Social Games Are Leading the Real-Time Data Wave

Real-time data is becoming a fundamental part of the web, and social gaming is at the forefront of that wave. Market leader Zynga, for example, tracks hundreds of different metrics about its games in real-time — where its users come from, what they do, when they leave — so that it can make changes based on those metrics on a daily or even hourly basis and improve the virality of its games. As the need for real-time data accelerates, so does the need for analytical tools to make sense of it all, a hole that services like Kontagent are hoping to fill. The two-year-old startup just announced a new version of its dashboard that it says gives app and game developers even more real-time tools to work with.

The principle behind Kontagent, which raised a funding round of $1 million earlier this year from a series of angels, is that real-time social activity, like social games on Facebook, require a different kind of analytics than the traditional pageview-centric and click-focused model associated with Google Analytics (s goog) and Omniture. There are a couple of reasons for that, says Kontagent founder Albert Lai, and one is that traditional analytical tools tend to use data sampling, which looks at 10 percent or so of traffic, then extrapolates overall trends, rather than true real-time data.

[inline-pro-content] Data sampling, according to Lai, fails to capture important info that social-game makers and others need to track the virality of their apps and services. “That 10 percent may not capture the ‘whales’ or power users,” he said, but the data from those users “can be really important in terms of tracking your growth.” Traditional pageview-based analytics also doesn’t provide the kind of detail that developers need, Lai argues. “You might know that people came to you through a search for a specific keyword, and at best you might have a cookie, which you assume is the same user — but you don’t have a unique user ID and a demographic profile and the other detail that we have,” he says.

The Kontagent founder also argues that traditional analytics tools like Omniture are a lot more expensive for developers and app-makers because they charge on a per-click or per-action basis. “For some of our customers, like PopCap Games, they have 10 million monthly users,” says Lai. “If they tracked every action with something like Omniture they would bankrupt the company.” Kontagent tracks hundreds of different real-time actions related to more than 70 million monthly unique users across a number of leading game platforms, Lai says.

Other providers of real-time analytics aimed at social apps and games include Mixpanel, which tracks not just games and apps on Facebook but other web-based social apps as well, and just recently launched mobile app tracking for the iPhone (s aapl). The company, which was founded by former employees of the social-game company Slide (recently acquired by Google), says it’s tracking more than a billion user actions per month. Database company Vertica is also making a play for the social-gaming market, offering companies like Zynga the ability to crunch massive amounts of data in order to track what content is the most appealing in real-time and make changes on the fly.

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Post and thumbnails courtesy of Flickr user Striatic