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What traits do 'discoverable' games have in 2022?

Let's not look at genres, eh?

[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]

Happy Monday(s), and welcome to GameDiscoverCo’s humble newsletter, where we’re all currently very excited about our new NFTs, and think you should be too. (*checks our stock ticker feverishly, before remembering a) we’re not publicly traded b) we didn’t make any*)

OK, sorry, sorry, we’re trying to remove it. In the meantime, we’re tackling a whole bunch of interesting discoverability news & opinions. We’ll be starting with a more abstract look at the kinds of games that might do well in these tumultuous times.

What traits do the most discoverable games have?

When working with one of our clients recently, we were looking into an important specific. The existential question: what makes for a successful and long-lasting game in today’s market, both from a discovery and play point of view?

You can examine this purely in terms of game genres or Steam tags. And that’s also a valid approach we’ll reference at the end of this section. But there’s another way to do this - by looking at broad feature sets.

Advantages of this approach? We’re looking at broad traits, not types of game. But disadvantages? This may be a very high-level view, and not that practical when transferring to reality.

Nonetheless: some of the things that we think are important to a game’s success right now are, if you’re looking to grab the idol (of broad discovery!) without unleashing the boulder (of poor reach?):

  • Online co-op: if the game is appropriate for multiplayer online co-operative play, this really helps with both streamers and word of mouth, in this meta-COVID world filled with ‘vs. mode’ griefers.
  • User-generated content or creations: it can be as simple as a cool-looking zoo in Let’s Build A Zoo or as complex as completely custom vehicles in Trailmakers, but modding and UGC extends the discussion a lot.
  • Layered new features over time: the concept that you can launch a game when not yet finished, but have a clear roadmap to adding things. These would be features that both new and old buyers would be excited about.
  • Sandbox elements: if you give the player a canvas and allow them to be fairly freeform with what they do with it, all kinds of interesting things happen. It allows both for a) varying play styles and b) more creativeness over time.
  • RP (roleplay) or ability for players to tell stories: this largely helps in multiplayer titles and with streamers. But if you allow people to act out or be themselves in interesting, unique ways they can communicate to others - that’s great.
  • Replayability: can you play the game again and again in different ways? Whether that’s through procedural generation, multiple modes, or something else, that massively helps the ability for your game to get surfaced multiple times.

Perhaps some of these points are a little basic. But it’s a good alternative lens to discuss some of the things that draw players to games & experiences nowadays. And it underscores that a looser approach to ‘traditional gameplay’ can pay dividends.

In other words, if your game is a one-time single player-only masterpiece on its launch day based on tightly plotted gameplay, it can absolutely get somewhere - think Outer Wilds, Chicory, and more. We know that’s the most conventional approach.

But giving your players and potential players something new to talk about 6 months, a year, or even 3 years after launch, or different avenues to explore over time? That’s worth its weight in game discovery gold, folks - especially in a changing world.

[We’re GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]

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