Depending on their role in the company or even perhaps their attitude, designers and executives at game studios or publishers will talk about the people who purchase and play their game in two ways: the consumer and the gamer. As you might suspect, its the suits who use ‘consumer’ and the designers who usually use ‘gamer’. Thinking about a target audience in both of these terms is an important consideration and doing so can provide insight and possibilities that can maximize the popularity and economic potential of a title. In a recent GDD I’m working on for a game, I sought to explore this issue more. Below is an excerpt:
- Players who enjoy co-operative games within XBL parties (true social- not a Skinner Box)
- Players who enjoy adventure gaming
- Players interested in item collection as a form of advancement
- Players who enjoy light RPG elements
- Players interested in quirky storytelling and dark humour
- The core gamer as social gamer
- Completionists (gameplay)
- Toy and collectible fanatics
- Those willing to pay for quality DLC and convince their friends to as well (social as commercial pressure)
- Those who are interested in MMOs but unwilling to commit to a monthly fee or perhaps the time commitment (real or imagined)
- Those willing to spend on in-game content not essential to core gameplay (trinkets)
- Completionists (collector)
This is all towards developing a concept of who you think the average player/consumer of your game is, both in the kinds of gameplay they are interested in as well as what their spending habits are. Marketing budgets typically exceed development budgets on modern big-name launches. As the old saying goes, half of your money on marketing is wasted- the trick is figuring out which half. Understanding the overlap in the Gamer/Consumer categories is part of that. Additionally, there is also the possibility that research into this can help inform the design process. This is precisely why I included it as part of the GDD. It should be noted though that this is different from simply getting a memo from the publisher saying “needs competitive multiplayer” two weeks before being sent for certification. How a designer considers the way DLC content works with the game is important to ensuring the game continues to function properly, but also so that the new content sits well within the gamer/consumer comfort zone:
- Gamer willing to purchase the game initially.
- Consumer willing to purchase the DLC based on experience with title.
- Gamer pleased that the DLC is high value and not simply cut from the game to serve as DLC a week before the game ships.
- Gamer/Consumer encouraging or endorsing DLC among friends and colleagues.
- While I’ve named each of the above in sequence, it describes a single individual.
Every title would have its own set of Gamer/Consumer character traits to fill out. And the way those interact with one another would also vary from one title to another. But the key here is understanding that they do interact and in ways that can provide a more accurate picture of the people who purchase and play your games. This is all the more vital for small/medium companies and especially independent developers.
E.M. Green is a 3D Generalist and Technical Artist at Supergenius.