In the fast-paced world of game development, creating a successful game requires more than just creativity and intuition. It demands a strategic approach, one that leverages data and analytics to make informed decisions at every stage of development. In this article, we will explore the critical role that research plays in the creation and operation of video games.
The Power of Early Research
The journey of a game begins long before the first line of code is written. It starts with an idea, a concept that has the potential to capture the hearts of players. However, turning that idea into a successful game requires careful planning and research.
Early research involves studying the target audience, market trends, and competitors. This phase helps developers identify opportunities and challenges, ensuring that the game aligns with the desires of the players.
What can be learnt at this stage
- When, Where, With whom, and How long do players play;
- What influences gaming time and frequency objectively (friends available, weekday etc.) and subjectively (available game mechanics, promotions, session duration etc.);
- Top channels and formats for the game promo (you can start PR preparations far ahead of the release);
- Evaluation criteria players use to pick up a game (better graphics and VFX are not necessarily among important things for many games, for instance);
- Drivers, barriers, triggers (what exactly motivates the core audience to play more, what prevents from it, and what can switch them from their lovely competitor to your game);
- The vision of a perfect game (monetization mechanics players accept and refuse in the genre, desired mechanics and integrations, community platforms, etc.);
You will have a clear and detailed game design document concept as the outcome of the research at this stage. Before the first sketch or code string is laid down. Before you start investing.
Once the development process is underway, data becomes a game-changer. Collecting and analyzing data related to player behavior, in-game metrics, and user feedback provides invaluable insights. Developers can use this information to make informed decisions about game mechanics, content updates, and user experience enhancements.
For example, if the data reveals that players are struggling with a particular level, developers can tweak the level design to improve the player experience. If certain in-game items are rarely used, adjustments can be made to make them more appealing.
What can be learnt at this stage
- Game idea (Are players excited about it? What emotions does it evoke? Is it clear?
- Do players want to play it with friends? etc.);
- Basic mechanics (Are they clear? Is it fun?);
- Game goals (Are they clear? Is it interesting to achieve? Are they believable to be achieved?);
- Game controls model (Is it clear? Flexible enough? Is it quick to learn? Is it comfortable? Does it provide clear feedback? etc.);
- The idea of setting (Is it interesting? Is it harmonious? Does it immerse the player?);
- Generated emotions (What are they? Are they relevant to player’s expectations? What exactly evokes them?);
Alpha, Beta, Release versions
- Game controls;
- Retention (calculation and ways to increase);
- Monetization (model, price, motivation, etc.).
Reducing Risk and Maximizing Success
One of the major challenges in the gaming industry is the high percentage of projects that fail to meet expectations. This is often due to a lack of research and data-driven decision-making.
By conducting research and implementing data-driven strategies from the inception of a game idea, developers can significantly reduce risks. They are more likely to create games that resonate with players, resulting in higher engagement and profitability.
When we search for a birthday gift or give advice on a car model, we learn personal needs first. It’s just the same with games.
Developing games is a business, you can count on your customers’ payments only if you create the product according to their needs, not only your personal wishes and preferences.
In conclusion, research and analytics are the cornerstones of successful game development. Starting with early research to understand the market and target audience, and continuing with data-driven decision-making throughout the development process, ensures that a game has the best chance of achieving success.
The gaming industry is highly competitive, and standing out requires a commitment and a willingness to adapt based on data. Developers who embrace research and analytics are well-positioned to create games that captivate audiences and generate long-term success.