It’s not an easy time to be a gaming company. In fact, they currently face some of the strongest headwinds in recent history. It’s not news to them. Game developers know all too well that one successful title doesn’t guarantee continued success. Borrowing components from other successful games is no longer cutting it as a development strategy. Replicating and blending features of the past just isn’t creating resonance with players—there are occasional flashes in the pan, but not a predictable path to success.
The current quandary is pushing the gaming industry into a renaissance. Like it or not … it’s making gaming better. Companies are realizing the only way to attain sustainable, long-term growth and loyalty is delivering a higher quality experience to audiences who crave them—delivering a more resonant journey.
The pressure is on.
Gaming studio execs are searching for ways to mitigate investment risk and hone in on differentiation opportunities during the current market downturn. Meanwhile, industry marketers need new, robust revenue streams—and they need to intelligently decide where to place the strongest bets to get there. And heads of research are keen to employ all the practices, tactics, and tools to truly understand gaming audiences—and supplement their own discoveries with reputable, external insights.
Knockoffs of hits and hit features won’t cut it anymore, if they ever did. Industry maturation has led to market saturation and increased player expectations. Meanwhile, advancements in data privacy have swiftly changed the industry. Existing user data was never perfect, but now the gap is widening further between that data and the game studios relying on it for insights.
The legacy behavioral and transactional data sets that determined past product development and investment paths are no longer enough. Behavior-based tools aren’t going away within game development, but the viability of a game shouldn’t—and can’t—be determined by this type of data. User behavior and other contextual metrics paint a vastly incomplete picture of players, which leaves too many open questions.
Those looking for first-mover advantage are now implementing measurement, analysis, and planning based on new tools and insights not previously available, or even possible.
Now, to replicate the once-elusive lightning in a bottle, leading game designers, marketers and researchers are prioritizing the player experience. Because players are paying attention, and there’s only one way to stand out—by designing and developing games based on a foundation of deep audience understanding that goes beyond outdated metrics to create truly relevant experiences for every player and prospective player.
When the tide is out, we see challenges—and the way forward.
As Warren Buffet noted, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” To date, successful games have been the outcome of hard work paired with varying amounts of guesswork and luck. Studios of all sizes are subjected to bias, and the smaller the team, the more prevalent guesswork and assumptions are, as small studios cannot afford the overhead cost of seasoned game researchers or UX designers. The integrity of an original idea can become cloudy as non-sexy requirements like integrating SDKs, generating analytics events, and monitoring crash logs plague development bandwidth.
Time and time again, Solsten sees studios lack alignment around whom they are building for. Regardless of the studio’s passion for an idea, cross-functional gaps in player understanding amplify operational speed bumps, which, in turn, hinder the potential of the idea. Thus, development budgets become research costs.
Subjecting product development, marketability testing, and UA efforts to the new paradigm of deficient user data is not the way forward. Those beholden to the status quo will quickly trail studios who embrace creative driven audience procurement. The journey towards resonant game experiences, more successful marketing campaigns, increased retention, and lifetime value centers on viewing players as humans instead of users.
Audience insights: the new lightning in a bottle.
The next chapter of gaming is truly the moment when winners and losers will separate. To attain success amid a “sea of sameness,” studios must urgently retool their approach and rely on a new, more foundational layer in game development: psychosocial player understanding.
Deep human understanding defines the impact a game can have on its audience. Some studios are already clued in. EA, MobilityWare, Mythical Games, and Tilting Point are tuning in to deep audience insights to create engaging and rewarding experiences that address rising player expectations.
It’s not a simple undertaking—the answers studios need can only be found through a thorough dive into cognitive understanding of their players. With the help of Solsten’s Traits, Navigator, and Frequency platforms, studios are finally developing and growing games their audiences want and resonate with. Which opens up new revenue streams for both current and future audiences. The psychosocial insights Solsten provides are derived from a database that is statistically representative of the entire global gaming population—empowering existing research, design, development, and marketing efforts.
Imagine accelerating the success of game researchers by equipping them with a forehand knowledge of their players’ intrinsic motivations and values. Consider the scale of design breakthroughs when teams truly understand how a mechanic or feature will resonate with various audience segments. There is wondrous untapped potential in marketing campaigns based on a solid understanding of who players are at their core—campaigns free of assumptions or speculation.
If you’re ready for a more complete understanding of what motivates gamers, what makes a game successful, and what will help make your next game a breakthrough for gamers and for the studios that create them, connect with Solsten. When you know your audience, results will follow.