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To research, or not to research – the 3 reasons (for the VG industry)

Yes, of course, the research is important; particularly nowadays, in the competitive market environment. This is what we hear from almost every business partner we talk to. Publishers are very confident about it. Developers a bit less so, as they tend to rely rather on their own experience and intuition than more strictly business oriented publishing teams.

However, as we’ve heard in our talks with VG people, the most common misconception about research results in gaming is that it only gives the devs and publishers information about how people play their game.

Such a result may be also accompanied by some insights from the study participants. That is the common point of view, at least. And it may be perfectly true for many cases. But this is just the tip of the research iceberg. There could be much more benefits that VG people may get from the research.

Here is the short list of the three most important reasons why market research is crucial for devs and publishers in gaming industry.

1. Test your ideas, MVPs / VSs, alphas or betas: make it safe before milestones and Day 1

Are you sure your game concept delivers true value to the target players? Do you know who – precisely – are your target players? What value are they looking for in games like yours? You probably have some reasonable idea of that, usually grounded in your intuition.

What if you’re investing time, money and other resources in the features known as points of irrelevance?

What if you could save money and resources developing only one or two crucial features most likely to be the only things your target group will notice, appreciate, and – most importantly – be ready to pay for?

What if you are working hard on some features because you think they are the points of difference (and your USPs), but in fact they’re seen as the genre’s points of parity in the eyes of the players? This actually happens more often than you’d think.

Have you ever thought about why only a small proportion of games developed every year get noticed and become highly profitable? Because only a few of them fit the players’ true needs (and also because some of them are based on gargantuan budgets). There were over 9 thousand games released on Steam in 2018 alone. How many of them have you heard of? How many of them were really “hot” titles? Nintendo Switch broke the record of dozens games released weekly. VG industry has turned on the hyperdrive. Are you ready to jump in with your game?

Unless you have billion dollars to spend on fireworks and marketing, it’s reasonable to do the homework and let the market research reveal players’ needs right in front of you.

You’ll definitely increase the chance of your success on the market.

The report based on properly conducted research will reveal which of your game’s features work, and which don’t. You’ll gain this knowledge before investing money into further development and marketing. Worth considering, isn’t it?

And that’s not all. Not everyone knows that the report from VG research may also show which communication style and general branding is likely to enchant the target players, and what key message and key visuals you should use when trying to get players to try the game, or at least spark their interest. It is not only important for the marketing people, but for the whole team, including developers. Eventually, even the best game may fail if no one cares about it, right?

To sum up: proper research will help you deliver the optimal product to the market and communicate it in the way that appeals to the players.

2. Understand your players: their needs, behaviour and willingness to pay.

There is never too much information on your target audience. I’ve mentioned some crucial issues related to points of parity / points of difference and points of irrelevance above. But with the complex market research we do in Try Evidence, you may also get wider information about markets. This can include answers to vital questions such as:

  • Who may buy your game – what are the players’ segments around? You’ve probably heard about the newest segmentation announced by Newzoo. Imagine that it’s possible to re-segment the players in a similar way according to your particular needs. E.g. to perform micro-segmentation of RPG players… It may open your eyes to completely new consumerscapes.
  • Who exactly is your core target group of players, in terms of psychographics (everyday behaviour, lifestyles)?
  • How many players interested in the game like yours are there (a thousand, hundreds of thousands, millions or just few fans of a small niche?)
  • What do players expect from new releases in the market?
  • What kind of branding in games is persuasive to them? (best practices, benchmarks)

… and much more, according to your particular products and plans. The most important thing is that you’ll get not only the data, but also valuable insights.  A professional VG research agency is able to make sense from tons of data and report it to you in a meaningful way. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by messy, useless data? A professional report built on solid market research gives you clear, meaningful and evidence-based insights. No frills, just the actionable essence.

3. Understanding competition: their strengths, weaknesses and… your opportunities!

From our experience, the analysis of Porter’s five forces with competitive rivalry as the central “force” is popular in business in general, but rarely favoured in VG. Hardly any of our partners think about it in terms of “market research”. And yet it is an important piece of the research puzzle.

Who are the key players on the market, including those less obvious, unexpected ones? Are they potentially compromising your game concept or marketing ideas? In what way?

Cooperation with a professional market research agency focused on a particular industry segment may offer a complex – but also external and unbiased – point of view on the strengths and weaknesses in competitors’ products, communication or brand development. Moreover, a professional report may reveal the opportunities offered to you by your market rivals’ weaknesses and negligence. Sounds interesting? In fact, it may dramatically alter your development or marketing strategy, and save you money and effort.

To research, or not to research?

The answer is definitely yes if you’re to minimize the waste of your resources: time, effort and money. Likewise, you should do it if your goal is to increase the probability of making your game or brand optimally tailored to the market. Or if you are eager to set up meaningful yet realistic KPI’s for the whole team – developers and business people.

I would have given a lot to have a green light and some budget for complex market research when I was the head of marketing at Techland.

Apart from saving the company budget, I would have improved staff wellbeing, and avoided historically bad decisions in line-ups and operations.

Want to cite this article? Do it in an elegant way:
Debek, M. (2019), To research, or not to research – that are the 3 reasons (for VG industry),

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