In today’s highly competitive gaming landscape, even the most talented teams are having trouble launching a game. This is especially true for early-stage studios hustling to get their first game out the door. So many have watched years of hard work and countless late nights result in games that don’t find an audience — or even worse, don’t get released at all.

To steer clear of this catastrophe, the best new studios are taking a critical first step before writing a single line of code: they’re aligning their game concept with a high value target audience, creating a user experience they know players will love and engage with for a long time.

How are they achieving this? By tapping into the power of player psychology, a potent dataset that gives game developers foresight into the kinds of experiences that will deliver enduring player engagement.

In this article, we’ll reveal a four-step process that numerous small studios have used to make their first game a success by using Solsten’s Navigator, a tool that makes it easy to put player psychology at the center of game development.

Don’t Let Your First Game Become a Player Research Project

It’s true that successfully completing a game is no small feat. But in reality, that’s just the start. True success comes with high player engagement, strong retention, rave reviews, viral buzz, and a flowing stream of monetization. That is what will propel a studio to greatness in the video game industry, where you make a second and third game, and those games become legends.

To create a successful game, it’s essential to find your audience. But how do you do this at the breakneck speed that startups operate at? Without the luxury of six months to devote to in-depth research studies, new studios often rely on instinct and make assumptions regarding their target audience and the metrics they should prioritize.

If they have the budget, there are a handful platforms that promise competitive analysis. These platforms offer market data, and get granular with elements like game features, monetization strategies, genre, art style, and theme. But copying popular game elements or mechanics is no longer a path to success. In fact, taking this approach can result in expensive mistakes, causing your game to go unnoticed and unplayed.

This can be disastrous for both your game’s success and your financial stability. In today’s market, it won’t be easy to raise additional development funds to replace what amounted to a costly player research project.

How is Player Psychology Used in Video Game Development?

The best games tap into player psychology, whether the developers know it or not. When a game is successful, developers often try to replicate that success. Unfortunately, they typically only decode player behaviors or demographics, thinking that’s where the lightning found the bottle. What they haven’t been able to decode until now is the underlying psychology behind motivations, where the real value for game developers lies.

The real key to standing out lies in creating something truly remarkable, something that captivates your players. And that’s where player psychology comes into play. By diving deep into the psyche of your players, you unlock a world of knowledge about their motivations, desires, and preferences. You can create something that they will love, because it feels like it was made just for them.

“But wait,” you say, “how can I understand my players when I haven’t made a game yet?” The answer is Navigator, a player intelligence platform that is redefining the future of audience-first game design.

With Navigator, game developers can tap into the power of player psychology, unlocking insights that shape their game from day one. This groundbreaking platform harnesses vast amounts of data collected through audience assessments and behaviors, and analyzes them through the lens of extensive psychological research and machine learning.

The number one reason video games fail is that they don’t find their audience. Navigator makes this a problem of the past. Here’s a proven four-step process that numerous small studios have taken to make their first game a success using the power of Navigator.

Step 1: Find Blue Oceans Relevant to Your Team’s Competencies

Discovering a blue ocean for your game unlocks the potential to cater to unexplored player needs and desires. It gives your game a distinct competitive advantage right from the start. To expedite the discovery process, Navigator is your ultimate ally. With its help, you can uncover untapped opportunities that perfectly align with your team’s strengths.

With a Navigator audience, you can pinpoint areas where you can carve out a unique niche and introduce refreshing experiences to the gaming landscape.

Establishing your Navigator audience starts by addressing a few crucial questions that define the scope of your project. Consider the following prompts:

  • Which games serve as your project’s inspiration?
  • What genres will your game fall into, signaling its place in the gaming ecosystem?
  • What sets your game apart from the multitude of offerings in the market?
  • Can you imagine a singular feature that defines your game?
  • How about a specific mechanic or feature you’re developing that showcases your game’s innovative edge?

By answering these questions, a whole new world opens up to you — your game’s Navigator audience, generated from the richest player assessment data in the world. This invaluable resource can inform countless small development choices that have a big impact on your bottom line.

Step 2: Identify Audience-Genre Fit

Navigator offers a comprehensive understanding of your target audience, providing valuable insights far beyond topical demographics and behaviors without context. By using Navigator, you not only gain visibility into your audience’s preferred games, apps, and movies, but also unlock a wealth of underlying psychological knowledge about your players. With this knowledge in hand, you can focus on a video game genre that perfectly aligns with a specific audience’s preferences.

No more trying to please everyone and ending up resonating with no one. Navigator empowers you to create a game that speaks directly to a group of high-value players. By honing in on their distinct preferences, you drastically increase your chances of capturing their attention and cultivating loyalty.

A Navigator audience stands as your bedrock foundation of truth. It offers a profound understanding of the needs and desires of your target audience. Navigator helps you make informed decisions based on your audience’s values, motivations, and personalities, ensuring your game hits all the right notes.

Step 3: Understand the Needs and Desires of Your Highest Value Audiences

Now that you have your Navigator audience in place, it’s time to delve into the heart and soul of your players. Harnessing the extensive psychological data gathered by Navigator, you’ll gain profound insights into what truly drives your audience. It’s not just about knowing their favorite games or genres — it’s about understanding the core motivations, aspirations, and emotions that underpin their gaming experiences.

Navigator measures hundreds of factors that, taken together, form a complete picture of your game’s potential audience. These factors include competitiveness, culture, personality, values, and beyond. Each of these factors can provide clear guidance for how to specifically craft your game experience to meed their deepest needs and desires.

Some of the discoveries you make at this stage may surprise you, and save you from costly roadmap derailments. For example, think about competitive style. If you’re building an FPS, you might assume your target audience is highly dominant, and likes to crush their competition. But this isn’t always the case. With Navigator, you might discover that your target audience is actually highly collaborative, and like to come together as a group to collectively achieve a goal. Imagine how different the experience you create will be with this information in hand from the get-go, and the countless hours you’d waste without it.

Step 4: Design an Experience Inspired by Audience Motivations

Audience understanding is a powerful source of creative inspiration. With the insights gained from Navigator, you can shape your game’s features into an experience that perfectly aligns with your audience’s needs and desires. This step is where the magic happens, as you gain clarity on the possibilities that will resonate and create a game that captures their attention and keeps them engaged from start to finish.

With Navigator’s insights as your guiding light, you can identify the core motivations driving your audience’s gaming journeys. Is it the thrill of competition and leaderboard dominance? Or perhaps the desire for immersive storytelling that transports them to fantastical realms? Maybe it’s the satisfaction of conquering challenges alongside friends in cooperative gameplay.

Whatever their motivations may be, it’s time to design your feature set to amplify and fulfill these desires. Navigator empowers game developers to pinpoint the nuanced mechanics, gameplay elements, and interactive experiences that will resonate deeply with your players. From innovative game mechanics that reward skill and strategy to captivating narratives that evoke powerful emotions, Navigator helps you infuse your game with the very essence of what drives your audience’s passion for gaming.

What Comes Next?

Naturally, the initial stages of concepting, prototyping, and pre-production are just the tip of the iceberg. Challenges may arise during production, launch, and beyond for even the most experienced studios. Luckily, Navigator is also equipped to assist with these critical phases of the game development process. Ready to learn how Navigator can guide you towards success throughout the entire lifecycle of your game? We’re here to help.