If you believe your game is for "EVERYONE" then you have already made your first major mistake and are headed for doom! Learn these tips in order to solidify a real market and increase your chance at success for your game!
Over the years creating so many games has taught me a lot of things. I didn't come into the video game business to be a marketing guru, yet in order to sell games you need to understand marketing.
Those who research and plan their target market for their game have a better chance of hitting real success with their game than those who simply say that their game is for everyone.
1. EVERYONE IS NOT A TARGET MARKET!
This is the first big mistake I made as well as many developers who come into the game industry these days. You cannot assume that everyone is your market and that everyone is going to play your game. I use to sit there and say to myself, "These marketing people are crazy, my game really is for everyone, I mean my kids love it, my friends love it, my mom loves it, so I mean everyone loves it, right?"
The fact is that most of the times we are simply assuming things without actual real data or information on what our market really is. We cannot expect to succeed based on 'feelings' or simply unrealistic data like a friend or family member playing your game. Most of the times these people will say good things anyways because they are your friends and family. Other times you may have some critical feedback from friends and then make MAJOR changes to your game based on it only to discover that friend or family member was NOT your target market and ultimately you made a code decision that ultimately led you to a failed game.
Defining your actual market takes TIME and you can only discover this by looking at competitive games in the same market as an indie (Unless you have a big budget to go out and test various audiences to find your market - Thats a whole other can of worms and outside the scope of this article).
For example, lets take Match 3 games in general. If you google "Match 3 games player demographics" and then click on the IMAGES tab in a google search you will find all kinds of key data points. (Give it a try now => CLICK HERE)
If you look at the image results we see the following data points from this specific game genre:
a. 81% of Candy Crush players are female with a median age of 35 (Quantic Foundry)
b. 78.26% of Bejeweled players are female with a majority age range from 25-34 (Magmic)
c. Short session times, they play while commuting, washroom breaks, in the living room, on their beds (Magmic)
From that data right there, if you go out there making your next match 3 game for a Male Child, you would have gone right against the trend based on the data above and completely put yourself at business risk and ruin. I've done that several times and had many failed games because of that SAME mistake.
Now I'm not saying you shouldn't setup for those other markets, but do keep in mind that you should focus on those markets as a secondary or tertiary market rather than your main market after heavy research as to who your most likely players are.
Remember at the end of the day launching your game into the markets to make money means you are running a BUSINESS and must make sound business decisions. If it's a match 3 game (As described in the example), your first target market should be the female market aged 30 approximately. This would capture the highest probability for your game generating revenues. Once you have secured solid revenues you can easily reinvest to test those other markets that you were planning.
However there is one catch to this data that I outlined above...it's not complete, its just a few data points. You need more information to confirm your hypothesis of your target market...
2. YOU NEED MULTIPLE DATA POINTS!
I have gone through this several times. I made the mistake of just grabbing the biggest competitor on the block and assuming that their data would work for me. BIG LESSON => STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO JUST ONE BIG COMPETITOR (Ex. FORTNITE / OVERWATCH / HEARTHSTONE OR OTHER MARKET LEADERS) and start getting multiple data points.
The reason this is so important is that the larger competitors out there have enough money and funding to test the waters with new demographics and markets and even new game genres. Unless you have millions sitting around to test, for example, a female market when making an FPS game (When the actual overall GENRE has nearly 66% male players - SOURCE: Engadget), then you'll be going down the wrong rabbit hole and wondering why your game is doing so poorly.
As a smaller developer you should look to first hit the majority market so you can secure solid revenue streams and then reinvest that revenue in order to test out new markets that may be harder to hit (For example a male market in a match 3 game).
3. CREATE A PERSONA
A persona is a marketing tool used to help you visualize your most likely player. It answers questions such as, What does your player look like? Where in the world do they live? What language do they speak? What lifestyle do they live? Are they students? employees? parents?
A Persona will generally answer all these questions and more and give you a more complete picture as to who you are targeting. This in turn can be useful for your graphic designers when trying to come up with colors, look and feel of your game and much more.
Many times people just dive into making a game without thinking about the very players they are making the game for. Don't make that mistake!
To help you start creating a Persona here are some useful tools and articles (After reading them, go and make a persona for your target player):
a. Personas: The Foundation of a Great User Experience (UX Mag)
b. Sample Persona (UX Mag)
c. Persona Generator (LINK 1)
d. Persona Generator Hubspot (LINK 2)
e. YouTube Video on Indie Game Marketing - View Tip 3 Specifically! (YOUTUBE LINK)
4. DO A/B TESTING TO HELP YOU CHOOSE!
Tell me if you've ever experienced this...you sat back considering a piece of UI or a design element you are planning to put into your game (It could be a new game mechanic like lifting and throwing objects or jumping through walls or something), and then thinking to yourself "That is so cool"...then you go and implement it and unfortunately the market of players does NOT think that item was "So Cool"?
What's worse is if that item took you months to implement!
Listen I've been there before and the only way to avoid hours of lost work and dev time and possibly even money down the drain is to first do an A/B test with your target market of players.
What exactly is an A/B Test? I had the same question when I first started out. Basically put, you would take two or more items that you are planning to create (It could be a new game icon or a few new game mechanics) and then show them to your players side by side and ask them which one they would prefer. You then analyze the data to see what the majority likes more and that literally becomes what you finalize on and implement.
This one tip can save you potentially thousands of dollars and or hours of lost time going down the wrong direction and at the same time can alert you of potential future opportunities and revenue streams that can help enhance your game. There are several services and lots of information about A/B tests online (I recommend a google search on the topic) but please do take the time to do A/B tests, especially for things that could really change the course of your game. You'll be glad you did!
5. DEVELOPERS ARE NOT YOUR TARGET MARKET!
This is just here because I've done this myself and have seen many devs do the same thing. We go out there asking other developers to "test" our game out and help us to find bugs. We then get feedback from them that the "game sucks" or they don't like the game.
Once again it goes back to what I already said and that is to ask yourself if developers are your target market. If they are not (Which usually is the case), you need to really keep those opinions out of your decision making. It's great to have dev friends test for bugs, but whatever you do, do not make the mistake of taking this feedback from devs as decisions on your game itself.
I know I've been there and sometimes in the dev world we are pretty much surrounded by other devs. This is a big point that I don't want any of you to make that same mistake. Please please please remember => DEVELOPERS ARE NOT YOUR TARGET MARKET! (Unless you are making a game specifically for developers, like a game to learn programming or something like that, etc.)
6. BUILD A LIST OF PLAYERS IN YOUR TARGET MARKET
Once you have found your target market or audience, you should start marketing to them early. Go to the same forums, introduce yourself, join their communities and showcase your game early.
Start by building a mailing list and keeping those potential players up to date on game launch times and any updates you may have.
There are many places you can find your audience, from local communities (like meetup groups) to online social networks. I find facebook groups are generally easy places to start as well.
Look for places your target players congregate to and go to them. You'll see better results from your game by doing this than to just throw your game up on the markets and pray for downloads. Those days are gone and with over 1000+ games and apps being placed on the main mobile markets each day you're up against a lot of competition. You need to have a market of supporters so start early! :)
So there you have some tips to help you with targeting and finding the right players for your games. Every genre of game has a different player type. I urge you to go out now and research your target market based on the genre of game that you're planning to create.
For example I'm working on my next game which will be a MOBA MMO style eSports Game (Armies of Riddle E.X. which is planned to launch on Steam Early Access later this year). Based on the data (I did several google searches and gathered data on MOBA's, not just one but many of them) I'm looking at a market with an average age range of 18-25 years old heavily male and located in places like China and North America.
Go ahead and try it out now and see if you can gather data from google and other sources to really find your target audience. Do some A/B testing and hopefully after all of this, gain a better understanding of your target player!
Feel free to come watch me live on twitch where I teach game development and these same training's using the top games such as League of Legends, Starcraft II, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Fortnite and many other top games! https://www.twitch.tv/academyofgames0
Until next time, keep on grinding at the code :) You're a super star!! Keep up the great work and NEVER GIVE UP! You Got This!! BE A CHAMPION!
Nav is a Unity Live Expert and Mobile Game and App Developer
LEARN TO MAKE GAMES FOR FREE! => Watch Me Live On Twitch => https://www.twitch.tv/academyofgames0
"I'm a game dev making fun awesome RPG and Fantasy Games. Check out my games on Steam and all major mobile platforms today => Game Scorpion Inc.!"