My name is Ilya Eremeev, I’m a creative producer at Game Insight.
From time to time fellow developers ask me to take a look at their concept or a game and it is a common case that a team has no idea about their target audience and current market conditions.
That leads to unexpectedly high competition and high user acquisition costs, limited potential audience and the chosen monetization model can simply not fit the audience.
Sometimes a setting doesn’t match the game mechanics, sometimes the market is too saturated with such type of the product or setting, and sometimes you simply do not know what your audience likes.
Is there anyone who experienced problems figuring out what is your target audience? Raise your hands!
So, how developers could avoid such problems, and how publishers and investors can reduce their risks? The answer is: do the Market Research first. That won’t set risks to zero, and won’t give you exact numbers but it is gonna help you make right decisions and increase the success rate of your products.
The huge part of my job is the market and competitors analysis. In short - my objective is to understand what is going on on the market of mobile games, which trends are rising and if there is a window of opportunity for us.
I want to share some of my practices and instruments with you, which can help you evaluate your strategy and choose new projects wisely.
The goal is to find a gap in the market, the niche with the highest demand and lowest competition pressure.
What parameters should we take into account at the pre-production stage of the project?
- Audience demography
- Audience size, and the genre - setting compatibility
- Competing products
Unless you have the same product on air you can analyze the market by the data from open sources and other games.
One of the most common problems that developers complain about is that their game is unique and has no analogs on the market so they can not find any references.
The fact is it’s not true. You can find references for gameplay, setting, visual style, etc. for virtually any game and use them for your research.
So we have to find some games which are close to our product in core mechanic or other main parameters.
Just search the store manually, use related categories, keywords, and AppAnnie charts.
The idea of the relative success of that games you can get from the historical data of their position in download and grossing charts. I recommend to pick games from no lower than top 100 in a category and be very careful with games on the 1st place, especially in mainstream genres, because the audience of such games is too broad to analyze. There is no sense in “Candy Crush Saga” Audience - everyone played it.
At first, we will research a demographic composition of our targets. One of the best tools for that is the Facebook Audience Insight (https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience-insights)
Put target’s title at the “interest” field and we will get an audience demography of people who liked that game, loud and clear.
Of Course, likers composition is not 100% even to the actual game’s audience but from my experience, it’s pretty close and can be trusted.
Besides the audience demography, you’ll be able to see in which themes and products this audience is into.
It is worth to check every target one by one as well as altogether, by choosing several titles as interests.
This research will help you understand what kind of players you can potentially attract to your game and whom you have to keep in mind while making design decisions.
You can refine your research by narrowing your request by paying users only ((Advanced>Behaviors>> FB Payments), that does not, however, guarantee that those people paid in that game, but it will show a more relevant data about the core audience. Sometimes general audience and paying audience are drastically different. Keep that in mind when designing your monetization model.
If you have a published game - you can use your own (and more precise) data - https://www.facebook.com/analytics
You can get extra information from target game’s communities, some have open statistics and some you have to explore by yourself.
Try to analyze all the sources and compose an image of your potential target audience.
Potential Reach: 4,200,000 people
The next thing which worth to be mentioned is a potential size of the audience. This data is also indirect but it can help us to get information about the relative size of different audiences.
Facebook Ads Manager can help us here (https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager).
We can use the audience information which we obtained in the previous step and get insights about its potential volume. Try to add different interests and keywords and find out if they are relevant to your audience.
For instance, are there more people interested in the match-3 game in Zombie setting than in a Pirates setting?
That’s the way to understand which settings have higher potential along with the chosen genre and vice verse.
Experiment with different demographic groups, genres, and settings - maybe you will find a highly potential niche on the interests overlay.
Next. It is critical to monitor trends of settings and genres. The focus of interest is cyclical and at a certain point, it is a sci-fi, pirates, dinosaurs, ancient history, modern conflicts etc, steps into the spotlight.
The film industry can help us to track rising trends - monitoring a movie release calendar for the next year or two (http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/release-schedule) can provide good enough understanding of future trends in mass culture.
But do not forget to reinforce your perception by data. Use Google Trends tool (https://trends.google.com), for example, it could help to figure out if people’s interest in mahjong is rising or falling, and what is more popular - boats or motorcycles.
Alright, now we can determine the audience of our new game and find the niche with high demand. It remains for us to find out how high is the competition pressure here.
Just like before we have to assemble a list of competitors and to analyze them from the strategy perspective.
We can use AppAnnie or any other Intelligence provider to get information about their position in charts and make estimates about their ARPI and downloads.
And do not forget to play them by yourself!
Definitely, we should do a SWOT analysis on our competitors as well as on our potential product. That will help us to structure our vision of market positioning, and develop the strategy of user acquisition and monetization, find USP and define why players should choose our game over other products.
Market research won’t give you answers to all the questions and it is not a silver bullet.
Though, it will significantly increase your chances of survival and protect you from painful surprises.
But please, do not rely solely on data in your decisions. Value the competency and desires of your team, because even in the most potential niche with the lowest competition ever you can pull out the project only if the team is eager to deliver an outstanding product.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to drop me a line!