5 Ways PubNub Illuminate Will Revolutionize Online Gaming

8 min read Markus Kohler on Mar 20, 2024

5 Ways PubNub Illuminate Will Revolutionize Online Gaming

We are thrilled to announce the launch of PubNub Illuminate, a groundbreaking real-time decisioning and analytics product set to transform the online gaming industry. Designed with the non-technical user in mind,  Illuminate is unique in its ability to provide in-the-moment decision-making and actionability. Illuminate will change how game developers and publishers engage with their players, optimize game mechanics on the fly, and drive revenue growth, all while freeing up development teams to focus on building the game, not managing the mechanics. 

Illuminate is not just another analytics tool; it's a low-code, customizable product that empowers product managers, data analysts, and engineering leads to instantly apply and measure the impact of their strategy-decisions, all with the real power of PubNub: real-time.

1. In-Game Balancing Without Patches

Few things enrage gamers like imbalanced games, aside of course, from the patch designed to balance the game making things worse! Whether it’s player or item stats, enemy NPC stats or load-outs, mission rewards, or in-game currency, getting the right balance in online games is difficult to manage. This is made worse by the in-house/closed testing -> patch building -> patch release cycle. This involves keeping devs involved in the process of tweaking and building the patch, then the cost of having to deploy, whether that’s to Playstation/Xbox/Steam or hosting the patch on your own servers/store. 

PubNub Illuminate changes this paradigm. By leveraging real-time analytics and decision-making capabilities, game developers can now adjust game mechanics on the fly. This is done by first building out the right objects in Illuminate to measure the in-game elements you wish to track, providing you with real-time analytics of what is happening in your game. This could be time-to-kill, gun damage done, loadout choices, or really anything you may wish to capture to help inform how well your game is balanced. From that, you describe the dimensions of how you wish to track these elements, like time-to-kill by gun name, damage done by attachment type, etc before finally putting together the metrics of them, such as most popular loadout choices.

Setting up these objects is as simple as creating a schema in your online game and then sending that data to PubNub Illuminate, which will handle the best way to display that data, in real-time. This means that analytics teams are able to see the way the game is balanced before the player base has a chance to react on Discord and forums, and as long as your game can receive and act upon the updates from PubNub Illuminate, the dev work is now done.  

Now, the real power of PubNub Illuminate comes in. The ability to make real-time ‘micro-decisions’ on the balance of the game. The balancing team can essentially apply updates in real-time and immediately see the effect of those updates. The team can see the effectiveness of, say, a weapon attachment relative to kills within seconds of making the change. 

These changes are implemented instantly, based on live player data, without the need for downtime or player interruptions, keeping the community consistently chasing the meta while saving development time and patch costs.

2. Easier, More Appropriate Monetization and Revenue Experimentation

Online games live and die by how well they are able to effectively and fairly, monetize their players. There are hundreds of stories online of companies that failed to get this right and either shut the game down or had to apologize to their player base. 

Experimentation of how to increase revenue can be quite time-consuming and, depending on the sophistication of the tools available, complicated to execute leading to a slow down in being able to generate revenue. For some games, the ability to experiment is also tied to patching, which as explained above can be an expensive and slow process itself. With PubNub Illuminate, developers can set up a schema, and allow for updates to be received from PubNub Illuminate, then monetization directors can experiment with different strategies in real-time, without the need for further developer time.

PubNub Illuminate offers flexibility for immediate adjustments based on player interactions, optimizing for higher monetization and user retention. Illuminate's ability to segment users based on their habits and engagement with the game allows monetization directors to tailor promotions or in-game offers. In PubNub Illuminate, the user would create objects associated with in-game stores and any type of player aspect they want to experiment on, whether that’s quests completed, time played, wins/losses etc. 

Now the monetization director could form any type of hypothesis, but for example, we will say they believe that certain players who beat end-game quests are likely to celebrate with a purchase in the store. They can create a decision that looks at a segment of players by active end-game purchase history, and combine that with when they complete 5 end-game quests, to create a real-time action of providing them with a percentage discount on the store. Taking an action the player would potentially make and increasing it to an action they’ll likely take. 

Because this is all real-time, the immediate play responses can be seen, and the director can easily adjust the discount percentage to find the optimum amount. This ensures that monetization efforts are not just effective but also appropriate and engaging for the target audience.

3. Incentivize and Reward Player Exploration Through In-game Rewards

It’s not just storefronts and discounts that can increase player retention and engagement. Rewarding player exploration and engagement is vital in retaining and enhancing in-game experiences. Whether that’s one-off events, new quests, DLC, or low-traffic side quests, there are many places where game companies wish to increase their player engagement.  This is especially true for online games, with their vast, explorable worlds and countless possibilities. However, many games struggle to encourage exploration beyond the main storyline and quests, where they’re focusing on min-maxing. Side quests and certain parts of new content often go unnoticed, leading to missed opportunities for enhancing player engagement and satisfaction.

For example, a game introduces a new area or a side quest that initially sees below-expected engagement. It would be simple, without the need for development teams, for an engagement director to be able to instantly create incentives for players to explore these new additions using PubNub Illuminate. Having the quests set up as objects, they could very quickly set up decisions to let the next 100 players receive exclusive in-game items, currency, or extra XP. This real-time incentivization not only boosts player engagement but also ensures that new content is experienced and appreciated, maximizing the investment in content development.

One of Illuminate's key strengths is its ability to make in-game events dynamic and personalized. Events can be tailored to player behavior, making rewards more meaningful and sought-after. For example, during in-game events, Illuminate can analyze player data in real-time to offer personalized challenges or rewards based on their play style or achievements. A player known for collecting rare items might be challenged to find a new, exclusive item, while a combat-oriented player might be rewarded for achieving a certain number of victories in a specific time frame. This type of personalization enhances player satisfaction while getting the players to explore deeper. Players feel recognized, valued, and play in a style that suits them, driving loyalty and engagement in the long term. By utilizing real-time analytics, the engagement director can continuously refine and adjust these personalized events and rewards based on player response, ensuring the game remains engaging and rewarding.

4. Fraudulent Transaction Detection

Regardless of how engaging and rewarding game companies make their games, there will always be a small subset of players who will want to circumvent, cheat, manipulate, or use 3rd party tools to fraudulently play or exploit the game. It’s key for game companies to be able to stay on top and quickly remove these players from their game so they can maintain a happy community. Traditional methods of cheat detection often involve static, rule-based systems that can quickly become outdated as cheaters and hackers evolve their tactics. This is why PubNub Illuminate will allow fraud teams to be able to select objects to measure that’ll instantly inform them of illicit behaviour.

A team could select player movement and gun aim/hits as objects to measure, and be able to set up decisions based on impossible-for-human accuracy and movement. This would tackle, for example, 3rd party aimbots, something that has plagued FPS games for years. It’s not just gameplay loops that could be measured for fraudulent behavior. PubNub Illuminate would easily be set up to measure irregular transaction patterns. This is especially useful in games with in-game stores or economies based on real-world money. These fraudulent transactions can lead to significant financial losses, while also undermining the in-game economy, devaluing limited items, and increase distrust in the playerbase. By analyzing transaction data in real-time, PubNub Illuminate can measure and make decisions to alert teams to potentially fraudulent activities, such as the exploitation of in-game trading systems. 

By doing this in real-time, and without the need for intervention from the dev team, game companies will be able to avoid ‘ban waves’ which can bring bad press and highlight the issues happening in their games.

5. Freeing Up Programmers 

Over the past 20 years or so, the size, scope, and types of work the programmers in game companies have done has vastly increased in complexity. With modern live service games, these teams can spend a huge chunk of their time and effort into maintaining the live service part over building traditional gameplay features. This is why one of the most significant advantages of PubNub Illuminate is its ability to free up engineering resources from time-consuming tasks, such as writing custom analytics queries, implementing decision-making mechanisms, or other operational tasks. With PubNub Illuminate developers just build one schema for Illuminate, then focus on creating and enhancing the game itself. Giving non-technical teams an out-of-the-box solution that they can build on, and modify to suit their needs. This speeds up engineering teams and makes sure resources are focused on innovation and player experience.

This freeing up of resources is noticed most when it comes to using PubNub Illuminate vs a traditional patching process, which can include long lead times required to develop, test, and deploy. But can also be noticed by the game companies when it comes to the costs associated with distributing these updates across PSN, Xbox, Steam, and storefronts, which can be high when delivering console patches due to certification processes and fees. With Illuminate, the need for frequent, large-scale updates for non-gameplay-essential items is almost entirely removed. Non-engineering roles can adjust game mechanics, tweak balancing, and experiment freely with monetization without the delay and those patching costs, nor the programming resources required. 

PubNub Illuminate paves the way so that programmers can now allocate more resources and energy towards crafting compelling narratives, creating immersive worlds, and revolutionary gameplay mechanics.  Knowing that the requirements from publishers can be met, that teams focused on improving engagement can process uninhibited, and that they can all build a game their players will love, giving them a competitive edge in a fast-paced gaming industry.

(Bonus) Integration with PubNub Platform for Enhanced Engagement

All of the above features will be able to work for any game at any stage of development, including already launched games. But for those companies who are in the earlier stages of building their online game, PubNub Illuminate becomes even more powerful when integrated with PubNub Platform. PubNub Platform can already power online games for things like skill-based matchmaking, in-game Chat, player online status, player sync, item drops, scoreboards/leaderboards, friend lists, persistent inventory management, trading, and much more. Letting game developers build a schema so that objects against any of those features can be created. Imagine being able to run sentiment analysis at a Guild/Clan level based on chat messages, to then be able to adapt certain quests or in-game items to suit their needs. Online mobile games would be able to send personalized notifications based on real-time in-game activities and decisions using PubNub’s push notifications feature, flag suspicious trades, or be able to make announcements in global chat, or… the list is endless.

Want to learn more about how Illuminate can help gaming companies? Head to our Illuminate for gaming page.

Want to dive right in? You can sign-up for a free trial right away.

Don't forget to check out the Illuminate documentation, or talk to our sales team to get a demo