In today's main Gamasutra feature and this month's Designer's Notebook, veteran game designer Ernest Adams discusses the concept of an analytical approach to market research, with particular reference to UK game profilers Strange Agency, who use webcrawling to identify trends and characteristics.
As Adams explains in the introduction to his column:
"Oh yeah… competitive analysis. The most boring part of any product discussion. Why talk about somebody else's market share when you could be waxing rhapsodic about your vertex shaders? Trouble is, the publisher wants to know what they'll be going up against before they invest a few million bucks in your game. So one of the first questions they're going to ask when the presentation's over is, "Who do you see as your main competition?" And the next one will be, "What makes you better than them?" And you'd better be ready with the answers, or you're wasting their time...
I've always felt that market research is one of the game industry's weak points. For too many years we've relied on pouty women with big breasts and even bigger guns to sell our products to the young men whom we've always assumed were our major market – hell, our only market. There was always a much larger market of players who were less susceptible to breasts and guns, but we ignored them.
Serious consumer or product studies are few and far between. For the most part it's done by guessing and by God, leading to arguments around the water cooler: “Listen, our customers aren't going to want any of that ‘story' crap. The only thing they care about is… [insert pet theory here].” These deep insights are all derived from what the designer himself enjoys, plus a few conversations with like-minded fanboys who, by definition, are atypical."
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject
, including plenty more discussion on empirical analysis of game genres and types (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external web sites).