Population Specifics: Where Do Your Gamers Come From?

For video game developers who are new to the industry, one of the most daunting challenges is simply trying to find some solid ground to stand on. For these unproven and untested talents, there is no guarantee that anyone will buy the game that they have sunk their time and effort into, and for those games based off of microtransactions, the idea that someone will invest their time in a game to the point where they feel incentivized to speed their progress along with a little cash is in no way assured.

The barrier to entry into this industry is one that is intimidating to say the least, especially when considering the extremely high amount of competition and the fact that many people can’t afford to spend too much of their funds on gaming, resulting in yet another hurdle for developers to overcome: consumers may like and enjoy a game, but do they like it to enough of an extent that they are willing to part with their money over it?

These are all issues that are either mitigated our even outright nonexistent for the top dogs in the industry. This is especially true in the case of the Triple-A scene, where things such as prior successes, audience retention, brand recognition, and the prevalence of preordering almost guarantees that the developers will make at least a respectable amount back—at least, so long as the development team doesn’t suffer an absolute collapse during production.

But despite all of these varying aspects stacked against new developers, the good news is that these challenges are all within their capabilities to overcome; after all, if they weren’t, then we wouldn’t see any new names rise up in the industry, which is certainly not the case.

Beyond the most obvious suggestion as to how to boost one’s odds of having a successful title (i.e. make the game as good as it possibly can be), there are certain steps that developers can take to try to maximize their chances in this regard.

For the free-to-play, microtransaction-based games, a very vital component of how well a game will do in terms of actual profits is how the game handles the incentivizing of the microtransactions themselves. This is an aspect that can be really tricky to strike a healthy balance with, and how it is executed can have a massive impact on how fiscally successful any given game is. If developers want to get active mileage out of the fact that their game is free-to-play, then it is imperative that the game be designed in such a way that it is actually reasonable to play the game without spending a single penny. If consumers feel that their progress in the game is not enhanced by microtransactions, and rather, they feel that their progress is gated by them, then the prospect of consumers giving up on a game that they otherwise enjoy is a legitimate worry.

A good example to point to for this would be Blizzard’s Hearthstone, wherein there is an in-game currency that players can accrue by winning matches and completing quests that are periodically assigned. In this setup, players are able to make gradual progress toward collecting cards, and if they so choose, they can accelerate that progress by sinking some money into the game.

For traditional payment style of games, the challenge of enticing players becomes more of an issue since, typically, consumers would have to buy a game in the first place to learn whether they feel a certain investment toward it. An option that is available that can potentially remedy this problem is to have a beta version of the game released while it is still in development. Developers can then use feedback given from the community to help refine the finished product, and as a result of this process, establish a rapport between the developer and the consumer that can create the sense of investment that drives people to support their favorite games and dev teams. An instance of this can be seen in the development of Vlambeer’s Nuclear Throne, which was available to be played in early-access for a couple years before it was officially released.

The challenges of establishing a stable consumer-base are indeed numerous, but the tools are available to overcome them.