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Know your Audience

This blog is a continuation of the 'making games that sell' series. It highlights the importance of knowing your audience and how it can influence your game.

If you plan on making a creative project for someone else to enjoy, then you need to take the time to get to know who it is that you want your works to appeal to.

The beauty about human nature is that we are all uniquely different, which in turn gives rise to creativity, and as weird, wonderful and varied your works are, there is bound to be at least someone else who will enjoy it.

If however, you want your creative project to have broad market appeal then a lot more thought needs to go into it.

It’s easy to make a project that just appeals to you, and while there is nothing wrong with taking this approach or using it as a starting point, taking the time to research into what audiences you would like to target can make a huge difference in your games’ success.

When defining your target audience, some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How big is your audience?
  • What makes your audience unique?
  • Where do they hang out (social media, forums etc.)?
  • What age bracket do they belong to?
  • What platforms do they play on?
  • What does your audience enjoy about your type of game?
  • What type of artwork style do they like?
  • Do they enjoy fast pace, or slow and more thoughtful style of gaming?
  • What type of music do they like?
  • Do they enjoy multiplayer?
  • Are they a casual gamer or hardcore gamer?
  • Do they like lengthy games or short games?
  • What genre of games do they like?
  • How experienced in gaming is your audience?

This of course is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully you start to get an idea of the defining characteristics that make up your audience and how to tailor your game towards this audience. It also means that you can market the game with more accuracy, use your resources in a more meaningful way and generate a larger impact. It can also help you identify opportunities or gaps in the market for you to explore.

Market research is usually done during the planning stage, while you are still deciding on which direction you will take the game. This will allow you to properly scope out the project and determine what will be involved in its development, marketing and distribution. Doing this at the start before diving into its development will also ensure you aren’t simply wasting time on a project that potentially won’t reap the expected return.

Once you have determined who it is that you are targeting with your game, you can then benchmark your idea against other games that have succeeded or failed within the same market space, and the reasons for the success or failures of the games in question.

In particular, focus on the audience reception of these games. Were they met with fanfare and praise, or were they subject to a low number of reviews, sales and minimal playtime. You can avoid a lot of the pitfalls by ensuring that you honest about your audience evaluation prior to your games creation.

To assist with this evaluation, let’s explore some of the questions I raised above:

Audience size

Games with high critic praise can fail if they lack an audience. If no-one knows about your game, then no-one will be interested in it, and there won’t be anyone to play it. On the other hand, games that are marketed heavily can also fail due to a lack of audience. If the game is so unique that a niche barely exists, then no amount of marketing can generate a player base. This is also the case if your intended audience doesn’t have access to the platform that you are releasing the game on. For instance, the reason why mobile games outsell VR games is because there are far more people using mobile phones as a platform to play games in comparison to VR.

Platform

The chosen platform also affects the demographic your audience falls into including the mindset and expectations when it comes to gaming costs and how the games are consumed. Mobile gamers have now come to expect games to be free, and are mostly casual gamers playing on their commute to and from work, school or university. People that play on a console on the other hand are far more invested into a game. They are likely to pay a premium to play a good quality game, and will allocate time to play the game at home. There are of course exceptions to this rule and there are even hybrids, such as people that play on portable consoles, each with their own characteristics.

Artistic direction

Some may argue that art style is so subjective that it is too difficult to objectively determine the appropriate direction to take, and therefore any art direction is plausible. While this is true to some degree, what we do know is that people like seeing things that are pleasing to the eye, and we can look at trends to help us in finding out what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to art style and direction. There are some obvious art styles that will work better for certain audiences than others. For example, retro bit style art will fare much better for nostalgic gamers that grew up playing older style games. Anime style games will also likely appeal more to fans of anime than those that are not. The art style alone can be what draws people towards your game, so it pays to invest time in researching what people are likely to have a positive response to, and what is likely to compliment your game.

As you can see, the audience you are targeting can define your output quite significantly. By clearly defining who your audience is, you will be better prepared and are one step closer to making a successful game. Given this information, what aspects of your game’s target audience do you think should be prioritized and why? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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