Don't miss
  • 2,232
  • 6,844
  • 6097
  • 134

Glossary of online games

By on July 6, 2010

The games industry is full of confusing terms. So is the advertising industry. And now that games publishing and games marketing crosses over both disciplines, the potential for confusion is rife.

I’ve taken the glossary from How to Publish a Game and reproduced here. Over time, I expect to add to it as new terms are adopted. If there is anyting you would like to see in here, let me know.

A/B testing Also known as split-testing, A/B testing involves testing two small changes to your website or game on a live service and measuring which performs better.
Ad Server A web tool such as OpenX or DoubleClick’s DART that intelligently delivers multiple advertising campaigns spread over time.
Affiliate marketing Affiliates are third-party websites which refer users to your site in return for a payment (on a CPC or more usually a CPA basis). They are often managed through Affiliate Networks such as Commission Junction or TradeDoubler. If you are referring gamers to a site such as Amazon or iTunes that sells your own game, you can register and become an affiliate yourself, generating additional revenue (typically 5-10% of the sales generated) from sending traffic to the site.
App Currently means an application for smartphones such as the iPhone and Android, as distinct from a web page accessed from a mobile phone.
AppStore Apple’s online store for applications for the iPhone.
ARPDA / ARPDAU Average revenue per daily active user.
ARPU Average revenue per user. A metric borrowed from the mobile industry, it shows how much the average user spends. Typically a monthly, rather than a yearly, figure. Not to be confused with ARPPU.
ARPPU Average revenue per PAYING user. Confusion between ARPU and ARPPU is rife. In a free to play game, there may be many millions of users, but only a percentage of them pay. Most games companies quote ARPPU, but many observers multiply ARPPU by total number of users to get revenue. To calculate revenue, they should multiply EITHER ARPPU x number of paying users OR ARPPU x total users x conversion rate. Read more about ARPPU in freemium games.
CAC Customer Acquisition Cost, also known as CPA.
CANSPAM The US Act of 2003 that regulates the sending of commercial email in the United States.
Churn The percentage of customers who leave a service every month/year. Read more about churn, retention rate and duration.
Conversion Rate The percentage of players who convert from free players to paying players. Read more about conversion rate in GAMESbrief‘s forecasting spreadsheet.
CPA Cost Per Acquisition/Action. An online advertising model whereby an advertiser pays a publishing website a cash amount every time the website refers a consumer to the advertiser’s website and the consumer takes a specified action. It may include filling a form or registering, but the most common is making a cash payment. For example, EVE Online will pay $7 every time a referred user becomes a subscriber.It is also used by game developers and web publishers as a key metric to understand how much it costs them to acquire a customer from all of their marketing sources.
CPC Cost Per Click. An online advertising model whereby an advertiser pays a publishing website for each click on a link. Google’s AdSense program is based around CPC.
CPI Cost per Install. An online advertising model, currently mostly confined to the iPhone, where developers/publishers pay a fee for the successful installation of an app.
CPM Cost per Mille (or Thousand). The primary measure of advertising cost across all media (including television, radio, print and web). It measures that cost per thousand “views” of an advertisement. In an online context, it refers to the cost of a thousand impressions of a single banner.
CPT Cost per Thousand. See CPM.
DAUs Daily Active Users.
DLC Downloadable Content. Generally, I suppose this would mean any content that has been downloaded. In practice, it appears to mean additional content that can be downloaded (whether for free or for a payment) for boxed products. Examples include the infamous horse armour for Oblivion or additional content for Burnout Paradise.
eCPM Effective Cost Per Thousand. A method of comparing a CPC/CPA campaign to a standard CPM campaign. By aggregating the total amount of CPC/CPA revenue and dividing by the number of impressions served, you can calculate the effective CPM.
Engagement Engagement is a key objective in online games. If players come back every day, they are more likely to spend. Engagement is derived from DAU/MAU.
EIS Enterprise Investment Scheme, a UK government initiative to encourage investment in early stage businesses. See p. 166.
F2P Free to play. See Freemium.
Freemium A business model whereby you give your core game away for free and charge users for premium services or virtual goods.
Free To Play Also known as F2P. See Freemium.
GaaPy A “game as a product”. A phrase coined by me, see p. 19.
GaaSy A “game as a service”. A phrase been coined by me, see p. 19.
Geo-targeting Showing content, usually advertisements, only to people in a specific country.
IAP In-App Purchases. Generally, but not exclusively, refers to purchase made in the iOS App Store
Impression The basic unit of online advertising. An impression is counted when a single user sees a single ad.
IP Intellectual Property. Also stands for Internet Protocol.
Match Three A game mechanic where players combine three or more similar items to make them disappear. Bejewelled is a classic example of a match three game.
MAUs Monthly Active Users.
Metacritic  A website that aggregates review scores for games, films and music to give a blended “average” score. The exact algorithm of weighting is not revealed, but Metacritic is a good guide to the general reception of a game.
Meta tag A meta tag holds data about the content of a web page in the <head> section. Often associated with effective SEO, but no longer as effective as it once was. It is good practice to have good “keyword” and “description” fields, but good quality page design is more important for SEO than playing games with meta tags.
MMO Massively-multiplayer online game.
PSN PlayStation Network.
Publishers In games, “blood-sucking leeches who have no place in the future of digital distribution” (according to David Lau-Kee, see p 21).In web advertising, publishers generally means websites, such that a developer talking to an advertiser about his browser-based game will be referred to as a publisher.
Registered users An oft-quoted but generally useless metric for online businesses. A successful web business needs active users, and that is best measured by Unique Users.
Remnant Advertising that is sold for low rates, typically through networks. It is known as “remnant” because advertisers buying from a network don’t know exactly which sites their ads will be displayed on, and so they pay a lower CPM or CPC rate.
Smartphone Any of the new generation of advanced mobile handsets such as the iPhone, the Palm Pre or the Android operating system.
SEM Search Engine Marketing. Paying money to appear in the search rankings on sites such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.
SEO Search Engine Optimisation. The process of driving traffic to your site by ensuring that key search phrases are included in the text of your website.
Triple A A premium selling title, targeting at least 1 million units.
Unique user (visitor) A unique user or unique visitor is the standard audience measurement unit on the web. It typically means a unique individual who has visited a website in the last 30 days, counted only once no matter how many times they visited. Some sites use different time frames (2 weeks, 3 months) for their uniques.
UGC (user-generated content) UGC or user-generated content is content created by users within a game or website. Levels created on Little Big Planet, content built in Second Life or mods for first person shooters are all UGC.
XBLA Xbox Live Arcade.
XBLIG Xbox Live Indie Games.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: