Cheap albeit unscientific marketing intelligence

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by Big Albie, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. Big Albie

    Big Albie Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2009
    Casual gamer/marketing dude
    San Francisco, California
    Have you ever considered using the airport as a testing ground for your game? That may sound strange, and I know most devs focus on beta testing to find bugs and glitches. But, over the past few weeks as I’ve done a fair share of business travel, I think I’ve come across something that you may find useful. While I don’t write reviews here at TA anymore, I still manage to try out a significant number of games.

    First and foremost, many devs need to be realistic about whether their game has the appeal to generate success with the masses. In the past, I’ve spouted about marketing strategy and all the pre- and post-launch media activities that need to be done in addition to the development. And, I still believe that good marketing in many cases provides that awareness and extra push to help with sales.

    Most devs don’t have the budgets to conduct focus groups, which is a marketing tool for gathering insight and perspective from a random audience sample. What I’ve found in my time at the airport simply by playing with my iPad is that you can get a pretty good idea of whether your game has the guts to succeed.

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve played a number of games during my time at the airport (e.g. layovers, waiting for departures) and you’d be surprised at how many people (complete strangers) will ask what I’m playing on my iPad. I decided to take this a step further, and I let them try out the various games on my device. What makes this unscientific approach even more effective is that most of these people were not gamers. In fact, most were older folks, business people, soccer moms (attractive no less), and mostly people who weren’t tech savvy.

    I have a number of games on my iPad and these were the ones that had the most interest (with comments I heard):

    Reckless Racing (controls take a little getting used to but looks and sound effects are fun)
    Galaxy on Fire 2 (wow! cool looking; not sure I’d spend so much with this, but easy enough to play with)
    Reiner Knizia’s Samurai (simple interface, but challenging at the same time)
    Let’s Golf 1 & 2 (entertaining and not too hard; challenging yet not too challenging)
    Trism (good time waster; want to keep playing)
    Hedgewars (cute and easy to play; like all the choices)

    These had the least interest…
    Battle of Wesnoth (too complicated although the old school look is great; too deep for me)
    Blimp (neat looking but gets boring)
    Madden Football (passing a little difficult; don’t want to take time to figure out)
    Worms 2 (like the humor, but something missing; it feels like a lot of work)

    Like I said, this isn’t a scientific study, but can you imagine what kind of information you could get if you ran your game by people who don’t normally play games? My point isn’t to say that any of these games are better or worse than others. In fact, what I’m saying is that you’d be putting yourself at an advantage by finding an inexpensive way such as the airport to gather marketing intelligence. If you have a game in development, you’d be wise to get an outside perspective—and I don’t mean just from the gaming community.

    Obviously a lot of this depends on your target audience. For example, Battle of Wesnoth is one of my favorites, but a casual gamer who may not be inclined to commit to a long drawn out experience may not like it. Considering the iTunes store is aimed at casual gaming, getting honest first impressions can only help. In any case, this is only intended as advice for you to use or consider.
  2. headcaseGames

    headcaseGames Well-Known Member

    Jun 26, 2009
    Mobile Game Developer
    Hollywood, CA
    I did a TON of testing for our game 180 in bars and places like that. Just approaching random people who I didn't know, letting them see the in-progress game, and watching how they played. It absolutely affected the development of the app (gameplay design and visuals) and gave me so much understanding of the problems during development.

    People were usually very interested to help out. I'd just approach people who had iPhones already and let them go at it, making sure to keep my mouth closed when they asked "what am I supposed to do?"

    twitter -
    Tetris & Bejeweled have Evolved - Play 180! - Contest Win ANY app you want, daily!
  3. Big Albie

    Big Albie Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2009
    Casual gamer/marketing dude
    San Francisco, California
    It's an interesting experiment and almost instantly tells you whether or not your game is appealing. I'd almost suggest doing this test as early as possible because that perspective is invaluable in how you develop the game and the final product.

    A game's appeal and success isn't just about marketing. It's about making something people actually want. Of course, you need both an appealing game and good marketing to get the word out.
  4. NikosX

    NikosX Well-Known Member

    Oct 17, 2010
    Game Designer
    great post here Big Albie but what is missing is the actual pre and post strategies that a game dev need to do if he wants to publish on this platform! i am an indy dev myself and i do not have the luxury of living in America that most things happen and i am really interested to study how and what to do when i am almost completing my game!

    any advice could be helpfull

    thank you anyways
  5. rmlinden

    rmlinden Active Member

    Nov 10, 2010
    This kinda sounds like the oldscool investing research. I heard a few nice stories of pre internet "due dillegence" where the old blokes would stake out a restaurant to see whether or not it was doing well. Same with observing how crowded the hotel lounges were to find out the average occupancy rate :)

    good method!
  6. Big Albie

    Big Albie Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2009
    Casual gamer/marketing dude
    San Francisco, California
    I've posted on TA about marketing strategies for pre- and post-launch, and while certain dynamics have changed, the basics still apply.

    1) As you develop your game, understand the target audience. While the gaming audience is the obvious choice, there are others to consider. For example, if you have a kid friendly game, you should consider marketing towards other outlets that kids and their parents read/follow. Understanding your audience is essential.

    2) Marketing is something that requires planning so plan backwards from the game release date. Look at providing graphics/images to sites and media as early (not too early--maybe 4-6 weeks in advance) as possible to generate buzz. Then target reviewers with this information as well. You'll want to get them preview builds so they have time to play through the game. This also gives you time to respond to questions.

    3) You'll want to develop engaging marketing copy for your site, iTunes profile, and for distribution. This means developing video, snippets for your Twitter and Facebook pages. Remember it's all about building buzz and awareness.

    4) As the time nears for launch, develop your press release. By itself, the press release won’t generate much and is just another communication tool. But it can be effective when used as part of your social media and community outreach. The press release provides the overview of your offering and highlights key features. You’ll want to include links to video, images, Twitter, Facebook and your site so people can get more information.

    5) Pricing is a marketing tool as we all know, and arguably the most volatile issue in the iTunes store. I won’t tell you how to price your game, but a good rule of thumb is to not undercut future sales by selling too low at least initially. Priced too high, and you limit your buying audience. I know that most games price themselves at the 99 cent sweet spot which does generate a big volume of sales. But, you also undercut future sales if you come out too early at that price point. Only you can decide what your game is worth, but remember that pricing strategy is an important tool.

    6) Post launch, you will want to continue the buzz through contests and special giveaways that foster word of mouth. You may even want to discuss future updates and leverage them to generate interest. A useful and effective way is to ask for feedback from the community and followers. Securing reviews with media outlets won’t be easy, but you’ll need to keep doing that throughout the process.

    These are just suggestions and intended to give you a sense of what is required on the marketing side. A lot of things will determine the success of your game, namely, how good is your game. You have to be realistic because all the marketing in the world won’t help a bad game (although that’s debatable based on what I’ve seen).

    On top of that, this entire process is a marathon not a sprint. I think too often devs gauge success and failure with unreal expectations. Success won't happen overnight. As much effort as you put into developing your game, the same effort if not more should be spent on marketing—the more creative, the better.
  7. dansu

    dansu Well-Known Member

    Feb 27, 2009
    San Francisco Bay Area
    Focus testing seems like a good idea but I'm not sure if the results are definitive enough to lead to better game design. There is no question that you can improve aspects such as visual appeal, usability, and difficulty levels, for example, but too much focus testing may stifle creativity and you end up creating a bland game that's got something for everyone but nothing significant for anyone. I would prefer to go after a niche and excel in a particular genre of gaming rather than try to please everyone. In other words, do you want to make a game that is generally pleasant but soon forgotten or something really special that people find themselves going back to play over and over again?

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