Looking at making games for a profit, it stands to reason that you’re going to have to make something that people are going to want to buy. If you’re going to make a game that someone is going to want to buy, you’re going to have to know what they want to buy in the first place. That however is just one piece of the puzzle. If I open a restaurant, I’m going in with the knowledge that people want food, but the next step involves knowing why they want the food they want. If I know my restaurant is going to be near a college campus, I’m likely to go for more of a take-out, faster dining route. I know that college students have classes to attend, homework to finish, social lives to lead, and possibly even jobs to work. Because I know this, I know that they will be most responsive to food that can come to them, makes for good leftovers, and is, almost most importantly, cheap. With all this in mind, you understand why pizzerias and Chinese take-out dominate in those areas versus upscale seafood restaurants or steakhouses; knowing that people want food isn’t enough, you have to know what food they want, and why they want it.
In chapter 4 of Game Development Essentials, we learn more about the different reasons that people play games and the different demographics those reasons create. I spoke briefly in my last post about what games can offer to the consumer, whether it be a means of education, recreation, or socialization. This can be taken a step further. Games cater to their audiences in a way that other forms of media are not likely to compete with. People look to games as a form of recreation because they can offer entirely different worlds to experience that an individual may have no other way of visiting as in depth. Some seek that out out to lose themselves in their own personal seclusion, a way of putting themselves in a story that goes farther than being told what happens like in a book, but being able to directly interact with the characters and world around them. Others socialize with their friends in cooperative story narratives, becoming the heroes in the epic in front of them, where otherwise they might just go and quietly see a movie together then discuss what they’ve seen with one another after the fact.
A recent article on from gamesindustry.biz by Rob Fahey highlighted Roberts Space Industry’s upcoming title Star Citizen, the now ~4 year development cycle it has gone through, and the unique dynamic between developer and fan base. For those not aware, Star Citizen is a highly ambitious, and almost equally highly crowd funded, space-faring MMO with an emphasis on players driven content. In the game, pretty much any interaction you can have with an npc is carried out by another player; stores are player run, trade between factions/worlds are transported by players in freighters while attempting to avoid pirates who are also players, protection is bought from mercenaries who are again players, and the list of possibilities goes on and on. With such an ambitious title promising so much to prospective players, crowd sourcing could have potentially been a disaster for RSI as they near the 4 year mark since their start date. What RSI understood about their particular brand of consumer is their willingness to listen when spoken to about the nitty gritty of developing such a large project. Where other companies in the past have dismissed their delays as “polishing time,” RSI has been, for the most part, transparent in their development of the game, realizing that with their crowd-sourced title, allowing fans to see what exactly their money is going towards, and what roadblocks are preventing them from having it now has been the cause for a great deal of relief on both sides of the maker/buyer relationship. In a way, RSI’s transparency has been a form of advertisement for the title, allowing patrons to feel like they’re really a part of the process, encouraging them to urge others into joining the cause, drawing in more funding for Star Citizen.
Our group could learn something from this strategy. While I doubt we will be crowd sourcing our title, having a blog with periodic updates on how they game is coming along could be a smart way of advertising for us. Especially considering this is going to be most of our group’s first game, it’ll give insight into the game making process, that I’m certain our potential gaming demographic could appreciate.