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Square-Enix anonymously monitoring your gameplay, discusses how it uses gathered data

Friday, 26th October 2012 09:43 GMT By Dave Cook

Square-Enix is watching the way you play its games, according to new reports that suggest the publisher’s end-user license agreement gives it permission to capture your playing trends. It’s not a massive conspiracy though, just a new trend in opinion-forming. The publisher has revealed all in a new interview.

MCV reports that Square Enix London is using metrics gathered from the publisher’s games to find out how you think and act when playing. Whenever you agree to one of the publishers terms & conditions documents, you’re giving them permission to monitor your actions.

Now, off the bat, we’re not saying this is a nefarious plot to spy on you, or anything reactionary like that, because metric gathering goes on in games a fair bit – based on the many interviews we’ve done. But it’s rare for publishers to open up about it quite as Square-Enix has.

They’ve done just that. Speaking with MCV, Square Enix London Studios producer Chris Dillon said, “Until you actually have data, you only have assumptions. You have a particular demographic that engages in forums and they can be very vocal. Often, at face value that can be interpreted as being a clear indication of a particular problem or a particular desire.”

“When you actually have the whole picture,” Dillon continued, “you get a much better understanding as to what’s really going on and often, it’s quite a small group of people who are taking a very big sense of need or demand.”

Dillon then went on to discuss how said metrics are used, “We’ve always looked to have metrics in previous titles but Sleeping Dogs represents a pinnacle of what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve actually gathered a lot of data about all aspects of the game, even for example simple things like the configuration you have on your PC options.”

“For example,” he added, “we can actually find out trends, like people’s Y-axis inverted as a default – yes or no? We can actually get information that shows up what people’s preferences are for those settings.”

“So when we actually make future titles, we can look at the data and set of defaults that we believe is what people want. That’s a really simple example of how we can directly use metrics and at the other end of the scale, we actually use it to drive things like our global and personal stats and our leader boards.”

What’s your take on anonymously-gathered metrics? Is it a good way for studios to form opinion? Can forum feedback only go so far? Let us know below.

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14 Comments

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  1. ShakaCarnage

    Games have been doing this for years, though. Also, Love you Dave.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 I know :) It’s just rare to see publishers talking about it so openly. I said that in the piece too. I think it’s a good thing.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Giskard

    I remember when BioWare released a massive spreadsheet of information they had gathered, and nobody seemed too bothered then.

    It’s all good, really. It’s not like I repeatedly enter my credit card numbers while in game.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. ShakaCarnage

    In all honesty, the numbers and data aren’t used to monetize players (from what I’ve seen, at least), but moreover, are used to improve experiences in future titles, track bugs for updates, and look at user patterns to identify the kind of gameplay they enough.

    The gamer wins.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @3 & 4 yeah, like Shaka rightly says, there’s nothing dodgy going on here. I was keen to stress that in my piece.It’s purely a way of getting raw data. Looking at forums for opinion is fine, but those are opinions, not tried and tested metrics.

    Both are valid though, I think Forums can be powerful for feedback, just as metrics can be.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. KrazyKraut

    i have no problem with that as long as it does not causes some crashes or bad game performances.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. silkvg247

    Sleeping dogs is still one of my fave games of 2012. I completed it quite quickly though, have any expansions come out yet?

    #7 2 years ago
  8. KrazyKraut

    @silk
    Next week, Oct 30th.

    http://www.vg247.com/2012/10/15/sleeping-dogs-first-story-dlc-due-this-month-includes-zombies/

    Just in time for ‘ween :)

    #8 2 years ago
  9. lama

    i hate it! i do have about a dozen hostile ip addresses banned from the network. (includes those from facebook)

    #9 2 years ago
  10. GrimRita

    Just because a publisher installs a piece of bullshit text in its T&Cs doesnt and shouldnt give them the right to gather data from what you do without offering the end user the ability to opt in and/or out.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. TheBlackHole

    @10

    Sorry, but that’s why you have to accept TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Why on earth should the gathering of personal data be separate from other elements of the t&c’s? It’s part of the general agreement. You don’t have to play the game.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Erthazus

    @10,

    1) Terms and Conditions – you agree with that when you install or use your disk.

    2) Publisher monitor statistics in the game and that’s it. It’s not watching your porn on your PC or PS3 lol.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. SplatteredHouse

    If it improves player experience (because the outcome is most likely to be based on actual player’s experience), and actually allows a game maker/releaser to filter out noise, and act on genuine data, I’m all for this kind of thing. I’d be fine if the console on launching a game logged whatever about my play session, and when I finish it sends the data.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. GrimRita

    @11/12
    You’re both missing the point. Just because a publisher puts this crap in it’s T&Cs doesnt make it right. For whatever reason. Just look at the Origin/EA spygate affair.

    They wanted to track both and took the stance that because it was in their T&Cs, they could get away with it. Total bollocks.

    Of course, if publishers want to gather data(like Steam does, for example) there is no harm, but either way, the end user should always be given the option to be part of it or not.

    #14 2 years ago