Assuming you know what players want is a common occurrence but a risky gamble in game development. Amidst intense competition, studios are facing immense pressure to balance three critical factors: time, money, and quality. Taking too long to develop a game can be disastrous. Sacrificing quality to meet your release deadline rarely pays off. Carefully managing scope and resources is crucial but exceptionally difficult with so many unknowns.

Predicting success has never been more important but without properly testing core concepts with target audiences, many games fail to deliver the engaging, retention-driving experiences originally envisioned. This era of gaming will be defined by how well studios understand their players, incorporate them into their feedback loop, and deliver continuous value. Resonance testing is the vital connection to building sustainable revenue.

What is Resonance Testing?

Resonance testing is a critical process in game development where developers test core concepts, mechanics, art direction and other key elements with their target audience. The goal is to gauge the emotional response and level of engagement these elements produce.

Rather than developing games in a vacuum and hoping players respond positively, resonance testing provides objective feedback on what is working (or not working) during the formative stages. Understanding resonance prevents wasted effort on ideas and focuses your development resources.

Specifically, resonance testing surfaces how the target audience feels about:

  • Core themes and narratives
  • Art styles and visual direction
  • Core mechanics and gameplay loops
  • Specific features, modes, or other planned content
  • Overall game concept

Developers gather feedback through methodologies like focus groups, custom surveys, playtesting and more. This feedback illuminates which elements hook players intrinsically and prompt engagement.

Elements that test well with the target audience have strong resonance. This resonance indicates that time and resources should be invested to polish and perfect these aspects.

Elements that test poorly lack resonance. This suggests they should be reworked or scrapped to prevent expending effort on weak concepts.

Resonance testing provides confidence that the core of a game aligns with player expectations. As expectations continue to rise, resonance testing is an invaluable and reliable tool to add to your arsenal.

Why Resonance Matters for Game Design

Creating a resonant experience is critical for engagement, retention, monetization, and maximizing LTV. Games that deeply resonate with players do not manifest purely by chance. Resonance is about triggering powerful emotions and fulfilling psychological needs through gameplay, narrative, aesthetics, and community. It’s science that feels like magic.

A resonant game offers more than just entertainment – it becomes a meaningful past time and social experience.

Resonance starts with getting the core of the game right. Nailing the theme, art style, core mechanics, and overall concept. If these elements are purpose built for the target audience, it dramatically increases the potential for success.

How Resonance Testing Saves Time and Money

Game development is an iterative process, but many design choices get locked in early. The wrong direction can be extremely costly to reverse later in development. Resonance testing provides validation or directional input during pre-production when it’s easier to pivot.

Rather than rolling the dice on speculative features in hopes players will engage, resonance testing de-risks key assumptions. It prevents studios from going too far down the wrong path and having to cut or overhaul major components. This saves enormous amounts of time, money, and headaches compared to trying to fix issues late in the dev cycle.

Resonance testing also helps identify the highest potential areas to focus resources for maximum return. When budgets are tight, studios can double down on the mechanics and content that truly connects with players rather than spreading efforts thinly across less resonant features.

When to Conduct Resonance Testing

The earlier in the development process resonance testing is conducted, the more impactful the results. Testing core concepts, themes, mechanics, and art direction with target audiences at the start of ideation can validate creative directions or reveal disconnects.

Conducting resonance testing after prototypes are built can also provide critical feedback for iteration and refinement. But the more time and resources already sunk into a certain path, the harder it becomes to pivot based on testing results.

Overall, resonance testing is most valuable when integrated continuously throughout the game creation process. Test core ideas at the start, iterate on gameplay prototypes in the middle, and validate overall resonance before launch. This ensures the final product aligns with player expectations and has the best chance at achieving retention and revenue goals.

Getting Started with Resonance Testing

Getting started with resonance testing doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Here are some tips:

  • Start small and iterate. Don’t try to test everything at once. Pick one core mechanic, character, theme, etc. and run a simple test with a small sample of your target audience. Get feedback, refine the concept, and test again.
  • Leverage internal playtesting. Your own developers and designers can provide useful early feedback before investing in large external testing. Have team members play early builds and pay attention to what resonates most and where they get stuck or lose interest.
  • Do quick surveys. Simple online surveys with your burgeoning community can provide directional input on resonating themes, mechanics, and art styles.
  • Focus groups. In-person play testing is still considered by many studios. Participants can play builds and provide direct feedback. Observation and discussion highlight engagement and pain points.
  • Bring in experts. Adding data scientists or an internal games user researchers to your team isn’t always possible or cost effective. At Solsten, our best-in-breed research team combines PhDs with decades of experience at companies like Meta, Ubisoft, and Tactile. Powered by the world’s largest database of psychological data, Solsten is the only research provider that can tie research results back to the target audience personas. This provides unprecedented transparency and validity regarding how studios benchmark against their competitors, how much their ideas resonate with audiences, and where to go next. Learn more research methodologies from our own Sr. UX Research Lead, Bilge Coskun.

Successful game studios don’t achieve greatness by accident. Behind every legendary title is a meticulous resonance testing process that validates design decisions to foster deep engagement. By implementing a strategic resonance testing methodology, you gain the insights needed to make smart decisions that resonate with your players while mitigating development risks. Don’t leave your game’s success up to chance – let data guide the way. When developers create experiences that truly resonate with players, it translates to better experiences, loyal communities, and sustainable revenue.