gameopedia is one such provider of niche solutions in the gaming industry. For more than a decade, we have been building our expertise in providing game metadata, recommendations, and insights, which makes us the top choice for meeting these niche services. We offer a wide range of solutions in the gaming ecosystem that cater to various companies. Interested in what we have to offer? Reach out to us to learn more about our service offerings.

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Powering Ad Targeting With Quality Game Reference Fingerprints

Automatic content recognition (ACR) is an identification technology which is used to recognize content played on a media device or present in a media file. It enables advertisers to interact with their audiences like never before. With millions of Smart TV owners opting-in to use ACR across the world, advertisers now have valuable data to better understand their target audience and refine their campaigns.

Smart devices such as Roku and Apple TV are also being paired with regular TVs to give them the “smart” capability of connecting to the internet. This helps bring many more households into the ACR fold, providing more valuable data to draw insights from.

The video gaming industry is one of the fastest-growing segments for the ACR market. With millions of people playing video games during the COVID-19 pandemic, activity numbers are spiking for a large number of popular games. ACR vendors catering to advertisers will thus have one requirement right away: high-quality reference fingerprints for the latest and most popular video games.

Traditional Ad Targeting

Before moving on to reference fingerprints, let us step back and talk a bit about ad targeting. With consumers being exposed to thousands of ads per day, ad targeting is now more important than ever. Connecting advertisers with their target audience was a challenge in the days before the introduction of the Smart TV. Advertisers would bid for commercial spots on various programs that their target audience was reportedly interested in, and then they hoped that their ads would reach enough people to justify the high expenditure. This rudimentary form of ad targeting is still used and admittedly remains successful in some markets, but targeting can now be achieved more efficiently and effectively by making use of ACR platforms.

Ad Targeting powered by ACR

Ad Targeting Using Reference Fingerprints

Now let us bring reference fingerprints back into the picture. When coupled with relevant metadata, ACR platforms can be used to provide advertisers with flexible ad pricing depending on the popularity of the game or the genre. Advertisers can then use this data to provide interactive experiences and game recommendations to their target audience.

For example, a user playing an Action game such as ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’ could be recommended a similar game such as ‘Doom Eternal’, which is also a First-Person Shooter like the former.

The more practical use case, however, is with live-service games. Users who have opted-in for ACR to be enabled on their Smart TVs and devices benefit from the technology by receiving personalized ads. A user who spends a lot of time on a live-service game may be pleased to see an ad from the game’s publisher, offering an in-game bonus or reward for interacting with the ad. This is just one scenario of how personalized ads can be sold using ACR platforms.

Another application is audience segmentation and measurement. Advertisers can get valuable data that identifies which group of gamers are highly active and spend more time on a game, maybe even playing it to the end. This group is more likely to be actively interested in purchasing add-ons or similar games.

We are still in the evolving stages of personalized ads delivered through ACR platforms. As vendors and advertisers continue to discover the potential of this new medium, the possibilities are endless. It all starts with proper content recognition, provided by reference fingerprints.

Challenges of Fingerprinting Video Games

  1. Video games tend to be between 2 – 100+ hours long, with some games offering replayable content that can theoretically be played for thousands of hours. There are exceptions where games may be as short as 10 minutes, but these are far and few in between. This is a key challenge, as storing footage worth hundreds or even thousands of hours for one game is not practical.
  2. Video games are unpredictable. Being an interactive medium, video games are influenced by user behavior. For example, the footage created from two gameplay sessions might be significantly different. An experienced gamer may play through a level with ease, and finish it in less than thirty minutes while a relatively inexperienced gamer might spend an hour or more on the same level, exploring various possibilities to clear it. This results in extra footage of the same level that is hardly useful for a database. Now multiply this with the thousands of games that get released each year and storage quickly becomes an issue.
  1. An incorrectly captured or low-quality fingerprint can prove to be costly, as the advertiser will have spent their marketing dollars in identifying a wrong game. A well-constructed capture process can help avoid the risk of producing low-quality fingerprints.
  2. For live-service games, it is important to keep updating the database with fingerprints of the latest content update. Most live-service games are updated on a “seasonal” basis, with each season lasting between 2-4 months. As user interest spikes at the start of each new season, it becomes essential to have a reference fingerprint available within hours of the season’s launch.

Conclusion

Quality reference fingerprints, delivered on a timely schedule, will help keep your database up-to-date and ready to cater to the needs of advertisers in real-time. When coupled with relevant metadata, these can be incredibly beneficial for ad targeting, offering significantly higher Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).

After analyzing hundreds of recently released games, we here at Gameopedia have devised a proprietary process to create high-quality reference fingerprints that identify the unique elements of a game and enable accurate recognition. Our team of experienced professionals (who are also avid gamers) can identify new content and create high-quality reference fingerprints within the launch window of new season updates for some of the most popular games across the world.

We would love to hear from you about your video game fingerprinting needs or any custom requirements you might have to maintain your database. Talk to our game data experts or mail us at services@gameopedia.com.

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Why Automatic Content Recognition(ACR) Platforms Need To Target The Gaming Industry

The technology in Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) platforms has evolved rapidly since its humble beginnings as a music-detection tool in 2011. Today, this technology can be used to recognize more than just music and has expanded to multiple media markets. As per estimates from various vendors who work with ACR data, more than 100 million households around the world have opted-in to enable Automatic Content Recognition on their Televisions and smart devices.

Of the various markets that can be reached through this medium, few are as active and rapidly growing as the video game market.

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a sudden increase in the number of people staying at home for long periods of time. This in turn caused a steep rise in the number of gamers. These include people playing a video game for the very first time and those playing one for the first time as adults. This caused several people to (re) discover a passion for gaming that helped the video game industry join the pool of select industries that benefited from the pandemic. It is expected that a sizable portion of these new gamers will continue to be active consumers for the foreseeable future.

Smart Devices, ACR Platforms, and Video Games

Over the past few years, Smart Televisions (TVs) and devices such as Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV have found their way into millions of households across the world. Traditionally used to consume movies and television content, some of these devices are now doubling up as gaming platforms. Google has brought its cloud gaming service – Stadia – to the big screen using its Chromecast series of devices. Similarly, Apple has invested heavily in its own gaming service called Apple Arcade. Amazon has recently entered the fray with its Luna gaming service, which will be connected to the big screen through its Fire TV line of devices.

These services are improving accessibility to games for all audiences, particularly among people who did not invest in a dedicated game console or a gaming computer.

Needless to say, it is a very intriguing opportunity to apply ACR technology to this rapidly growing market, the foundation of which is a Reference Fingerprint of the content to be recognized.

How Game Fingerprinting In ACR Platforms Work

A Reference Fingerprint contains the necessary content required to correctly identify a piece of media, in this case, a video game. Depending on the requirement, a fingerprint may contain either video, audio, or both video-audio identifiers.

On Smart TVs and devices which have opted in to enable Automatic Content Recognition, a sample of the game currently being played is cross-referenced with the reference fingerprint, enabling the recognition of the game. Video games are interactive media, so people may interact with games in different ways. For ACR to work as intended, the reference fingerprint needs to be created with precise identifiers, so that no matter how the user chooses to play the game, the content is still recognized.

Fingerprinting în ACR Platforms

Fingerprinting in ACR Platforms

At Gameopedia, we have developed a process that produces accurate reference fingerprints, enabling smooth content recognition.

The Need For A Reference Fingerprint Database

The video game market is in a constant state of evolution, with player tastes changing quite often. On one hand, there are thousands of games coming out each year, and on the other, a small set of ‘live-service’ games are constantly adding new content to retain their existing player base. Thus, it is essential to not only identify which of the new releases will go on to be potentially popular but also keep track of existing live-service games that continue to remain popular.

Here at Gameopedia, we thrive on keeping up with the latest trends in gaming. Our team of gaming experts can help curate reference fingerprints from a new title, on Day One of its global launch. This is critical as interest in a title tends to be at its peak in the first few days of its launch. Likewise, we can provide updated fingerprints for live-service games whenever they are updated with new content.

Applications Of Automatic Content Recognition For Video Games

Audience Segmentation and Measurement: An ACR Platform can be used to identify and measure the audience size for a particular game. A reference fingerprint is used to recognize the content of a certain game being played on ACR – enabled devices and various statistical inferences can be made about the audience for that game. This data is quite valuable as it helps estimate the global sentiment towards a game.

Ad Targeting & Pricing:  While video games of every genre have their own dedicated audiences, some genres inevitably have larger audiences than others. For advertisers, it is important to identify games from popular genres (a few of which include Action, Shooter, Adventure, and Driving) to set up suitable targeting and pricing structures. It is here that a reference fingerprint bundled with relevant metadata fits into the picture. The fingerprint identifies the game and the metadata quickly identifies the genre that the game belongs to, thus allowing the advertiser to estimate the popularity of the game.

Content Enhancement: Automatic Content Recognition Platforms can also be used to enhance the user’s experience while consuming a piece of content. Manufacturers of Smart devices may choose to partner with game publishers to provide interactive experiences to the users when a certain game is being played on the device. Such experiences include guides with helpful advice on game progression, additional media such as in-game lore entries, unseen cut scenes, and so on.

Another application of ACR Platforms in enhancing user experience is to provide additional game recommendations, based on the users’ current selection of games. ACR can identify the game(s) that a user chooses to spend a lot of time upon, and this information can then be utilized to provide recommendations for games that are likely to appeal to players of the identified game.

Copyright Infringement Detection: Video game publishers tend to be a bit lenient with how their IP is used by the public, as seen by the rapid distribution of video game footage on media outlets like YouTube and Twitch. A lot of publishers in fact encourage users to record, stream, upload, or otherwise distribute footage from their games, as this has been proven to help with raising awareness of these titles.

However, publishers may not always want their IP to be distributed in such a manner. For example, some publishers provide early access to their games to a select set of users, usually in an early stage of development. At this stage, publishers would not want footage from these early builds to reach the public at large. This is where Automatic Content Recognition in game content recognition and allows publishers to catch any potential cases of copyright infringement.

We are on the cusp of a new generation of gaming. With the launch of two new, powerful game consoles and the rapid adoption of Smart TVs, the core gaming market is as strong as ever. And with cloud gaming poised to increase the spread of the market, now is the time for building a robust, up-to-date reference fingerprint database for video games. This truly is the next key chapter in the reach of Automatic Content Recognition Platforms and smart devices.

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The Fall Of The IDFA and The Future of iOS Advertising

At the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple released a bunch of changes to its devices and operating systems as it always does.

But hidden among these were a series of privacy updates to iOS that nearly eliminated an important element of in-app mobile advertising and measurement — the Apple IDFA.

So what is the IDFA? And how does this affect the mobile marketing world?

The History of the IDFA

Apple introduced the Apple IDFA in 2012 as a replacement for the Unique Device Identifier (UDID).

The UDID is a feature of iOS devices that is fetched when a user tries to activate the Apple device using iCloud or the Setup app. Similar to the IDFA, advertisers, and publishers rely on the UDID to track user data and behavior. Ad services track the data and other apps a user has installed on their iOS device based on their UDID and use that data to target users, as well as track app usage, setup game networks, and store some simple settings.

Although the UDID was helpful to advertisers, it did have a major downside in terms of privacy. 

It was possible to link these tracking codes to a specific user which was a hindrance to user privacy. Also, the UDID was permanent which meant that if it was ever released, it could be directly traced to that user. As the conversation on data privacy took a more prominent role and concerns started to flow in, Apple eventually phased out the UDID and introduced the IDFA.

What is the IDFA?

The Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA) is a semi-permanent string of numbers and letters assigned to Apple devices like iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. 

It is used by advertisers and app publishers to recognize Apple users across multiple different apps to deliver personalized and targeted advertising, run frequency capping, measure campaign performance, and attribute impressions and clicks to app installs. Fingerprinting for Apple IDFA also allowed the advertiser to identify whether specific users click an ad for payment and attribution purposes.

The main reason to introduce the Apple IDFA was to give power to the consumer. They could now decide if they wanted to share their tracking information with the app or service. Unlike the UDID, users now had the ability to opt-out of targeted marketing campaigns by enabling “Limit Ad Tracking” which restricts the advertiser’s use of the IDFA. Consumers could also reset their IDFA code if they wished to no longer receive personalized advertisements and experiences from advertisers and publishers.

Fingerprinting for Apple IDFA quickly became a core component for the entire mobile marketing ecosystem on iOS, and played a role in countless systems and scenarios, from ad targeting, remarketing, analytics, rate limiting, personalized content, user personas, and more.

But even the IDFA came with its flaws. 

The Problems with the IDFA

Although Apple introduced changes and updates to the IDFA system, the opt-in rate remained low and Apple is the one to blame for this. 

The option to opt-in to the Apple IDFA program was hidden deep in the recesses of Apple’s settings, making it so that only someone who is actually looking for it can find it.

Pretty convenient, huh?

We thought so and so did other Apple users. And so, as of September 16th, 2020, with the launch of iOS 14, Apple introduced an update to the system. Users are now shown a pop-up when they open the app asking them if they wished to share their information with third-party sites. 

By allowing users to choose, it will reduce the amount of data that’s collected and advertisers will no longer be able to accurately target and track those users within apps on iOS devices.

Although a great tool to ensure user privacy, advertisers and publishers will now have to learn to survive without fingerprinting for Apple IDFA and the information that enabled personalized ad targeting. With the adoption rate estimated to be around 10-20%, advertisers are going to have to look for alternatives to maintain their relevance.

Alternatives To The IDFA

The world without the IDFA is not as terrible as one would foresee. Although the Apple IDFA is heading out soon (or at least appears to be), advertisers can still get the information they want.

Here’s our list of the alternate tracking methods advertisers can use to improve ad targeting.

#1: Fingerprinting

Companies already use fingerprinting to attribute web to app conversion paths. 

It collects mobile device attributes like IP addresses, device types, software versions, and more, to identify a device. In a world without IDFA at all, the app-to-app conversion flows could simply mimic the web-to-app flows, using fingerprinting in much the same way.

But even fingerprinting comes with its own set of problems. Apart from the obvious GDPR complications, fingerprinting may not be a viable option as it can be seen as an invasive and non-permissioned type of tracking; the very thing that Apple is trying to avoid. 

#2: SKAdNetwork

The SKAdNetwork aims to provide conversion data to advertisers without revealing any user-level or device-level information. 

It uses the mobile OS as a privacy-oriented mediator between the publisher, the advertiser, and the ad network that places the ad. The information that is shared does not contain any device identifiers that would allow advertisers to track user behaviors. 

There are some downsides, however. Although accuracy increases, the quality of attribution data available to advertisers will be highly compromised as multi-touch attribution is completely out of scope for the SKAdNetwork. Also, campaign optimization and retargeting will also be much harder to do. 

The future of the mobile ad industry looks uncertain as advertisers look for new ways to stay relevant. 

At Gameopedia, we look to provide accurate metadata that will allow advertisers and networks to achieve true hyper-personalization with effective contextual ad campaigns. Reach out to us to join the future of advertising.

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