Our Director of Marketing, Paul Gray, spoke this weekend at the Freeplay Independent Games Festival in Melbourne. Freeplay is Australia’s longest running independent games festival exploring the intersection of indie development, culture, arts and education. In an interactive workshop, Paul shared some thoughts about why insights can help game developers make better games and some tips and tactics on how to effectively and easily gain valuable insights.

Making a great game

What is it that makes a great game? I asked the audience this question and as expected, many answers were given. Some said story, others said playability, still others suggested graphics, challenge or price amongst others. I’d asked this question to illustrate an important point that formed the basis for the rest of the workshop: which of these makes a great game? The answer is ‘It depends’. Whether you’re creating virtual worlds for kids, mobile games for casual players or intricate and in-depth adventures for hardcore gamers, it’s important to understand your audience. In games, as in any creative industry and in pretty much any industry at all, there exist differences in customers that we may reach out to. This is the concept of market segmentation – identifying groups or clusters of customers that share similar traits, interests or behaviours. It is quite impossible to create a game for everyone. Even the most successful games of all time have hordes of haters – people who passionately dislike that game. And they’re fully entitled too. Game developers need to recognise this and focus on creating games for a specific audience.

Why, what, how

Through discussions, examples and conversations with the crowd in the Freeplay workshop, we investigated the why, the what and the how:

  • Why bother getting insights? The reason is, that if a developer wants their game to be successful (whatever their definition of success is), they will have to work hard to ensure that they are creating and delivering a game that their customers want. It’s better to be more focused and deliver a better experience for a tighter segment than try to be too broad and cater for too many.
  • What ways can we get insights? We discussed both quantitative and qualitative approaches to conducting research and gathering insights. We looked at specific techniques and tools and discussed the pros and cons of each of these approaches. Ultimately, games developers should take a balanced approach and even with limited time and resources, it is possible to gather feedback that will be invaluable to the development process.
  • How do we use insights? Once insights have been gathered, its important to ensure that they are put to good use. Insight gathering is most beneficial when it is done to investigate a specific question or area of consideration. How customers may react to game controls for example, or what they think of a visual style.

In developing Little Space Heroes, we had to investigate what kids and parents wanted from virtual worlds for kids.

Personas

We discussed ‘personas’, a tool from the product management and design fields that can be very useful in helping diverse teams understand their customer and ensure they work towards satisfying that customer. In addition to being very practical, persona creation is also a lot of fun. Think of it like creating a character for a story. As part of the workshop, we split into four groups and participants worked on creating one of four distinct personas. We created Wendy, the persona of the target customer for Wii Fit as well as Chad, the persona for the game Call of Duty 4, Buddy for NBA 2K11 and Tom,, for Spyro. The presentation from the event is available below. Please feel free to share any comments or questions you may have.

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