As a developer, it is extremely important to understand who your audience is. Who are the people who are going to be interested in your game? Who is most likely to buy, and who has been buying your games in the past (assuming of course that you’ve already released titles)?
These question hold a lot of weight, and knowing who are the greatest prospective buyers for any given project can make a major difference when it comes to marketing. And if a game is not properly marketed to the target audience because the developers didn’t have a clear idea as to who would enjoy their game, then there is the very real threat that the title will suffer fiscally.
It is for these reasons that it is so vital to have a concrete understanding of who your audience is, otherwise you run the risk of poorer sales and a lower appreciation for a game perhaps than it deserves.
Having a good read on a target audience is a priority that should not go neglected, and video game companies generally have a fairly good handle on that. This concept is by no means a new one either. Pretty much every form of media has a plethora of examples of creators crafting works for particular individuals. For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, was meant for people who had grown up reading The Hobbit. In certain cases, it is painfully obvious as to what certain companies have as their target demographic.
If we look back to a time when the landscape of the industry was much more primitive and gaming was nowhere near the prominence that it has achieved today, the company Humongous Entertainment was a prime example of knowing your target audience. Of course, being a part of the edutainment movement in computer games is a dead giveaway as to who their audience was: young children. Humongous Entertainment were in a fairly unique position where it was their intention that determined their audience rather than their games, and that cannot be said for many others.
In today’s market, genre plays a major role in what games people prefer to spend their time on. A study was conducted on the demographic tendencies of free iOS games. What was revealed was that genres such as shooters, RPGs, and strategy appealed to a younger male audience, while genres such as simulators, match-three games, and arcade games appealed to more of a female audience. Of course, this study being based purely on free iOS games does mean that the results should be taken with a grain of salt, but they still illuminate a certain pattern that can be transferred over to the gaming industry as a whole.
Nintendo tends to target a demographic that few others do: the family demographic. While the games that they output are varied, a certain amount of their focus goes toward releasing games that are meant for a family atmosphere. This can be most prominently seen in the release of the Wii, when the inclusion of Wii Sports got people involved—namely parents—in video games who otherwise may never have done so.
But sometimes expectations of an audience can be turned on their heads. Nintendo’s relatively recent release of Splatoon, a game with an ESRB rating of E 10+, was targeted at a younger audience. Despite that though, the game has had a rather surprising amount of traction among gamers that would fall in the mature range.
Gaming companies target specific demographics for very specific reasons, and that is because not only do different people have different preferences, but because it gives a measurement of financial safety that any given game will do well among its target audience.