Virality 101

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I’m looking forward to moving to more practical stuff. To do that I need to wrap up the 101 posts of The Player Lifecycle. The one missing is Virality.

So, what is virality?

Virality is the game’s ability to acquire new players through actions of existing players. Facebook shares, tweets, SMS, invite codes, etc. All of these actions count as virality as long as they are trackable. This means that things like word of mouth don’t count. It’s a pity I know! A good game gains traction pretty fast through word of mouth, but we want measurable virality.

Isn’t this really Acquisition?

In a way, yes. Let’s go back a bit…

As a summary of the Acquisition 101 post, we can generalise acquisition channels in three types: Organic Acquisition is the one where our soon to be players find the game through searches in the app stores or in the stores listings. Paid Acquisition (commonly called UA or User Acquisition) is when we acquire (or re-acquire) users through marketing efforts. Finally, there is Viral Acquisition which is when we acquire (and reengage) players through social interactions with other players.

In my humble opinion, in practical terms, we as analysts have different audiences for Acquisition and Virality. Acquisition from a knowledge perspective serves almost every aspect of game analytics. From a marketing perspective, serves UA and product management. It does take into consideration Viral Acquisition but from an ROI point of view. Virality, on the other hand, is about game design, social interactions and viral hooks.

What we want to know…

For every viral hook we want to know:

  1. Are the players interacting with it in the game? If it is insufficiently surfaced, it is useless since the process doesn’t start. We want to track actions in the game that will create social content such as Facebook shares.
  2. Are people in their network engaging with the social hooks? If they aren’t, it is not efficient. This is the case where the implementation in the game is good, but the response is low. This is the trickiest part of tracking since it might depend on a tracking partner. Measurement is similar to marketing campaigns.
  3. Are both groups able to interact with each other in game afterwards? If they aren’t, it is not effective. Continuous interaction between friends is much more effective allowing reengagement.


Virality is short and sweet. The devil is in the implementation details. It is extremely hard to measure virality. From an acquisition point of view it can have considerable impact on UA returns. From a design point of view it can have a considerable impact in design decisions.

As simple as it might be it brings as many technical difficulties as Acquisition.

This wraps up the 101 stage of The Player Lifecycle post category. I want to move to other subjects and also to a more hands-on approach of the player lifecycle. It has been (almost) two fun months!

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